How to grow Cantaloupe

Home Grown Cantaloupe and Muskmelon

By Abigal Gordon

Cantaloupe a/k/a  cantalope refers to two varieties of Muskmelon. Both of which are Cucurbits along with watermelons, squash and cucumbers. Like all melons, cantaloupes grow best in sandy, well-aerated, well-watered soil that is free of encroaching weeds.


Cantaloupe are a source of polyphenol antioxidants, which are known to provide health benefits to the cardiovascular  and immune systems. These antioxidants promote the formation of nitric oxide, a key chemical in the prevention of heart attacks.


Melons for the Passionate Grower... "There's more to the world of melons than just the cantaloupe and honeydew, but this may not be true for long: many varieties are "on the brink of extinction," according to cultivator and collector Goldman. This handsome volume documents unusual types of melon like the Collective Farm Woman (originally from Ukraine) and the serpent-shaped Snake melon with lavish color photos and playful descriptions. Goldman also instructs readers on how to pollinate, grow and harvest these plants; includes a list of commercial sources.." Publishers Weekly


Planting Canteloupe

Cantaloupe is a warm-season crop and should not be planted until all danger of frost has passed. The ideal climate for growing cantaloupe consists of a long, frost-free season with plenty of sunshine and heat, and relatively low humidity. USDA Zones 4 -10 are suitable for cantaloupe and muskmelon .

Planting should commence in the spring, when the soil temperature is 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Soil should be turned with the previous crop residues buried at least two to three weeks prior to planting. This will allow sufficient time for these residues to decompose.


Plant seeds about 1 inch deep. Sow about 3 to 6 seeds per foot. Your rows should be approximately 50 to 70 inches apart. After emergence, thin down to about 1 plant every foot.


After the seedlings have developed their third set of leaves they should be thinned to three plants per hill. Remove weeds as they grow, and hoe lightly to avoid disturbing the shallow root system of the plant.


Layer the ground around the plants with Mulch  to cut back on weed growth, increase soil moisture, and keep the soil continuously warm.

Some growers prefer to use transplants from as a way of obtaining early melons. When growing transplants, seed 2 to 4 weeks ahead of transplanting date. Commercial potting mixes work well since the growing medium must be sterile and drain freely. The diameter of transplant containers can range between 1.5 to 4 inches, with 3 inches being optimum for early production.


Pollination : Many  Gardeners sometimes wonder why the earliest Melon blossoms do not set fruit. The first flowers developing on the vines are male or pollen-bearing flowers. Only the female flowers are capable of developing into fruit.






Irrigation prior to and after planting should be applied to ensure seed germination and  emergence  Drip irrigation provides the plants with a more uniform application of water, placing it near the root zone and using less water. Drip irrigation also minimizes the amount of foliage and fruit disease compared with overhead irrigation . Drip Irrigation does not interfere with honeybees and subsequent pollination and fertilization. Inexpensive drip systems are available.

For larger plantings - Drip systems can be easily adapted for the injection of fertilizer. This allows plant nutrients to be supplied to the field as needed.




When setting out transplants, apply a common starter solution such as 20-20-20 . Medium-textured soils (loams) will generally produce higher yields and better quality melons. In all cases the soil must exhibit good internal and surface drainage. Mulching is also recommended to  help control weeds and maintain adequate soil moisture. Studies have shown that plants that are mulched grow faster and healthier than those that are not.


The optimal Soil pH range is 5.5 -7.0. See Soil pH for more extensive information.




Many cultivars produce excessive vine growth. Pruning the vines is necessary only if the melons are to be trellised, optional otherwise. Pruning is performed to achieve a balance between vine growth and fruit set, it increases fruit weight while reducing the number of undesirable melons.

Melon vines produce a primary stem with many secondary branches [laterals]. A suitable pruning treatment for cantaloupes and muskmelons is to retain the primary stem and one of the first laterals while pruning all additional laterals up to and including the 6 -7th leaf node. All secondary branches after the eighth node can be left unpruned on the plant. This method of pruning permits the vine to be easily trellised either by a net trellis or by using strings and vine clips.


Pruning Made Easy: A gardener's visual guide to when and how to prune everything, from flowers to trees (Storey's Gardening Skills Illustrated)


Common Canteloupe Varieties

The following are my personal favorites, you of course may prefer to scan any of the many online nurseries and seed catalogs.

Traditional Varieties   Novelty Varieties
Honey Rock Cantaloupe Plant produces sweet deep salmon flesh cantaloupes. This plant produces 5 to 7 cantaloupes which are incredibly sweet. Perfect for backyard home gardens . 82 days.

Hales Jumbo Cantaloupe Heirloom melon known for sweet, juicy flavor.

  Cantaloupe 'Park's Whopper' Hybrid 77 days from setting out transplants or 91 days for direct sow. Now you can grow enormous 6- to 8-pound melons with great flesh firmness and a juicy-sweet taste -

  Cantaloupe Ambrosia Hybrid Salmon-Red Extra-Sweet that Everybody Loves! Small seed cavity means even more juicy-tender flesh! 86 days from setting out transplants or 100 days for direct sow.

Japanese Netted Melon It is round and weighs over 3 pounds. The outer skin is green color with a fine net. The thick and juicy green flesh has a brix sweetness of over 16%. Its sugar content will continue to rise regardless of the weather  

Seed & Nursery Catalogs

Common Pests

 Aphids: Generally, aphids are green and are less mobile than leafhoppers. They feed on the undersides of the youngest leaves and on tender shoots [Image]. Aphids reproduce very rapidly and can literally cover stems and leaves. The sap loss is a concern when the plants are young— the first three years. Most aphids can be controlled by ladybugs and other natural enemies. [Insecticides kill these natural enemies along with the pests.] 

Pickleworm   [Image]  A tropical insect which routinely survives the winter only in deep southern regions of the United States and further south (adios amigo) North Carolina and South Carolina are regular hosts of the pickleworm, but often this usually doesn't occur until early Autumn. It takes some time for the varmints to hitch a ride north. [Pickleworm Moth - Image]. Pyrethrin is effective against Pickleworms.

Seed Corn Maggot [Images] populations vary greatly depending on environmental conditions , take precautions prior to planting to keep damage from this insect to a minimum. Otherwise, this critter will probably not be detected until seeds and seedlings are lost.
Plant in a seedbed only deep enough for adequate soil moisture.

Spider Mites
 are a close relatives of spiders and ticks. Several species are plant pests. They are also commonly known as red spiders Most are about the size of the period following this sentence . Adult mites have four pairs of legs and no antennae. They use a pair of needle-like stylets to rupture leaf cells when they feed . Because they are nearly microscopic and difficult to see, spider mite problems are often misdiagnosed . Several commercial miticides are available.

Cucumber Beetles There are two different forms of this pest. The striped form [Image] , and it's cousin the spotted cucumber beetle [Image] (A/K/A southern corn rootworm) is basically identical except that it features a dozen black spots instead of stripes. (Another well-known family member is the corn rootworm.) BioNeem and Rotenone are effective controls of  Cucumber beetles.

Sharpshooter Natural Insecticide - Citric acid destroys the wax coating of the insect's respiratory system. When applied directly, the insect suffocates. Sharpshooter is biodegradable. Effective on most insects including aphids, beetles, caterpillars, cutworms, earwigs, flies, gnats...

Hot Pepper Wax repels bugs.  100% natural spray uses pepper extract and wax to effectively discourage pests.

See Pest Control  for more extensive data


Diseases of Cantaloupe and Muskmelons


Alternaria Leaf Spot

Causes serious damage under long periods of wet weather. The occurrence of this disease is sporadic but can be devastating if left unchecked.

The disease causes tiny brown spots that enlarge on the leaves, causing a target spot with concentric rings. Older lesions will develop a dark color in the concentric pattern . The dark color is caused by spore production, which can cause new infection sites if no protective measures are taken.

Most fungicides will suppress Alternaria leaf spot. No resistant cultivars are available.


The anthracnose fungus causes dark brown, oval sunken areas or spots on stems. It also causes the crown to rot, which causes young leaves to wilt. The fungus can be carried on apparently healthy plants. Therefore, be sure to use healthy certified plants for transplanting. Avoiding excess moisture during the summer will help decrease the severity of this disease. Anthracnose cannot be adequately by fungicides. [Image]


Stem Blight   

A Fungus which causes rapid wilt with browning or reddening of leaves on individual branches, often followed by death of the entire plant as the fungus spreads to the plant base. Most infections can be traced to a wound as the initial point of infection.


Powdery Mildew

During mid-summer foliage is covered by a web-like fungus growth called mycelium. As a result, leaves become puckered . In late summer, circular reddish-brown spots 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter appear on the top and underside of the leaves. Conidiophores grow from the mycelium and spread the disease throughout the field. During the late summer and autumn, small round black fruiting bodies [cleistothecia] 1/32 to1/16 inch in diameter develop on the surface of the fungal growth on the leaves. The cleistothecia are a means of over wintering by the fungus. All cultivars are susceptible to powdery mildew. Jersey cultivar is the most susceptible. [Image]



Cantaloupes are usually harvested at what is known as "three- quarters-" to "full slip."

At three-quarters slip, cantaloupes will slip easily from their stem. Smaller fruits should be pinched off the stem as the season closes to encourage the ripening of the larger fruits. The growing points of all the vines should also be pinched off at this time. one-fourth of the stem usually adheres and breaks rather than slipping free.

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.

Cantaloupes mature in 80 to 110 days depending on the variety and growing conditions. Sugar content is the primary measure of maturity and quality. Sugar content does not increase once the melon has been removed from the vine.


Additional References


How to Grow Artichoke

How to Grow Asparagus

How to Grow Blueberries

How to Grow Brussels Sprouts

How to Grow Cantaloupe

How to Grow Carrots

How to Grow Cucumbers


How to Grow Eggplant

How to Grow Onions

How to Grow Peppers

How to Grow Potatoes

How to Grow Pumpkins

How to Grow Raspberries

How to Grow Rhubarb


How to Grow Strawberries

How to Grow Tomatoes

How to Grow Watermelon

Hydroponics Gardening

Companion Gardening


Control Garden Pests


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