Useful Tips For Growing Cantaloupe
Growing cantaloupe can be a challenge, particularly if you live in a cooler weather area. If you go about it the right way however, you'll have success although in some places the task may be a little more difficult than in others. There's a bit more involved than planting seeds or seedlings, fertilizing, weeding, and watering. The cultivar or variety you choose can have a lot do with how successful your growing experience turns out.
The cantaloupe is a very popular choice for the breakfast table, or any occasion calling for a melon to be served. It's a close relative of the watermelon and a more distant relative of the squash. In other words, the fruit grows on a vine. If you like a slice of two of cantaloupe for breakfast, think how much better it will seem to taste if you can grow your own.
Choose The Right Variety - The first step in planting cantaloupe is to decide which variety or varieties you want to grow. If you live in a cool season area, your choices may be limited to the earlier maturing melons. If your garden area is small, you might elect to go with melons which don't have long vines, or have smaller fruit and can be grown on a trellis. One can even grow so-called miniature melons in a container. Even the small ones are sweet and delicious. If you have no particular restrictions you might go for the larger melons or those claiming to be the sweetest, or even plant more than a single variety.
Early Melons And Small Melons - As far as early-maturing melons are concerned, try Earli-Sweet or Fast Break (easy to remember names) and you'll have ripe melons in 70 days. If you don't have much room, consider Jenny Lind, which has small fruit and does well when grown on a trellis. If you're limited to a container on your patio, Musketeer would be a very good choice. Your container should be at least two feet deep and of course have drain holes on the bottom.
Sweet Melons And Big Melons - If sweetness is your main criterion, Honey Rock is one of the sweetest and takes 80 to 82 days to mature. The Ambrosia hybrid is another super-sweet cantaloupe though it takes a bit longer to mature, 100 days from planting seed, though you'll have ready to pick melons after 85 days if you set out seedlings.
While many cantaloupes weigh in the neighborhood of 2 to 3 pounds, maybe 4 pounds tops, if you're into "big" set your sights on Park's "Whopper". These guys grow to around 7 pounds by the time they're ready to harvest, about 82 days after planting.
Prepare The Bed And Plant - The next step in growing cantaloupe is to prepare the garden bed. Cantaloupes like a sandy loamy soil, one that holds moisture well. If you still have residue from last year's garden on top of the soil, dig it under at least a couple of weeks before putting in your cantaloupe seeds or seedlings.
With the bed prepared and the seeds or plants selected, the next step is of course to plant the cantaloupe. Planting on hills is best as it makes vines easier to manage. Once vines have begun to produce fruit (the female flowers do this, the male flowers which appear first, don't set fruit) you can start pruning them back if you wish. It isn't absolutely necessary but may make maintaining the cantaloupe bed easier, result in bigger melons, and at the same time gets rid of smaller melons which have little chance of maturing. Direct the plant's energy towards the melons you want on your breakfast table!
Know When To Harvest Them - When it does come time to plant, make a note of the date you've planted the seeds, or set young plants out, so you'll have a good idea as to when it's time to harvest the melons. In growing cantaloupe it's important to now that the melons ripen only when on the vine. You can't pick them, set them aside, and expect them to ripen after that. A sure sign that a melon is ripe is that the stem will have dried out. One of the biggest challenges in planting cantaloupe may be that of knowing when it's best to harvest them. A little late may not hurt, but a little early is – way too early.
Water And Fertilize - Watering is of course important as the soil is to be kept moist. It will be helpful in this regard if you cover the area with mulch. Another excellent idea, when feasible or practical, is to use a drip system for watering your melons. This method would come in particularly handy if you choose to plant in containers.
Start you plants with a general, 2-20-20 fertilizer and during the growing season add some fish emulsion every couple of weeks. Watch out for weeds and pests, and barring an exceptional bout of bad weather, successfully growing cantaloupe should be a no-brainer.