Everything you need to know about growing cantaloupe

Growing cantaloupe is a great family activity that results in melons that will be enjoyed by the entire family.  Cantaloupes are a very sweet melon, commonly used in breakfast and dessert dishes.  Growing cantaloupe takes about three months, which is essentially most of the summer.  However you can start your cantaloupe indoors and transplant them outdoors if you want to start growing them early and have fresh cantaloupes to enjoy earlier in the summer.  If you live in a cooler climate, then you’ll also want to make sure that the variety of cantaloupe you choose has a slightly shorter growing season.

The most common way of growing cantaloupe is by grouping them together into something called hills.  However, you don’t actually need to plant them in hills to grow them successfully.  In fact, you may find it difficult to harvest your cantaloupes if you do grow them in hills.  It really just depends on how much space and what kind of tools you have.  If you do decide to try growing cantaloupe in hills, then you’ll want to plant about five seeds per hill.  The hills should be spaced about five feet apart.  The seeds will need to be sown about an inch into the ground.  If you don’t want to grow your cantaloupes in hill formation, then just plant your seeds about four inches apart. 

The best time to start planting your cantaloupe seeds is about one or two weeks after the last frost.  A frost will destroy your cantaloupe crop, so it’s very important that you wait until after the last frost to plant outside.  You’ll find that mulch will help keep the soil warm and cut back on the number of weeds you have to pull.  Keep the soil around the cantaloupe seeds moist up until the melons are about the size of a tennis ball.  Then you will want to let the soil dry out and only water the cantaloupes if the soil is very dry and the leaves look like they’re about to wilt. 

The best way to keep pests off of your melons while they’re developing is to place them on pieces of wood.  Just raising them up off the ground a little bit will cut back on the number of insects that can get at them.  You can also use insecticide to kill off any pests that are especially difficult.  You may also want to treat your cantaloupe plants with fungicide early in the season to prevent fungal diseases.

You’ll know it’s time to harvest your cantaloupes when the stems start to dry out.  The end of the melon should still be soft when you press it with your thumb.  However, if the melon is soft everywhere, then you know that’s ripened too much.  Make sure you don’t plant melons, squash, and pumpkins in the same part of your garden two years in a row.  This can cause your crop to sustain diseases the second year, and you could end up losing it.




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