Cantaloupes are heat-loving plants with a relatively long growing season. As long as you provide the proper environmental conditions, growing cantaloupe from seed is straightforward. In this article, find out how to grow cantaloupe from seed and enjoy an abundant harvest of sweet, juicy melons.
On average, cantaloupe plants mature in approximately 70-100 days. They’re sensitive to cold weather and don’t tolerate temperatures below 40℉.
In most climates, gardeners plant cantaloupe seeds indoors several weeks before the expected last frost date to give the plants enough time to develop large, luscious melons. It usually takes around 35-45 days after flowering for the fruit to ripen.
What to Know about Growing Cantaloupe from Seed
If you’ve never tried planting cantaloupe seeds because you’re worried that they won’t grow well in your climate, think again.
Over the years, growers of different cantaloupe types have come up with numerous useful tricks for cultivating cantaloupe in cooler climates. Read on to discover how to plant cantaloupe seeds in your region.
Cantaloupe is a type of muskmelon that likely originated in southern Asia and northern Africa. Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis is the botanical name for cantaloupe.
They’re in the Cucurbit plant family, along with cucumbers, honeydew melons, squash, and watermelon. Note that honeydew melons and cantaloupe are not the same thing but they do require similar growing conditions and care.
The ideal temperature range for growing cantaloupe vine fruit plants is between 75-95°F. The plants grow considerably slower when temperatures are below 60°F.
In regions with chilly spring conditions, use floating row covers or a cold frame to insulate your frost-tender plants until warmer weather arrives.
Select a planting site with full sun, well-draining soil rich in nutrients, and wind protection. Cantaloupe plants require eight to ten hours of direct sunlight daily, similar to when you grow pumpkins from seed or different varieties of squash.
Use mulch to minimize weed growth, retain moisture, and insulate your garden soil. Cantaloupe plants have shallow root systems and suffer when competing with weeds for water and nutrients.
Here are some of the best cantaloupe cultivars for home gardeners.
How to Plant Cantaloupe Seeds
Although it’s possible to sow cantaloupe seeds directly in the ground, most growers in northern climates start seeds indoors in early spring.
The best time to plant cantaloupe seeds indoors is about six weeks before your expected last frost date. Or, sow seeds outdoors a week or two after the last danger of frost passes and the soil temperature is above 60℉.
The stages of growing cantaloupe start with filling peat pots or a seedling tray with seed-starting potting mix and lightly saturating the soil. Plant the cantaloupe seeds one inch deep, then loosely cover them with potting soil.
Cover the tray with a humidity dome, damp paper towel, or plastic wrap to retain moisture. Cantaloupe seeds typically germinate in three to nine days. Use a heat mat to maintain consistent warmth.
The optimal soil temperature for germination is 75-85℉. The seeds won’t germinate below 60℉. Once the seedlings sprout, move them to a sunny windowsill with six or more hours of bright light daily.
If you don’t have a south-facing window available, use a grow light to prevent them from becoming elongated or “leggy.”
When to Plant Cantaloupe Outdoors
Once daytime temperatures are consistently warmer than 65℉, begin hardening off your cantaloupe seedlings by leaving them outside in a sheltered spot for progressively longer periods.
Gradually acclimatizing the plants, both cantaloupe and muskmelon, to the elements reduces the risk of transplant shock.
Transplant the seedlings a week or two after the last frost date for your region. Cover your planting area with dark-colored mulch or black plastic for several days ahead of time to warm the soil before transplanting.
It’s best to plant cantaloupe in mounds or hilled rows, so water drains away from the main stem. If you’re planting cantaloupe from seed with limited garden space, train the vines to climb a trellis.
Spacing between cantaloupe plants should be at least 18 inches. Leave three feet between hills or rows.
Best Soil and Fertilizer for Cantaloupe
For the best possible cantaloupe harvest, ensure that your garden soil drains well and is rich in organic matter. To prepare your planting site, mix in organic compost or well-rotted manure.
Cantaloupe plants are heavy feeders and require regular fertilizer applications throughout the growing season.
Dilute liquid fertilizer with water according to the instructions listed on the product label and feed your plants every two to three weeks. For slow-release granular fertilizer, apply every four to six weeks.
Use this simple DIY recipe to make a fertilizer for watermelon or your cantaloupes and watch them grow.
Mix the ingredients in a lidded container. Every three or four weeks, mix two tablespoons of fertilizer into the soil around each plant’s base. Store your homemade fertilizer mixture sealed in an airtight container in a cool, dry location.
How to Grow Cantaloupe from Seed in Pots
Container gardening is an excellent solution for growers with limited space. Choose a pot that’s at least twelve inches deep and wide and holds five or more gallons of soil.
Drainage holes at the bottom reduce the risk of fungal diseases like root rot and powdery mildew.
Place your cantaloupe pots near a wall of your house to take advantage of the radiant heat. Select compact varieties and train the vines to climb a trellis.
Harvest and Storage Strategies for Homegrown Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe plants grow distinct male and female flowers. Male flowers emerge first and grow a pollen-producing stamen.
Female flowers contain a pistil to receive the pollen and a small node at their base that develops into fruit after pollination.
If a female flower remains unpollinated, that node shrivels and drops off. Without insect pollinators, hand-pollinating your cantaloupe flowers is necessary.
Companion planting with aromatic herbs and flowers attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects. Basil, bee balm, calendula, chamomile, marigolds, nasturtium, and oregano are excellent cantaloupe companions.
The cantaloupe rind’s color indicates its ripeness. Most varieties change from green to yellow when ripe. Additionally, the veins or netting on the rind surface darken.
The stems begin to detach from the top of fully ripe melons. You’ll feel minimal resistance when pulling it from the vine.
Eat freshly-picked cantaloupe within three to five days. Storing fresh cantaloupe or watermelon in the fridge keeps it tasty longer. Refrigerate cut cantaloupe in plastic wrap or an airtight container.
Pick cantaloupes just before they’re fully ripe for longer shelf life. They aren’t as sweet, but they’ll stay fresh for around two weeks.
Solving Common Pest and Disease Problems
Aphids and cucumber beetles are the most prevalent insect pests for cantaloupe plants. Protect cantaloupe seedlings with row covers to prevent insects from laying eggs or feeding on them.
Spray all parts infested plants with an organic insecticide like neem oil or insecticidal soap every two or three days.
Bacterial and fungal plant diseases spread quickly in warm, damp conditions. Ensure that your plants have adequate air circulation. Keep the leaves dry when watering by using drip irrigation or a soaker hose.
Growing cantaloupe from seed is fun and rewarding. When considering how to plant cantaloupe seeds, the most influential factors are light, nutrients, and temperature.
Planting cantaloupe seeds indoors in early spring gives you a head start on the growing season so that your melons have plenty of time to ripen. Trellising is an excellent strategy for saving space.
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