Cantaloupes belong to the cucurbit family, along with other melons, squashes and cucumbers. Within the muskmelon family, cantaloupes develop a hard rind and soft, orange flesh. When temperatures average between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, cantaloupes grow and develop energetically in a home garden. While you watch them develop, notice the growth stages of cantaloupe to ensure they are growing properly.
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Cantaloupe seeds require rich soil above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the best germination. If the soil temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the seeds should germinate within about one to two weeks. If the soil temperature is around 90 degrees, the seeds may germinate in less than one week, according to Cornell University’s Growing Guide. Cantaloupe seeds require evenly moist soil to germinate effectively.
Cantaloupe seedlings are sensitive and easily disturbed by weeding and thinning. Final spacing of seedlings should planted in rows about 2 feet apart with plants 5 feet apart. Thin the seedlings when they become about 4 inches high. Regular moisture is extremely important for the cantaloupe seedlings as they grow larger and stronger in the soil.
Pollination and Vining
When cantaloupe plants begin vining, they will begin blossoming soon after. The Maryland Food Gardening Network recommends directing the vines in one or two opposite directions as the vines begin to grow to maintain a neat garden. Cantaloupe plants produce both male and female blossoms with the male blossoms providing pollen to the female blossoms to produce fruit. Pollination occurs most effectively by honeybees. If weather or pesticide use interferes with bee activity, fewer cantaloupes may set.
Watch as the cantaloupes mature on the vines so you will know when to withhold regular watering. About one week before you expect to harvest the melons, stop providing water for the plants. Check the points where the melons connect with the vines for maturity. When the melons separate easily with only light pressure, harvest them by pulling them gently from the vines. Handle the harvested cantaloupes carefully to avoid damaging them. Continue harvesting from the cantaloupe vines daily until you remove every one from the patch.