Planting Cantaloupe takes patience, perfect timing

Planting Cantaloupe takes patience, perfect timing
Cantaloupes take about 80 to 90 days from seed to harvest, making them a longer wait than some other items in the garden.

Cantaloupe are one of those fruits for which I really do have a fondness. I guess I like them so much because my parents worked so hard to grow them in their own garden when I was growing up.

To be honest, they had a hard time growing them. First was the timing. Cantaloupes take about 80 to 90 days from seed to harvest, making them a longer wait than some other items in the garden. This time frame was one of my folks’ first challenges.

It seemed that every spring, they inadvertently planted the cantaloupes just at the time when they would be ready as we took our annual family vacation to Colorado. Yep, we were out of state when they were coming ripe.

Now on those years when we did get the timing right, when they waited to plant them so they would be ready upon their return. Of course, there was the issue of watering, or rather having too much water. Our neighbor across the road offered to come and water the garden during the hot, dry summer weeks that we were away.

That was certainly wonderfully generous. But if you know a thing or two about any kind of melons, you know that too much water at the end of the growing period can reduce soluble solids (the sugar content). That is, too much water just before harvest can reduce the wonderful sweet taste.

Needless to say, our neighbor was very, very diligent with the water hose and, alas, we had some poor tasting cantaloupes. Too much water right at the end of the melon’s maturation will certainly lower the quality.

In my garden today, I still have one row left that has not been planted. On one side is peppers and on the other is my seedling winter squash.

I’ve got my timing down, but there’s really not enough room for sprawling vines common to any melon-type plant. My solution? I’m going vertical with them.

I’ve read about vertical gardening for small spaces and have just not had the need to try it my current layout. But I didn’t plan this out and I’m pressed for space. And I really want my own fresh cantaloupe. I have an old welded-wire cattle panel and some T-posts that ought to work.

As the vines grow, I’ll have to weave them up thru the support structure, quite possibly tying them up with sturdy string if they won’t stay. As the cantaloupe fruit starts to develop, gardeners need to provide “hammocks” for them so that they won’t fall off. Indeed, the perfect time to harvest cantaloupes is at “full- slip” when the fruit easily separates from the vine. And since you can’t be there to ascertain the exact date, we support them with netting or old t-shirts cut up.

And for what it’s worth, if you do much research about cantaloupes, you’ll see an awful lot about Muskmelons. Apparently, there is a world of confusion between the two. Simply put, all cantaloupes are muskmelons, but not all muskmelons are cantaloupes.

I wonder if it is more of a regional name. The only places I read about muskmelons are certainly out of state and probably up in the north.

These modern-day melons have come to us as far away as Persia or modern-day Iran. They can smell great and that alone is a great indicator as to when to harvest them. If there is no good smell from the stem scar, then there will be no wonderful tasting fruit.

So, looking ahead 80 to 90 days, I sure hope I’m not on vacation.

Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is