Cantaloupe is a vining plant in the family Cucurbitaceae, grown for its large, sweet fruit of the same name. The botanical name of cantaloupe is Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis. Cantaloupe may be referred to as muskmelon or melon and likely originate from East and Northeast Africa.
Cantaloupe vines are trailing and are slightly hairy with simple oval leaves arranged alternately on the stem. The plant produces small yellow flowers and large oval to round fruit with green to orange flesh. Melon is an annual plant.
Table of Contents
15 - 18 inches
6.0 - 7.0
Growth Nutrition of Cantaloupe
The numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, in that order. The element of most concern when fertilizing cantaloupes is nitrogen, because cantaloupes need a lot of nitrogen, and it is the element most likely to be deficient in the soil.
Types of Cantaloupe
There are several cultivars of cantaloupe available, including:
‘Athena’: This variety takes between 70 and 80 days to mature on average and early variety produces large fruits.
‘Ambrosia’: This variety is known for its especially sweet flavor. It takes 85 days to maturity.
‘Hale’s Best Jumbo’: This variety takes between 80 and 90 days to mature on average, and it produces very large fruits. It is a aromatic melons.
‘Minnesota Midget’: This variety takes 70-80 days to maturity. Early variety well-suited for gardens in colder regions. Produces 1-pound, sweetly flavored melons.
‘Bush Star’: This variety takes 90 days to maturity. Bush variety suits gardeners with limited space.
When to Plant
In cold climates, it’s best to start seeds indoors approximately four to six weeks prior to your projected last spring frost date. Then, transplant seedlings outdoors once the soil temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Likewise, if you live in a warm climate, you can simply plant seeds outdoors once the soil is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Selecting a Planting Site
Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil for your cantaloupe. Container growth is an option, though you must have a fairly large container. Avoid growing cantaloupe near watermelon, as they can attract the same pests and diseases.
Spacing, Depth, and Support
Seeds should be planted roughly an inch deep. Space them 18 inches apart in rows that are around 3 feet apart. A support structure isn’t essential. But you can train the vines to grow up a sturdy trellis or other structure. Not only will this save some ground space, but it also will offer some protection from pests and diseases in the soil.
How to Grow Cantaloupe in Pots
It’s best to grow cantaloupe in the ground where it has ample space. But container growth also is an option if you don’t have a suitable garden site.
Opt for a smaller cantaloupe variety, which will do better in limited container space. However, you’ll still need at least a 5-gallon container with drainage. A grow bag can be a good option because it will be relatively light to move compared to ceramic or clay. Also, add a trellis or other support to the container, so the vines can grow upward instead of sprawling on the ground.
How to Grow Cantaloupe From Seed
If you’ll be starting seeds indoors, plant them in a tray filled with moist seed-starting mix. It can be helpful to use a heat mat to keep the soil at around 85 degrees Fahrenheit for faster germination. Make sure to keep the soil moist but never soggy. And you should see germination in about one to two weeks.
Cantaloupe Plant Care
Cantaloupe needs full sun for healthy growth, meaning at least six hours of direct sun on most days. Sufficient sun also will help to keep the foliage dry, minimizing the chance of fungal diseases.
Ideal soil for cantaloupe is a mix of loamy and sandy with a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. It should have sharp drainage. Consider amending the soil with compost prior to planting to improve both its drainage and nutrient content.
Ensuring that your cantaloupe plant gets the right amount of water at the right time is one of the most important things for a healthy crop. While the plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need roughly 2 gallons of water per week. Watering in the morning is preferred to allow leaves to dry off in the afternoon. As the fruit grows, taper the watering. Hot, dry conditions in the final stages of maturation produce the sweetest melons.
Temperature and Humidity
Temperatures consistently ranging from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the growing season will produce the best harvest. The cantaloupe plant isn't frost-tolerant. Plus, temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit can cause flower drop and a poor fruit harvest.
Furthermore, cantaloupe plants prefer higher humidity in their initial growth phase before lowering slightly to around 60 to 70 percent during the flowering and fruit development stages.
Feeding is not recommended until a soil test is performed. Excessive nitrogen in the soil can promote foliage growth rather than good fruit production. If you have nutrient-poor soil, adding composted manure when planting and then a balanced organic fertilizer (such as a fish emulsion) every few weeks is common practice. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions.
Cantaloupe plants produce male and female flowers. And pollinating animals, as well as the wind, help to pollinate them. However, if your vines aren’t fruiting, you always can try hand-pollinating. Remove a male blossom (the ones with the thin stems), take off the petals to reveal the stamen, and then shake the stamen into a female flower to coat it with pollen. Repeat this throughout the vines.
Harvest time differs by cantaloupe variety, so be aware of the growth requirements for your particular plant. There are a few key signs that the fruits are ready for harvesting. First, the outside will turn from green to tan. There also should be a crack in the stem where it attaches to the fruit, and the fruit should easily twist off the vine. Fruit that falls off the vine on its own is typically overripe while fruit that’s difficult to remove likely needs more time to ripen.
Gently twist the ripe fruit off of the stem to harvest. Be careful not to disturb the rest of the vine where fruits are still developing. You can store uncut fruits at room temperature for about a week. Cut fruit should be stored in the refrigerator, where it will be at its best for a few days.
Pruning and Propagating Cantalopue
Once fruit production starts, prune off the buds on the ends of the vines. This does mean sacrificing some blossoms that likely would have turned to fruits. However, it should end up making the remaining melons larger and of better quality.
Cantaloupe is typically grown from seeds or nursery plants. And it is possible to propagate your plants by saving seeds. Not only is this an inexpensive way to create new plants, but it also allows you to propagate a particular variety that you like. Just make sure your cantaloupe wasn’t planted near other melon species that it can cross-pollinate with, or your seeds might not grow true. You’ll save seeds as you harvest your ripe cantaloupes. Here’s how:
Wait until the cantaloupe is fully mature, and then twist it off the vine to harvest.
Cut the melon in half, and scoop out the seeds into a strainer.
Rinse off the pulp from the seeds.
Spread the seeds in a single layer on a paper towel or screen to dry for about a week.
Store dried seeds in a labeled envelope in a cool, dark, dry spot. They should be viable for a few years.
Potting and Repotting
Use a well-draining organic potting mix that contains perlite or vermiculite for growing cantaloupe in containers. Mixing some compost into the soil also can be a good idea to give your plants a boost. Repotting shouldn’t be necessary. It’s best to pot cantaloupe in a container that can accommodate its mature size to avoid disturbing the roots and vines.
Cantaloupe is an annual, completing its growth cycle in one season. It cannot survive cool winter temperatures. Thus, no overwintering maintenance is necessary.
Pests and Plant Diseases
Cantaloupe is susceptible to some common garden pests and diseases. Pests include aphids, squash vine borer moths, and cucumber beetles. Diseases include powdery mildew and fusarium wilt. Insect infestations can sometimes be treated with neem oil or an organic insecticide. And diseases are best prevented with proper growing conditions.
Benefits of Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe is rich in nutrients which assist in preventing cancer and eliminates free radicals that results in harmful conditions such as cancer and heart problems. It has high content of beta carotene which is essential for the body. It is associated with lowering various types of cancer and phytochemicals acts as anti-tumor activity. Carotenoids found in this melon fruit prevents and lowers the chances of cancers. Increase in consumption of foods rich in carotenoids that lowers the chances of developing cardiovascular ailments and various types of cancer.
Besides phytochemicals and beta-carotene, it provides healthy amounts of Vitamin C which eliminates free radicals and enhances immune system. It promotes the production of white blood cells that eradicates harmful viruses, bacteria and foreign bodies from the body. Cantaloupes are rich in Vitamin C which plays a vital role in repair and growth of tissues in the body. It assist in formation of collagen which is an essential protein required for forming skin tissues, ligaments, tendons and blood vessels. It acts as an antioxidant that obstructs the actions of free radicals that leads to early aging.
Reduce anxiety and stress
Cantaloupes contain potassium which acts as a vasodilator that relaxes blood vessels and helps to lower blood pressure. Rise of blood pressure level acts as a stressor and can promote stress hormones release like cortisol. It promotes the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain which encourages calming sensation and relaxation. Moreover, stress hormones helps to lower anxiety symptoms. Potassium also normalizes the heart beat and enhances supply of oxygen to the brain which makes one feel more focused and relaxed. Superoxide dismutase helps to encounter stress by reducing the blood pressure and soothing or relaxing nerves. It also prevents cellular death which is caused by oxidative stress. It calms nervous system and prevents sleeping disorders.
High content of dietary fiber in Cantaloupes promotes healthy movements of bowel and maintains digestive health. Dietary fiber rich diet adds bulk to the stool and lowers the chances of constipation and makes the bowel movements consistent and regular. It ensures smooth flow through digestive tract as well as colon and lowers the chances of colorectal cancer and other harmful gastrointestinal problems. The people with digestive problems should consume Cantaloupe to ease bowel movements. High water content is helpful for digestion and mineral content erases acidity that causes problem in digestion.
Researchers have concluded that consuming cantaloupe lowers the chances of metabolic syndrome in women which is caused due to increase in blood pressure, excessive deposition of fat, elevated blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels. This increases the chances of stroke, heart disease and diabetes. The study shows that the women who consume high amount of fruit have healthy levels of C-reactive protein in their bloodstream and lower the chances of metabolic syndrome. The high content of folate prevents the risk of neural tube defects in infants.
Being a rich source of potassium, Cantaloupes helps to control the blood pressure and normalizes it which maintains heart health. Potassium prevents the risk of hypertension and prevents sodium to provide further harm to the body. It contains a compound adenosine that is helpful for heart due to its blood thinning activities. It prevents clotting of blood in cardiovascular system. Vitamin C helps to prevent the chances of hardening of arteries and folate prevents the chances of heart attacks. Anti-coagulant activities lower viscosity of blood and prevent blood clot forming in cardiovascular system. Potassium helps to regulate the balance of water in the body. It counteracts oxidative stress by reducing low density of lipoprotein in blood.
Cantaloupe has high content of beta carotene which assists to maintain eye health. When beta carotene enters to the body, it gets converted into Vitamin A that prevents the chances of forming cataracts and promotes vision. Zea-xanthin which is a carotenoid absorbed in retinal macula lutea of eye that provides functions of UV light filtration and protects eye from macular degeneration. The study has shown that daily intake of foods rich in Vitamin lowers the chances of developing cataracts by 40% and macular degeneration by 36%. Macular degeneration have become common disease for vision loss in aging adults.
Healthy menstrual cycle
Vitamin C found in Cantaloupes helps to regulate the menstrual flow and provide relief from menstrual cramps in women. The regular intake of cantaloupe lowers the flow and clotting during menstruation
Cantaloupe fruit has high content of Vitamin C and A which is very beneficial to maintain skin health. Vitamin A helps to promote regeneration of skin and Vitamin C assist in collagen formation which is a connective tissue that provides glow to the skin. Process a cantaloupe in a blender and prepare a face pack by adding oatmeal powder and yogurt to the pulp and make a thick paste. Apply it to your face as well as neck. Take off the paste by massaging it in circular movements gently. Then wash with warm water. For best results, it should be applied thrice in a week. It also provides fullness and elasticity to the skin. The puree or juice of Cantaloupe is helpful to cure blemishes and freckles.
Cantaloupe contains adequate amount of energy that makes fit during activity. It provides 183 calories in a singer serving of 552 grams of Cantaloupe. This amount of calories is burned in 30 minutes of walking. It does not need pancreatic enzymes of digestion because it contains all the live enzymes.
Cantaloupe is normally eaten as a fresh fruit, as a salad, or as a dessert with ice cream or custard.
The seeds are edible and may be dried for use as a snack.
Regular consumption of this fruit can stimulate hair growth.