How to Plant and Grow Cantaloupe How to Plant and Grow Cantaloupe
Cantaloupes are also known as muskmelons; they are loaded with vitamins C and A. Homegrown cantaloupes are more flavorful than the commercially grown ones.
There are 4 basic important factors when growing cantaloupe.
Cantaloupe proliferates in warm soil. The ground's temperature needs to be higher than 70 F before the cantaloupe is planted. Covering the soil with black plastic before planting makes it warm up faster. The planting space should have good air flow, but no heavy wind because cantaloupe won't grow when cold.
During the beginning of the growing season the plants need an inch or more of water each week, until the fruit starts to get ripe. The fruit will be more flavorful provided it doesn't receive so much water in the last couple of weeks prior to picking them.
Preparing the Soil
The soil's pH for cantaloupe needs to be between 6.0 to 7.0. Add plenty of compost or decayed manure. Alternately, dig off a foot of the top soil, spread a layer of fresh manure 8 to 9 inches deep and pile 3 to 4 inches of the top soil mixed with compost over the manure. This makes a bed rich in nitrogen and it adds heat while the manure decomposes. Cantaloupe can be planted directly on the gardener's compost pile, which gives the plants the heat and nitrogen they need.
Start the seeds inside about 2 weeks prior to the last frost or purchase seedlings. Before actually transplanting the seedlings harden them off. This process entails taking them outside for an hour or 2 per day in the early hours or latter evening hours, so they get accustomed to being outside in a sheltered location. Begin this procedure a couple of weeks prior to transplanting them. Increase the time you leave the plant outside everyday allowing the plants acclimate to the weather.
Cut a line in the plastic to accommodate each plant. Plant the seedlings 12 inches apart in rows spaced at 4 to 6 feet. Set the seedlings in a hole around an inch deeper than the loam they had in the container. Cover the planting space with floating row covers. This keeps the cold wind and insects off of the plants and keeps warm air near them. Take the covers off as the plants begin flowering. When a cantaloupe is around half grown put a board under it. This prevents rotting.
An alternate method is to trellis the plants. The trellis needs to be big. Space the plants 12 inches apart at the bottom of the trellis. Tie the plants to the trellis every day as they grow using cushioned plant ties that won't break the stems. This setup provides excellent air circulation lessening the occurrence of disease. Place the plant facing north so that the plants can get more sun. If the trellis is close to a shiny surface the added light discourages aphids.
The cantaloupes will mature in around 75 to 95 days according to which variety is planted. The seed description on the package will estimate the days between germination and mature fruit. As it matures its color will change from green to orange-yellow. When the stem starts to dry out and break away from the cantaloupe it is ripe. The end of the fruit will be soft.