Hello, my name is Andrew Whitehead. I am a Grow Appalachia assistant at Pine Mountain Settlement School. This is my second year working for the program and I love it. Today I am going to talk about cantaloupes, how to grow them, when to grow them and how I would like to grow them in my family’s garden.
First, I am going to tell you how to grow cantaloupes. Start your cantaloupe seeds indoors around 3 to 4 weeks before your last frost date. Your seedlings should go out in the garden after your frost date. If you are going to grow your cantaloupes upwards (on a trellis) you can plant your seedlings closer together in a row. Seedlings should be spaced about 12 inches apart. For cantaloupes that are going to spread their vines along the ground, keep the plants around 3 feet apart. Or in that case, you can plant 2 or 3 seedlings together in a small hill.
You can also directly seed your cantaloupe into the garden after the last frost date, all you have to do is make a row and then plant the seeds about 3 feet apart.
Now I am going to talk to you about when to grow them and how long to grow them. It is 80 to 100 days to harvest time; you should start them in the spring or very early summer. Dig the soil deeply so that it’s quite loose, more than 6 inches down and add fertilizer. An interesting fact about cantaloupes is that 100 feet of row should yield 60 cantaloupes.
How to tell when your cantaloupe is ready to harvest: First, look at the color of the melon. There is a netting pattern that covers the second layer of rind. Look through the netting to determine what color is underneath. If it looks green behind the netting, the cantaloupe is not ready for harvest. If the rind behind the netting is a yellow or cream color the melon is ready to be picked. You may also smell them and tell, get down close to the melon and take a big whiff and if it has a musky smell then it is ripe. The last step in determining the right time for harvesting cantaloupe is to inspect the appearance of the stem. A crack should appear that goes around the entire base of the stem. The melon should easily slip off the vine where this crack occurs. Press gently on the stem to see if the melon detaches. If it slips off, the melon is ready to be picked. If the melon resists slipping off the vine, let it sit for another day and check it again.
Now I am going to tell you how much I love cantaloupes. I would love to have cantaloupes growing in my family’s garden. Cantaloupes are great any time that you eat them: in the morning with your breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a family cookout. Cantaloupes are also good for you.You can eat healthy and still love what you eat, especially if it is cantaloupes.
* We cannot take credit for any of the photos in this post. Upon writing this post we looked through our files and realized we have never taken a photo of a cantaloupe during our years with Grow Appalachia. I guess we will have to change that this year!