Growing cantaloupe is one of my favorites about summer gardening. I don’t grow a lot of fruit in my garden the rest of the year but growing cantaloupe is a MUST for our family. The great this is that growing cantaloupe is fairly easy once you have the right information; my tips will get you on the right path to an amazing harvest!
Who’s ready for a sweet cantaloupe for your summer fruit salad???
For growing cantaloupe I’m going to touch on soil, location, varieties, caring for your growing melons, harvesting and storage.
- Learn how to grow watermelon in pots. Growing watermelon in containers allows this big, sweet and juicy fruit to grow in smallest of spaces.
- Requirements for Growing Watermelon in Containers
- Watermelon Plant Care
- Helpful Tips
- Must-Know Tricks for Growing Cantaloupe as Big as Your Head
- Planting Basics
- Pollination and Growing Cantaloupe
- How to Tell If a Vine-Grown Cantaloupe Is Ripe
- Is It a Cantaloupe or a Muskmelon?
- How to Grow Melons Vertically
Growing Cantaloupe Everything You Need to Know
Tip 1 – Location
Cantaloupes thrive in warm, sunny locations. Ground temps should be at least 70 degrees before you plant your seeds. If you’re in a colder region you can start your cantaloupes indoors; but you’ll want to transfer them before they get too big for best results. Be sure when you’re planting that you leave room for the growing vines to come. If space is limited considering building a trellis for the vines to grow on vertically. You can grow cantaloupe in containers as well, again with a trellis for vertical growth. Make sure to use a large pot and consider using a smaller variety of melons. If you do trellis make sure you choose a heavy-duty material for your melons or it is likely to break under their weight. You may want to consider using a cow or cattle panel.
Tip 2 – Prepare Your Soil
Remember that your cantaloupe crave WARM soil so don’t plant too early! Cantaloupes are heavy feeding so the soil you plant them in needs to be prepared with that in mind. You’ll need to amend your soil with organic compost, aged manure or a organic fertilizer; this should be added to the first 6 inches of soil for best results.
Tip 2 – Planting
Plant your cantaloupe at least 36 inches apart in traditional gardening. If you’re going to use a trellis the recommend spacing is 12 inches or in Square Foot Gardening 1 plant per square. I do not plant mine in mounds using raised beds but I have seen this advice for traditional planting.
After you’ve added seeds or transplants you should put mulch down. Mulch will keep the new plant warm, help to contain moisture and prevent weeds from chocking out the new plant.
Tip 3 – Pests and Companion Planting
Cantaloupe do have some pests of concern: squash bugs attack the foliage and squash vine borers will munch your vine and often kill the entire plant. You may also find cucumber beetles will attack all parts of the plant. And of course your friendly (ha) aphids are known to attack the leaves from time to time.
Your best defense is giving your melons companions from the start that help them fight pests. Both Nasturtium and Tansy flowers can help to ward off pests as well as Dill. See more on Companion Plants.
Keep a close on your vines, leaves and flowers and deal with any pests before they multiply! I recommend inspecting them a couple times per week.
Tip 4 – Water & Care
Watering is the most important part of keeping your cantaloupe growing strong. The need a constantly moist soil, but not drenched; you do not want your soil to dry out! Do your best to deliver water to the base of the plant and avoid soaking the leaves which can cause fungus and spread disease. You’ll want to use drip irrigation or a soaker hose for best results, it is not recommended to use a sprinkler. I prefer to water my melons early in the morning, giving it plenty of time to soak up the moisture before the afternoon sun dries it up.
Don’t worry if your leaves seem to wilt every afternoon, this is perfectly normal.
I like to add more compost or an organic fruit fertilizer as a see the first fruits developing. You may also want to do this as the plant’s growth increases, if you see it’s production or growth stall.
Tip 5 – Fruit
Protect your newbie fruit as it develops. If it is on the ground you’ll want to gently put a piece of cardboard or melon cradle under the fruit. This will help to prevent pests getting to it and help to promote even ripening.
Tip 6 – Varieties to Consider
If you are going to grow in containers you may want to consider a smaller variety of melon. I had good success with the Minnesota Midget, though I didn’t find it as sweet as larger varieties. This cantaloupe is perfect for one person to enjoy and fits right in the palm of your hand.
Other Varieties to Consider:
Hale’s Best Jumbo – sweeter than most
Honey Rock – another small, sweet variety
Planter’s Jumbo – very heat and drought tolerant
Tip 7 – Harvesting and Storage
The key to good, sweet melons is letting them fully develop on their vine; picked melons do not ripen much after they are picked. To make sure your fruit is ready to be picked you’ll want to make sure the rind has changed from green to the tan/yellow you expect of a cantaloupe. Then give the baby a sniff. Does is smell sweet and ripe? If it does you should be safe to pick. To maximize your melon’s sweetness you’ll want to leave it on the counter for a day or two before eating. You can store your melons for a week or 2 in the fridge. For longer storage you can freeze cantaloupe or make preserves (it is not recommended to can them, though I know people that do). I have heard that pickled cantaloupe is quite good, but I haven’t tried it myself.
Melons are our preferred summertime dessert, so we rarely have any left to “preserve”.
Learn how to grow watermelon in pots. Growing watermelon in containers allows this big, sweet and juicy fruit to grow in smallest of spaces.
Sweet and watery watermelons are without a doubt an iconic summer fruit due of their high water content and soft red flesh. Those supermarket melons can’t be like homegrown fresh and organic melons. You can even plant them in a small space like a balcony, it is possible by growing watermelon vertically in a pot.
Propagation and Planting Watermelon in Pot
Watermelon has long taproot and it doesn’t transplant well that’s why it is better to sow the seeds directly in a pot. Sow 3-4 seeds directly in a pot once the temperature starts to reach 65 F (19 C) and above in the spring. In tropics (USDA Zone 10-11), the best time to sow seeds is winter and early spring. The germination takes place within 6 to 10 days. Thin out and leave only one of the strongest seedlings per pot.
Choosing a Pot
Growing watermelon in containers is not much difficult though tricky. You need to understand the basics. As watermelon has long taproot choosing a deep pot is essential. A large pot or bucket that is at least 2 feet deep and half wide is required.
To know everything about watermelon varieties, see this excellent guide at .
Requirements for Growing Watermelon in Containers
Watermelons should be grown in a sunny position. If you’re growing it on a balcony or on a roof garden where space is tight, growing watermelon vertically on a trellis is a solution. Trellis should be minimum 4 feet tall and sturdy enough to carry the weight of melons.
Watermelons are warm weather annuals but they can be planted in both tropical and temperate regions easily. It is possible to grow watermelons in temperature around 50-95 F (10-35 C). The optimum growing temperature is around 65-85 F (18-30 C).
Sandy and loamy soil is suitable for growing watermelons. Ideal soil pH is around 6 – 6.8. Avoid compact, clayey soils. Airy and well-drained substrate promotes the growth of the plant. Also, application of the well-rotted horse, rabbit or cow manure improves the texture of soil and provides nutrients constantly.
Watermelon requires a lot of water. Keep the soil evenly moist but not wet, the water must drain freely from the bottom. When growing watermelon in containers, you’ll need to water the plant every day and sometimes twice in a warm day. Once the fruits start to swell up and mature, reduce the watering. In that period, water carefully and moderately. Avoid overwatering and underwatering both to get the sweetest melons.
Watermelon Plant Care
Start to fertilize the plant with a complete liquid fertilizer. Once, the plant starts to flower and appear to set fruits, use a fertilizer with less nitrogen. Consider liquid seaweed fertilizer.
To get a healthy and more productive plant, only allow the main vine to grow. When the plant is young, remove side branches before they grow more. Also, remove those stems that are damaged and diseased.
Watermelon vine produces both male and female flowers separately. However, pollinators (bees and butterflies) will pollinate them but to be sure you’ll need to hand-pollinate the flowers to make sure you get fruits. The first ripe fruits appear after approx. 40 days after pollination of flowers.
Diseases and Pests
Usually, you can easily care and look after the watermelon growing in a pot. Still, it is little prone to diseases when exposed to too hot-humid or too cold weather, or due to waterlogged soil. Common garden pests like aphids, cucumber beetles and those that affect the squashes and cucumbers can infect it.
The harvesting period depends on the climate, season, and variety. Generally, it usually begins 80-90 days later after seed sowing and between 30 to 50 days after flowering. Flowering and fruit setting continue for several weeks until the weather remains favorable and you’ll get several harvests.
Ripe fruit does not seem special. Smell and no change in color of the skin occurs. To see if the fruit is ripe, you should knock with fingers on the surface of the watermelon. If you hear a dead, hollow sound, this means that the fruit is already ripe. Another method is to check the tendril if it is fading and half dead then your watermelon is almost ripe. If it is faded, the fruit is ripe or overripe.
- In cool short summer climates, start the seeds indoors or in a greenhouse either directly in a container or in a biodegradable pot.
- Use a lot of organic matter for growing watermelons in containers as they are heavy feeders. Side dress your potted melon plant with manure or compost in every 3-4 weeks. Scrap and remove topsoil if there is no space in the container.
- Stress (change in temperature, pests or diseases, overwatering or lack of water) to the plant at the time when fruits are maturing, results in less flavorsome and sweet fruits.
- In a small space, growing melons vertically on a trellis is a great way to save space. Use netting, a bag or a stretchable cloth to create a hammock under the fruit to support it.
- The trick for getting best quality fruits is to don’t let the plant set so many fruits. 2-3 fruits at the same time for large fruit varieties and 4-5 fruits for the smaller one is sufficient.
- Do successive planting for regular harvests. Plant 2-4 plants and do the same after 2 weeks.
Must-Know Tricks for Growing Cantaloupe as Big as Your Head
Nothing screams summer like an endless bounty of fresh fruit. Colorful and bright, cantaloupe is the perfect addition to an edible garden. This sweet member of the melon family can be grown at home with tender care and a little luck. These fool-proof techniques will get you started.
Plant cantaloupes in full sun in well-drained soil. Cantaloupe plants need about 85 days to mature, but don’t rush planting. Sow seeds only when temperatures reliably stay above 50 to 60 degrees F. Plant in groups of two or three seeds spaced 2 feet apart. Once seedlings emerge, keep only the strongest individual plant in each group, pulling the rest.
You can start cantaloupe seeds in pots indoors several weeks before your last frost date, but melons are particularly sensitive to root disturbance; the vine growth might be stunted if you’re not careful when transplanting them outdoors.
Pull weeds as soon as you see them, making sure not to dislodge the cantaloupe seedlings or vines.
Cantaloupes need about 1 to 2 inches of water per week. If you don’t receive that much rain weekly, water deeply but infrequently to reach that amount. As fruits mature, gradually reduce and stop watering because too much moisture can cause the rinds to split. Too much water can also dilute the sugar content of the melon.
Bonus Recipe: Gnocchi Cantaloupe Feta Salad
Pollination and Growing Cantaloupe
One of the hardest parts about growing your own cantaloupe is that it may flower but not produce fruit. Pollination problems can come from several situations:
- Cantaloupes produce separate male and female flowers as well as some flowers with both male and female parts. The first flowers to appear are male and will fall off. For female flowers to set fruit, pollen must be carried by bees during a small window of time when pollination can occur. If you don’t have enough bees in your yard, this can affect pollination.
- Fruit set can also be affected if too much nitrogen fertilizer has been applied.
- In the heat of summer, vines often produce only male flowers, which don’t produce fruit.
- Vines are too crowded.
Bonus Recipe: Cantaloupe, Prosciutto, and Arugula Club
How to Tell If a Vine-Grown Cantaloupe Is Ripe
Cantaloupes ripen 35 to 45 days after pollination, depending on weather conditions. The skin turns from green to creamy yellow-beige, the surface “netting” becomes rough, and the tendrils near the fruit turn brown and dry.
Experts advise you to not wait for the fruit to fall off the vine. Instead, watch for signs it is ready to be harvested, then gently twist the fruit from the stem. It should slip away easily. If not, stop and let it ripen another few days. Cantaloupes do not ripen once they are removed from the vine.
Grocery store cantaloupes that still have little stems attached were harvested too early and probably won’t be very sweet.
Cantaloupes can be stored at 45 to 50 degrees F for about one to two weeks.
Bonus Recipe: Smoky Sweet and Sour Cantaloupe
Is It a Cantaloupe or a Muskmelon?
The word cantaloupe actually refers to two types of muskmelons, including the one most commonly grown in North America and a European cantaloupe, with light green skin. Not all muskmelons are cantaloupes.
More Melons! Learn How to Grow Watermelon
- By Deb Wiley
How to Grow Melons Vertically
Melons are a tasty addition to a backyard garden, but melon vines take up a lot of space. In a small garden, just two or three melon vines could overrun the entire area. A solution to growing melons in small spaces is to grow them vertically on wires or on a trellis. Trellised melons can even be grown in containers on a patio or balcony. Building a sturdy trellis to support melon vines and fruit takes some time, but it is well worth the effort.
Calculate the length of trellis you will need. Melon plants need to be spaced 2 feet apart, so to grow four melon plants you will need 6 feet of trellis. Mark the location for your trellis in the garden using pegs. You will need one support post every 3 feet, plus one post for each end, so for example, for 6 feet of trellis you would need three posts.
Drive the posts into the ground at least 1 foot deep with a hammer or mallet. Ensure the posts are firmly embedded and will be able to support the weight of the plants and fruit. If you have light, sandy soil you may need to drive the posts further into the ground.
Run a length of galvanized wire from the ground, 3 feet away from one end post, across the top of each post, and back down to the ground 3 feet away from the other end post. Anchor the ends of the wire to the ground with strong metal or plastic pegs such as tent pegs.
Cut a piece of fencing the length of your trellis. Staple the fencing to the support posts so that the bottom of the fencing is 1 or 2 inches above the level of the soil. Use at least one staple every foot. It doesn’t matter if the fencing does not reach to the top of the support posts, or is a little bit taller than the support posts. If the fencing is more than 6 inches taller than the support posts, trim it down even with the top wire.
Plant the melons along the base of the trellis 2 feet apart. Water regularly during dry spells. Some varieties of melon plants will cling to the fencing on their own. Others will need to be loosely tied at intervals with plant ties.
Support the fruits by placing each developing melon into a plastic mesh bag (such as the kind onions are sold in) and tying the bag to the trellis’ top wire. Check the fruit regularly to ensure it is not out-growing its bag, and replace the bag if necessary.