Cantaloupe thrives in warm weather and needs a long growing season; great news for desert dwellers. Learn how to grow cantaloupe, and add this tasty fruit to your garden and table.

Once cantaloupe is picked, it continues to ripen but does not get any sweeter. When you grow your own cantaloupe you can pick it at the peak of sweetness. It is so good! 

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

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9 Tips for How to Grow Cantaloupe

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

1. Choose the best location

Cantaloupe prefers a sunny location with well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. Amend the soil with compost prior to planting. 

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

2. Choose a cantaloupe type suited to your needs

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

3. Plant cantaloupe at the correct time

Cantaloupe prefers warm weather, so don’t plant it before temperatures have warmed in the spring. Cantaloupe does best when direct sown. Sow seeds outside about 2 weeks after the last frost date when soil temperatures are about 65℉. In the low desert of Arizona, the best time to plant cantaloupe is from late February through early May, and again in late July with the monsoon moisture. 

In cooler zones, start seeds indoors about 3 weeks before the last frost date, and transplant outside when the soil is at least 65℉ and nighttime temperatures are above 50℉. Be careful not to disturb roots when planting to avoid transplant shock.

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

4. Reduce chances for pests and disease

  • Rotate where you plant cantaloupe and members of the cucumber family (Cucurbitaceae), such as other melons, squash, or pumpkins.
  • Once fruits have formed, raise them up off the ground with melon cradles or pots; this increases air circulation and helps with rot and insects. 
  • Grow cantaloupe vertically; they love to climb. Use a melon hammock to support the hanging fruit. 
  • If powdery mildew is a problem, consider growing Ambrosia or other disease-resistant varieties. 
  • Inspect leaf undersides daily for aphids and other pests. Consider spraying with water or treating with insecticidal soap if problem persists.
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How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

5. Give cantaloupes plenty of room to grow

  • Thin seedlings and keep only the strongest seedling in each group. 
  • Space plants 24-36 inches apart if left to sprawl on the ground. 
  • Space plants about 12 inches apart if growing up a trellis
  • If using square foot gardening methods, allow 2-3 square feet for each plant. 
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How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

6. Care for cantaloupe correctly throughout the growing season

  • Mulch cantaloupe plants to help retain moisture, regulate temperature, control weeds, and keep fruit clean.
  • Water in the morning and avoid getting water on leaves, which can encourage disease. 
  • Be on the lookout for bees. Male flowers will appear first, followed by female flowers. If female fruit withers and dies, consider hand-pollinating future blooms. 
  • Fertilize when vines begin growing. 
How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

7. Learn how to grow cantaloupe that is sweet and full of flavor

  • Don’t overwater while fruit is growing. Too much water (or rain) produces bland-tasting fruit.
  • Consider giving vines and fruit an extra magnesium boost with an epsom salt foliar spray. Use one tablespoon epsom salt in one gallon of water. Spray when leaves begin to vine and again when fruit is growing. 
  • Pick off additional fruit once several fruits have formed. Ripening only one fruit at a time maximizes sweetness. The more fruit ripening on a vine at the same time, the less sweet they will be.
  • Do not prune off leaves or shoots. The leaves produce the sugars which sweeten the fruits. 
  • About a week before melons are ripe, cut back watering as much as possible to concentrate the fruit’s sugars. 
  • Harvest cantaloupe at the right time (see chart below).
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How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

8. Harvest cantaloupe at the right time

Cantaloupe will continue to soften once picked, but it won’t get any sweeter. Leaving it on the vine as long as possible gives you the sweetest flavor.

 

Not Ready to Harvest

Ready to Harvest

Overripe

Rind is green or gray

Rind is yellow

Fruit cracks

“Netting” on cantaloupe is smooth

“Netting” on cantaloupe becomes rough

 

Stem has to be forcibly removed from melon

Stem easily separates from melon

Fruit falls off stem

End opposite of stem is hard

End opposite of stem is slightly soft, rind has a little “give” 

Fruit is mushy or soft

No aroma

Musky, sweet aroma

Rotten or overripe smell

Green vines

Tendrils around fruit dry out and turn brown

 
How to tell if cantaloupe is ripe

9. Don’t let cantaloupe harvests go to waste

Melons last 3-5 days if left at room temperature. Once fruit is cut, it will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator. Uncut cantaloupes stored at 45℉ to 50℉ last up to 2 weeks.

How to Grow Cantaloupe: 9 Tips for Growing Cantaloupe

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