Cantaloupe, also known as muskmelon, is a warm-season crop that is grown by gardeners and farm producers in many parts of the United States. Gardeners often grow the plant from seed planted in the garden or from seeds started indoors and transplanted into the garden space after the last threat of frost. A variety of different cantaloupes are available with growing seasons ranging from 70 to 110 days. Growers should choose a variety that fits with their climate.
Days to Maturity
Many plants, including cantaloupe, have an estimated time period between planting and maturity. This is commonly stated as a number of days on the seed package. For cantaloupe the maturity dates rage from the "Earlisweet" at 68 days to the "Casaba Golden Beauty" listed at 110 days. Most varieties range between 70 and 90 days. Longer-maturity varieties often yield larger cantaloupes.
Plant cantaloupe seeds when the last threat of frost has passed in the spring. Cantaloupes do not tolerate frost and would need to be protected from any unanticipated late season frost. Promote early season growth by starting the cantaloupe seed indoors about a month before the anticipated planting outdoors. Transplant the entire plant and peat pot (if applicable) into the outdoor garden.
Harvest the cantaloupe when the fruit is ripe and at the peak of quality. The rind or shell of the cantaloupe changes color, and the fruit slips easily from the stem when it's ripe. While the cantaloupe will soften after harvest, it does not add sugar and will not improve in taste after harvest. The harvest time of the cantaloupe varies depending on weather. A 90-day cantaloupe may mature sooner under warmer conditions or slower if the conditions are cool and wet. Harvest commonly occurs about 40 days after flowering.
Helping the Growing Period
Placing a black plastic mulch across the ground helps raise soil temperatures, which benefits warm season crops like cantaloupes. Conversely, don't place organic mulches such as wood chips or compost over the ground until the ground as warmed to at least 75 degrees.
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