If you'd like to learn how to grow cantaloupe (technically a type of muskmelon), the first step is making sure you have plenty of room in your garden... just one plant can take up to 40 square feet (3.72 square meters). They also need at least three months of warm temperatures, making them much easier to grow in the South…
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Cantaloupes, like most melons, do not tolerate cold temperatures, so wait until all chance of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) - preferably higher - before planting your cantaloupe seeds.
Plant them in a fertile spot that receives full sun and use black plastic mulch, floating row covers, or plastic tunnels to help warm the soil a few weeks before planting, especially in cooler climates.
For an earlier harvest, start sees indoors about 3 weeks before the last frost.
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In order for your cantaloupes to grow well they need about an inch of water each week. Water them carefully, doing your best to avoid their leaves as wet foliage can lead to diseases. To help prevent this, water in the mornings to allow time for evaporation.
To give your cantaloupes the nutrients they need to grow big, apply a healthy layer of organic mulch (ideally compost) as the vines start to stretch out. Apply a liquid organic garden fertilizer weekly until this time. If at any time the emerging leaves appear yellowish, give them some more fertilizer.
During growth, don’t be surprised when a couple of melons start to grow then shrivel. This is perfectly normal.
You know it's time to harvest your cantaloupes when the stem easily separates from the melon. You can test this by placing your thumb beside the stem and gently applying pressure. If the stem separates with little force, you know it's the perfect time to harvest.
You can also just pick up the cantaloupe. If it separates easily, it’s ready.
Store ripe cantaloupes in the refrigerator for up to 14 days.
It is also possible to freeze cantaloupe. If you do, freeze the entire cantaloupe rather than sections of it.
Cantaloupe seeds usually have a longevity of about 5 years.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Cantaloupe. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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