Cantaloupe

PrintPrintEmailEmail
Your rating: None Average: 4 of 5 (61 votes)

Botanical name: Cucumis melo

Plant type: Fruit

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Sun exposure: Full Sun

Soil type: Sandy

Soil pH: Slightly Acidic to Neutral

What we commonly refer to as ‘cantaloupe’ is actually not true cantaloupe, rather, a type of muskmelon. (True cantaloupe has a rough, warty rind and is not widely grown or commercially available in the US.) Muskmelons are a heat-loving fruit with a long growing season. Their cultural and growing requirements are very similar to other melons. They have a net-like, tan rind, and sweet orange flesh. The names muskmelon and cantaloupe are used interchangeably. We will use the name cantaloupe for this page to avoid confusion.

Planting

  • Amend soil with aged manure or compost before planting.
  • Growing the vines in raised rows, known as hills, ensures good drainage and will hold the sun’s heat longer.
  • If you are in a cooler zone, start seeds indoors about a month before transplanting. Cantaloupe vines are very tender and should not be transplanted until all danger of frost has passed.
  • If you live in warmer climes, you can direct sow seeds outdoors, but wait until the soil temperature warms to at least 65 degrees to avoid poor germination. Plant seeds one inch deep, 18 inches apart, in hills about 3 feet apart.
  • If you have limited space, vines can be trained to a support such as a trellis.

Care

  • Cantaloupe likes loamy, well-drained soil. Handle them gently when you transplant. Add lots of compost to the area before planting and after planting.
  • Mulching with black plastic will serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth and keep developing fruits clean.
  • Fertilize when vines start growing.
  • Row covers are a good idea to keep pests at bay.
  • While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Water in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves. Reduce watering once fruit are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melon.
  • If you've had an exceptional amount of rainfall during the ripening stage, this could cause the bland fruit.
  • Once fruit begins to grow, prune end buds off vines. Your plants may produce fewer melons, but they will be larger and of better quality.
  • Vines produce male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the females appear. (Don’t be discouraged when the first blooms do not produce fruit.)
  • Blossoms require pollination to set fruit, so be kind to the bees!

Pests

Harvest/Storage

  • When rinds begin to change from green to tan or yellow, the melon is probably ripe, but be careful not to pick too early.
  • Look for a crack in the stem where it attaches to the fruit. This is a sign of ripeness as well. The fruit should be easy to separate from the vine, but if they fall off by themselves they are usually overripe.
  • Harvest melon when vines are dry, and be careful not to damage them.
  • They will soften after harvesting, but will not continue to sweeten off the vine.
  • Cantaloupe can be stored uncut for 5 or 6 days. If cut, they can last in the refrigerator for about 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic.

Recommended Varieties

  • ‘Hale’s Best Jumbo’ 80-90 days to maturity. Produces 3-pound, aromatic melons.
  • ‘Minnesota Midget’ 70-80 days. Early variety suited for Northern gardens. Produces 1-pound, sweetly flavored melons.
  • ‘Bush Star’ 90 days to maturity. Bush variety suits gardeners with limited space.
  • ‘Ambrosia’ 85 days to maturity. Among the sweetest varieties.
     

Recipes

Wit & Wisdom

Cantaloupe was named for Cantalupo, a former papal villa near Rome.

Comments

I am growing cantaloupe for

By Daisy Zantjer on July 15

I am growing cantaloupe for the first time this year and see blossoms. How long before the fruit starts to show and how can I tell the male from the female blossom?

Cantaloupe requires 35 to 45

By Almanac Staff on July 17

Cantaloupe requires 35 to 45 days to mature from flowering, depending on the temperature. Female blossoms have a small swelling or bulb at the base of the flower. Keep in mind that cantaloupe blossoms have a pollination window of one day. Pollen must be transferred from the male flower to the female flower on this day for seed set and fruit development.

Probably due to the drought

By Jim Dowling on July 3

Probably due to the drought here in Northern California, I have a real problem with bears visiting my property almost nightly. I know that when the cantaloupes begin to ripen the aroma will draw them in. Black bears have incredible appetites. My question: Just how early can I harvest a cantaloupe? Most are done increasing in size and a few show a yellowish tinge.

How do you hand pollinate?

By Sunshine369

How do you hand pollinate? How do I know what is a male or female flower? I am a first time grower of cantaloupe and watermelon. Thank you.

I have a cantaloupe that has

By Dnay40

I have a cantaloupe that has started to run, i was unaware when i planted i that it would. So i put a fence for it to grow on, should i keep the fence are let it grow on the ground?

I live in MS and was

By marlon williams

I live in MS and was wondering when should I plant watermelon seeds?

They have a watermelon page.

By Almanac Staff

They have a watermelon page. But you plant whenever the soil is warm and all danger of frost has passed. 

I have 4 mature, fruiting

By Thaigyr

I have 4 mature, fruiting Ambrosia vines, and they've so far produced over 100 baby fruits... but all of them except one turned yellow & fell off. Several of the "baby" fruit were over 2" long when they aborted. The one fruit was harvested the other day - flavorful, but not sweet; I must have overwatered. Could overwatering be the cause of the fruit drop? They are in a raised bed with great drainage. Could it be a result of a very long hot spell? Thanks for your help.

Overwatering (especially

By Almanac Staff

Overwatering (especially during the last stages of fruit development), lack of nutrients, or disease may cause bland flavor. The plant will normally abort about 70-percent of its female flowers once some are pollinated. Poor fruit set may be caused by inadequate pollination; if a flower is poorly pollinated, it may start to develop the fruit, but may then abort it in a few weeks, or the fruit may continue to develop but be misshapen. Poor pollination may be affected by cool, wet weather (bees aren't as active). Very hot weather can also affect fruit set. If you think your trouble is due to pollination, next time you might try hand-pollinating the flowers and providing plants nearby that attract bees; avoid pesticides that are harmful to bees. Water deeply but infrequently, and cut back a little on watering in the last stages of fruit development.

Hi I planted cantaloupe from

By Mike Avila

Hi I planted cantaloupe from seeds in a raise garden bed. 4-5 weeks later I have 2-3 inch talk seedlings that have all begun to die at the same time. The leaves first begin to shrivel on themselves and turn a yellowish color. I have other plants in the garden bed that don't seem to have this issue. The stem and root system looks good after pulling the seedlings but the leaves are dead. The first signs of death were the two original leaves falling back in the stem and deforming into weird shapes, turning yellow, and finally dying. What could be wrong here?

It may be that you are

By Almanac Staff

It may be that you are overwatering, or it could be the soil condition.
Cantaloupe need 1 to 2 inches of water a week until fruit appears.
Make sure that your soil's acidity has not dropped below pH 5.4.

I live in northeast Florida

By Deann

I live in northeast Florida on the fl ga line and I have 15-20 plants with 2 leaves in a planter ready for transplant. I wanted to put them in small pots on our back deck. Our soil is basically sand and holds water real bad. I have a raised bed but it's already full of corn plants and carrots so I have no room there. Is it ok to grow them in pots on a porch?

Plant the seedlings in large

By Almanac Staff

Plant the seedlings in large (10-gallon) pots that have holes in the bottom for drainage, with well composted/fertilized soil with a pHof around 6.5. Have no more than two plants in one container.
Note that the container will heat up (more than the ground would). Keep a watch on its moisture, but don't overwater it. Melons in containers cannot tolerate dry soil and may require daily or twice-daily waterings when it is hot and dry. Fertilize with fish emulsion every six weeks. Reduce water when the cantaloupes are full size but not yet ripe.
 

I am just starting a

By harold Folker

I am just starting a container GARDEN ON MY PATIO. MY FIRST! I HAVE ABOUT 12-15 CANTALOUPE SEEDLINGS READY TO TRANSPLANT. I AM USING A STORAGE TUB TO PLANT THEM hOW DEEP MUST THE SOIL BE?

Cantaloupes like loamy,

By Almanac Staff

Cantaloupes like loamy, well-drained soil. Handle them gently when you transplant. Add lots of compost to the area before and after planting. Plant seeds 1 inch deep, 18 inches apart, in hills about 3 feet apart.

I planted seeds in the grower

By Vernae

I planted seeds in the grower pots. they germinated without issue, however I was not able to transplant them for about three weeks. The seedling grew to 4 to 6 inches and began producing flowers. The bees are all over them. Is it too late to transplant. A friend said, I waited to long and that I should throw away the seedlings,start over, and transplant as soon as the seedling leaves appear. that flowers should not appear before the grabber vines. Your advise is appreciated. Thank you

Transplants should have 2 to

By Almanac Staff

Transplants should have 2 to 3 mature leaves. They need to be in the ground either way, so you have no choice but to carefully move them.

I am interested in growing

By Sampurna

I am interested in growing melons for research purpose. I am not a trained horticulturist,my interests are in plant molecular biology. I am looking for a commercial facility that can grow melons for my lab for seed increase. I am located in Central PA, kindly let me know if you are aware of any facility that commercially grows melon and will be willing to provide their services.

Hi this my first time growing

By Ms D

Hi this my first time growing cantaloupe. I see lots of yellow flower only one cantaloupe and it is the size of a large orange. It came off vine without me plucking it off. It smells really good but what can I do to get it to grow the normal size and more of them next year. Seeds were planted in june.

If you got lots of flowers,

By Almanac Staff

If you got lots of flowers, you may have had pollination issues. Are there enough bees around? Cantaloupe flowers have a pollination window of one day. Pollen must be transferred from the male flower to the female flower on this day for seed set and fruit development. Fruit size and shape are related to the number of seeds set. Poorly pollinated flowers either abort or produce misshapen fruit.  Poor pollination can happen because of weather conditions or lack of pollinators; you can always use a Q-tip and pollinate yourself to help your plants along!

We have melons that I don't

By jennifer dumore

We have melons that I don't think are ripe yet but there is a risk of frost for the next couple of nights. Will the melon plants be okay with a bit of frost or should I pick them and hope they ripen enough after picking?

I have 3 plants that i

By dan snay

I have 3 plants that i started in june . I have had 2 melons that are good size the stem dose not seem to be cracking . I have lots of other melons growing of size. even one that looks like a honey dew melon but the seeds was from a cantalope melon . the 2 big melons been growing and the same size not getting bigger now for over a mounth should i pick them now or let them grow longer and will the other ones grow faster if I pick the ones that seem like there not getting any bigger . I am from nyc . this is my first time growing . I was sick of buying cantalope from the stores that are not ripe . I love cantalope . And 1 other ? it is starting to get cold here in the 50s down to the 40s , how long can the melons grow for in the cold weather and when will i know when they are gonna stop growing and die off or is it to late now for them to keep growing should i pick the 2 I have or let them go . i see the bees on them ever day thank you I hope to hear some thing soon to help me make a decission on to let them go or pick them thank you. Dan from nyc

If the melons haven't grown

By Almanac Staff

If the melons haven't grown for over a month, they probably won't grow any more.  They will continue to ripen for several days at room temperature once they are picked. For faster ripening, put them in a brown paper bag. 
Cantaloupe can be challenging to grow in northern climates because they really need 2 to 3 months of constant heat. The cooler temperatures and the shortening direct daylight mean that the season is coming to a close. Next year, if you want to continue the learning curve, you could use  black ground cover to warm soil and floating row covers to trap warm air near plants. Contact your local cooperative extension in NY county for more on-the-ground advice. We hope these tips get you started in the right direction. All the best, the OFA editors.

Thank you for this

By MLP

Thank you for this information. This is the first year I attempted to grow these melons in my Suburban NYC garden. I have 2 melons that are green and around 6 inches around. I wasn't sure when I should pick them.

Harvest your cantaloupe when

By Almanac Staff

Harvest your cantaloupe when the stem easily separates from the fruit. To avoid over-ripening, harvest cantaloupes before they naturally separate from the vine. The best way to check maturity of cantaloupes is to place your thumb beside the stem and gently apply pressure to the side. If the stem separates easily, the cantaloupe is ripe.

A volunteer in my garden

By Dolores Walker

A volunteer in my garden turned out to be a cantaloupe. It has vines all over the place and at first two cants appeared and grew large swiftly. Recently a third one died when it was about 4-5 inches. The vines are loaded with flowers, and some of them develop into baby cants, but they too die. We've been having vey hot weather, so I've been watering heavily (and incorrectly), and now I wonder if that's my problem. Is it too late to remedy the situation? I really appreciate this site!

High heat might have

By Almanac Staff

High heat might have something to do with it; in high heat, the plant is under a lot of stress. Leaves and fruit may develop sunscald (browning).
 
Another possibility is that there is poor pollination. In heat, bees are less active. Sometimes a poorly pollinated plant may develop small or misshapen fruits, or fruits that brown.
 
Overwatering might also be an issue--although you need to make sure the plant gets enough during high heat, it can not sit in water. Let it dry out about an inch or two deep before rewatering; give about 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Cut back on the watering a bit after the fruits appear, to improve flavor.
 
Check for pests and diseases as well--are there any other signs on the leaves, stems, or roots? Holes, browning, off-color, nodules on the roots, etc.?
 
If it is poor pollination, there is time to remedy it, since you still have lots of flowers--there are male and female flowers. Heat stress--it depends on the vigor of the plant, whether it will recover; provide some shade, such as with burlap screens, if you have high temperatures again, and lay down a thick layer of mulch. If you have signs of pests/disease, you might bring a sample in to your local garden center for ID and control options.

Pine bark mulch: _ _ _ I

By John Charlton

Pine bark mulch: _ _ _
I dug up a large area with a backhoe, and mixed in a few bucketloads of creek sand, a little lime and fertilizer. I then covered this with 8 to 12 inches of composted pine bark mulch (from a logging operation... There was originally a lot of leaves and wood chips in it..) The melon seeds were started indoors. I planted the seedlings in the mulch by making a little hole all the way down to the dirt beneath, and adding in a little potting soil... The seedlings were placed in there. These vines are going nuts! There are zillions of flowers starting to set fruit,. The pine bark may be a good alternative to the 'plastic'. In my past experiences, pine bark supports very little mold or fungus etc. I have not watered this patch at all.

I have cantaloupe growing

By Nick A

I have cantaloupe growing from the vine. I heard that you should put the lopes on a flat stone and turn them every so often is that true and at what size should I do that,also should I put more fertilizer in the dirt and can I use manure.

Yes, you could gently place

By Almanac Staff

Yes, you could gently place ripening fruit on mulch or a stone or flower pot so it isn't on the soil; this may help prevent rot and deter pests. There isn't a rule about "when" -- perhaps wait until it's half-way to harvesting size. After your initial fertilization at planting, we would only side dress with a nitrogen fertilizer (21-0-0) after the vines develop runners. Use one to two tablespoons per plant or mound at least 6 inches away from the plants.

Hi, I have the Hearts of Gold

By Pam Duncan

Hi, I have the Hearts of Gold muskmelon and the melons are about 3 pounds now; however, they are more football shaped than a ball, the rind is white (not yellow or green), netting is nowhere near pronounced, and the ribbing is very deep. No crack on the stem. They are a little smaller than a kid's sized soccer ball and have been this way for over 3 weeks now. Is this normal? Will they ripen soon?

Hearts of Gold melons are

By Almanac Staff

Hearts of Gold melons are normally 3.5 to 4.5 pounds. Odd-shaped fruit is generally caused by growing conditions. Bees must deposit pollen on all three lobes of the female flower’s stigma or a misshapen melon develops. Sometimes cold, rainy, or windy weather affects or reduces bee activity. 
Fortunately, your melons are close to the right size (3.5 to 4.5 pounds).
Have your melons reached their "days to maturity"?
Let the melons fully ripen before you pick them to get that last surge of flavor. Be patient.
You'll know when it's ripe as the stem will start to separate from the fruit--and then separate cleanly.
The rind will change color and the melons will develop a strong scent at the blossom end, and the leaf closest to the fruit will fade to yellow.
Leave your melons on the vine until they are truly ripe!

if the runners from one vine

By jn_10768

if the runners from one vine are wrapping around and grabbing one of the other cantaloupe plants ,will that choke the plant out (so to speak)or do any harm. also is it causing TOO MUCH damage if u pinch the lil grabber vine off

We generally do not prune

By Almanac Staff

We generally do not prune cantaloupe vines at all. The grabber vines are there for the melon to support itself. Let nature take its course.

We landed a lot of muskmelon

By Dee h

We landed a lot of muskmelon seeds in a small area, they are growing up very close , should we thin them,? Or will they all grow ok?

Yes, thin your muskmelons

By Almanac Staff

Yes, thin your muskmelons seedlings 18 to 24 inches apart.

I have, I guess their called

By Andrea swearingen

I have, I guess their called runners growing. However they don't seem long enough to force in any direction. I was told to just wrap them around my container, is that a good idea or do I need to buy the tomatoe fencing stuff. Did I mention I live in a townhouse, limited space!

It's not entirely clear what

By Almanac Staff

It's not entirely clear what you're asking and it's not clear why you would wrap the vines around the container (best to ask the source of that tip). Trellis-type support would be desirable, and a tomato "cage" might be suitable. Support the melons with soft materials, such as nylons stockings (old knee highs or pantyhose) or netted onion bags. You want the fruit to get the air. Cantaloupes like temps at 70° to 80°F, well-draining compost/soil with a phH of 6 to 6.5, and 1 to 2 inches of water per week, ideally in the morning; about three weeks before harvesting, cut back on watering by half to a third. Fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks with a 5-5-5.
Hope this helps!

You say when the fruit begins

By WV

You say when the fruit begins to grow, prune end buds off vines. When you say "buds", do you mean the flower, or the tip of the vine???

Prune or pinch off

By Almanac Staff

Prune or pinch off non-fruiting lateral vines that grow from the main stem. Make the cuts about 1/2 inch from the stem. Make sure that you have enough leaves left on the growing vines. The leaves nourish the fruit.

Thanks for the question

By Darron Bera

Thanks for the question anonymous, I followed what was said(apparently not in enough detail). i then took the end right off. Just one vine though. I will monitor and learn.

Cantaloupe blooms but no fruit!

By Anonymous

We are new to growing the cantaloupe in our garden this year. We have the vines and pretty blooms but no actual fruit producing. And the leaves appear to be dying? is this normal? Or do we need to do something different? If you had pic upload capability, I could upload a picture for you. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Hearts of Gold

By Anonymous

My neighbor bought me Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, which is direct-sow in our area during June.

Do you have any tips growing this variety that can help me? And would hand pollination help, and if so, what do I use? A cotton swab, something smaller, or an actual pollination tool?

Black mulch

By Anonymous

If you put down black mulch how are your suppposed to water it thoroughly? What about mulched oak leaves as mulch?

need to lay drip tape down,

By farmer chris

need to lay drip tape down, then plastic mulch.

outside color n texture

By Anonymous

My very first two cantaloupe to start growing now are about the right size but my problem is they are smooth all the way around n very dark green???? The vein does not come into the fruit like normally.. the fruit comes out kinda like a point and goes straight into the vein. Looks very strange n not sure why? Can anybody help? Please!

END BUDS?

By Anonymous

ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THE END OF EACH VINE THAT HAS A LARGE BUD ON TO CUT AWAY THIS BUD?
WILL THIS KILL THE VINE?
JOE WOCHEK jmwochek@netzero.com
THANK YOU.

End buds

By Almanac Staff

Don't prune the main vine. The main vine will have many lateral branches (vines) which can be pruned off to improve size and quality of the remaining fruits.

thanks:)

By Anonymous

this idea will be very useful for my 8th grade class assaignment:) thanks for the info!!

Post new comment

Before posting, please review all comments. Due to the volume of questions, Almanac editors can respond only occasionally, as time allows. We also welcome tips from our wonderful Almanac community!

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.