Cantaloupe is one of the staples of summer, a sweet treat that hits grocery stores and produce stands across the country when the temperatures start to rise. The reason that we can get cantaloupe so early in the season is that the plants take only about three months to mature when properly planted and cared for, enabling households everywhere to enjoy their cool sweetness during the hottest months of the year.
When raised in proper lighting, watering and feeding conditions, cantaloupes can mature in as little time as 80 days, or about 12 weeks. Most healthy cantaloupes will mature within 120 days, or around 17 weeks. One type of cantaloupe, the "Earlisweet" variety, matures in 68 days. It grows only to weigh up to 3 lbs. and is very sweet.
You can tell if your cantaloupe has reached maturity and is ready to harvest by testing the strength with which the melon is attached to the stem. Cantaloupes left on the plant will eventually fall from the stem; this is commonly a sign of over-ripening, and the fruit will not be edible for much longer. To judge if it is harvest time, press your thumb against the side of the stem where it connects to the cantaloupe. If the fruit comes free, it is ready for consumption. Always harvest cantaloupe before they fall.
Cantaloupes easily suffer from too much or too little water and therefore must be carefully looked after. The only time the fruit will need extra watering is in time of extreme drought. Test the soil around your cantaloupe with your finger. Do not water unless the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch. Cantaloupes thrive with a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plants, which will help prevent weed growth. A general high-nitrogen fertilizer application, applied just when the plants begin to form vines, will boost production, size and health of the fruit.
A number of problems could slow or stop cantaloupes moving toward maturity. Fungal infections, such as powdery mildew, fusarium wilt or blight, will defoliate the plant, making it use up energy refreshing the falling foliage and battling the infection instead of growing healthy fruits. Similarly, beetles feed on the plants and spread fungus and bacteria as they move from plant to plant. Treating these problems with fungicide or insecticide, or planting resistant species of cantaloupe, will help ensure proper maturity.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
How to Pick a Cantaloupe
Picking cantaloupe is a simple gardening task. Whether picking garden cantaloupes or choosing them in the supermarket, there are a few simple...
How to Grow Cantaloupe
Growing your own [cantaloupe](http://www.ehow.com/info_8392582_types-cantaloupe.html) (Cucumis melo) has many benefits over buying cantaloupe from the grocery store. The best advantage is that you...
How to Grow Cantaloupe Seeds
Cantaloupe, or muskmelon, is a heat-loving vegetable that is native to India and available in several varieties, according to the University of...
How to Ripen Cantaloupe Quickly
Some people shy away from purchasing cantaloupe because it's difficult to tell a good melon from a bad one. With its tough,...
How to Grow Melons (Honeydew, Cantaloupe and Muskmelon)
Prized for their sugary, refreshing flesh, melons (Cucumis melo) such as honeydews and cantaloupes, or muskmelons, are a staple crop in many...
What Is the Growing Time for Cantaloupe?
Cantaloupe, also known as muskmelon, is a warm-season crop that is grown by gardeners and farm producers in many parts of the...
How Long Does It Normally Take to Grow Broccoli?
Broccoli is a healthy green vegetable whose reputation often makes it out to be scarier than it is. A flexible vegetable, it...
How Many Cantaloupes Grow From One Seed?
One cantaloupe seed grown under ideal conditions may produce as many as six to eight melons per season. However, cantaloupe requires a...
How Long Is Watermelon Germination?
Germination is the time it takes for a seed to sprout into a seedling and begin the early part of the growing...
How Does a Cantaloupe Plant Look?
Americans interchange the names cantaloupes and muskmelons to describe the fragrant, sweet, orange melon fruits, but the cantaloupe is different from a...
Do Watermelons Ripen Off the Vine?
If watermelons could ripen off the vine, watermelon growers around the world would rejoice. Unfortunately, they don’t. Once you pick a watermelon,...