photo credit: Mike the Gardener
|This past gardening season I grew some honey rock cantaloupe from seeds in one of my backyard garden areas. I am not a huge cantaloupe eater, but others in my family are, so I thought I’d give it a go, and simply share the fruits of my labor. I have to admit that even though I consider myself a passive fan of the fruit, this variety really rocked with flavor. (pun intended)
So what did I do? Very simply put I followed some basic gardening steps to achieve it’s very sweet flavor and delicate texture, or maybe I got lucky. I tend to think it was combination of the two, but here’s how I handled the “work” part of this success.
GROW CANTALOUPE INDOORSWhile technically I am not talking about growing cantaloupe indoors, I am referring to starting your cantaloupe indoors from seeds. Many varieties of cantaloupes take 90 or more days to mature, and if you have a shortened gardening season, you will need to get a jump start in order to get fruit before the season ends.
I am not going to go into full detail on Starting Seeds Indoors, but if you click that link, you will get a more detailed version. Starting your seeds indoors, at least 4 weeks before you move your plants outdoors, will give you a wonderful head start.
HOW TO PLANT AND GROW CANTALOUPEAfter you have your cantaloupe plants, the ones you started from seed indoors, you can move them outdoors when the fear of frost has passed. For me, here in zone 7a, even though the plant hardiness map says April 30th, I wait until Mother’s Day. It’s more for traditional purposes than scientific reasoning.
When you move your plants outdoors, choose a location where you have enriched the soil with plenty of compost, and that receives a full day’s worth of sun, at least 8 hours. Cantaloupe need rich soil and plenty of sunlight, otherwise the fruits will not get that big and will usually be flavorless.
When planting, spread the cantaloupe plants out at a minimum of 18 inches. I know square foot gardeners like to put one plant in each square, but for me that is too close, and makes the garden area look messy when the vines are fully mature. I’ll talk about vertical growth and trellising in a moment.
Finally, make sure the soil remains moist, not saturated. A consistent, weekly watering should do, unless temperatures get very hot, in that case, water more frequently to achieve these results. Add compost to the base of your plants every 4 weeks. Your watering will help get the nutrients to the roots.
HARVESTING CANTALOUPEYour cantaloupe is ready to harvest when you can tap on it and it sounds hollow. Not very scientific I know, but it works for me. I have also heard that when the stem that attaches to the vine turns brown it is ready. Whichever method you use, if you think you picked your cantaloupe too early, simply close it in a brown paper bag for a day or two and it will ripen as well.
GROW CANTALOUPE VERTICALLYSome of you may be asking yourself, how do you grow cantaloupe when space is limited? There are a couple of ways you can go this, but the most common way is to grow it vertically up a trellis. Cantaloupe plants have tendrils similar to cucumbers, therefore they make for a great plant to grow vertically. You may have to work the vines into the bottom parts of your trellis when they are smaller, but once the vines really start growing, they usually do the rest.
You might be thinking right about now, about, how do you support the fruit. Won’t it fall off the vine? i wrote this article on Growing Watermelons Vertically. You will see how I built some simple shelving for the fruit. The same concept would work well for cantaloupe.
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