Cantaloupe belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family and is a variety of muskmelon, along with Persian melons, Santa Claus melons, and honeydew melons.
It also has close relations with pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers, so it requires similar growing conditions.
When to plant cantaloupe? Because cantaloupe thrives in warm weather, wait until the ground has warmed up in spring. Ideally, soil temperatures should be around 65 to 70 degrees. In cooler regions, it’s best to start seeds indoors roughly three weeks before the last expected frost date.
Planting Cantaloupe in Different Climates
Cantaloupes need warmth and are sensitive to freezing temperatures.
Before deciding to grow this crop, you will need to determine if your climate offers the ideal conditions for it to thrive.
More often than not, cantaloupe plants are grown as a summer annual. That is, if your area belongs in the USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 10.
If you’re unsure, you can check it here.
In the meantime, allow us to give you a general idea of what to expect when growing cantaloupe in different climates.
We recommend planting cantaloupe from mid-December to mid-April for regions with a tropical climate.
However, the exact date will still depend on your area’s daytime and nighttime temperatures.
For instance, those from southern Florida can plant cantaloupe seeds anywhere between the middle of December to March.
If you’re from northern Florida, it would be best to start planting around mid-April.
Those with a dry climate will be thrilled to know that the sweetest cantaloupes grow in hot, dry weather.
These plants love basking in the warmth of the sun, but make sure you plant them in nutrient-rich soil.
In these regions, you’ll want to plant cantaloupe seeds in March.
The temperate climate is where cantaloupes are the happiest.
In fact, the year-round pleasant temperatures of California are why it is the largest producer of cantaloupe in the country.
You can plant seeds starting from late March to early April all the way through July.
Since cantaloupes are warm-weather crops, they won’t be easy to grow in cooler regions.
As such, it might be best to try growing them in greenhouses instead.
Choosing a Cantaloupe Cultivar to Grow
If you’re new to the world of cantaloupes, you might be surprised to know that they are available in many different types.
In general, you will find these types grouped into two: Western and Eastern cultivars.
Commercial growers prefer the Western types because these plants produce fruits uniform in size and hold well in transit.
In comparison, you will notice that Eastern cultivars are bigger, often weighing anywhere between five and eight pounds. As such, they are sometimes called jumbo cantaloupes.
To help you decide which type to plant, here are the most popular options:
Hearts of Gold
The Hearts of Gold is an heirloom variety popular among commercial growers and home gardeners.
With the right growing conditions, you’ll get three-pound fruits with deep-orange and sweet flesh in just 80 to 90 days.
The Top Mark is a Western cultivar with subtle ribbing and an almost salmon-colored flesh.
Like the Hearts of Gold, it produces three- to four-pound fruits in about 80 to 90 days.
The best thing about this type is that it is resistant to scab, downy mildew, and powdery mildew.
Unlike other cultivars, it can also tolerate watermelon mosaic and papaya ringspot virus.
Do you have a short growing season? If so, this cantaloupe cultivar is perfect for you.
The Aphrodite Hybrid matures in as quickly as 72 days, producing fruits as big as eight pounds.
Plus, this cultivar is not only resistant to powdery mildew but also fusarium wilt.
The Athena Hybrid is an Eastern cultivar popular for its aroma, flavor, and texture.
You can expect harvest in just 75 days, and the five- to six-pound fruits store longer than other types of cantaloupes.
They are also preferred by many because they resist fusarium wilt, downy mildew, and powdery mildew.
How To Plant Cantaloupe Seeds
As mentioned, how you plant cantaloupe seeds will vary depending on the climate in your area.
It’s also up to you to decide whether you want to start them indoors or plant them directly into your vegetable garden.
Starting Cantaloupe Seeds Indoors
If you’re from a cooler region, your best bet is to start seeds indoors two to four weeks before transplanting outside.
Plant the seed 1/4-inch deep and water deeply.
You will want indoor temperatures between 60 and 95 degrees to encourage germination.
If that’s not possible, use a propagation mat to keep them warm, making sure the soil stays moist at the same time.
In about five to 10 days, you can expect seeds to sprout.
Once the plants grow several mature leaves, you can start acclimating them to outdoor conditions by moving them outside for a few hours a day.
Then, you can transplant the young cantaloupe plants to your garden after the last frost has passed.
Make sure you move them into fast-draining soil in a spot exposed to full sun.
Planting Cantaloupe Seeds Outdoors
If your area offers the ideal growing conditions for cantaloupe, you can go ahead and plant the seeds directly in the garden.
For this, you’ll want to wait until the ground is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
More often than not, this will be roughly two weeks after the last frost.
Plant the seeds half an inch or one inch deep into well-draining soil.
Provide each seed with about a foot of growing space. If you’d be planting in rows, make sure they are about five feet away from each other.
After sowing, water the soil evenly to keep it moist but not soaking wet.
Given the right conditions, you’ll notice sprouts in about a week or two.
How To Water Cantaloupe
Like most other summer fruits, you’ll find that cantaloupes love water.
While they need plenty, they won’t appreciate a soggy environment.
Roughly speaking, you will need to give them water about an inch or two per square foot every week.
That roughly translates to a gallon and a half.
Like most plants, avoid wetting the foliage to keep fungal diseases at bay. Watering in the morning helps too.
Continue giving your plants one to two inches of water per week throughout their flowering stage.
To keep your cantaloupe plants evenly watered, we recommend drip irrigation. It would also be beneficial to add mulch to retain moisture.
Once the fruits start growing, you can reduce the watering frequency.
As mentioned, hot and dry weather is the key to the sweetest cantaloupes.
Around this time, about an inch per week is enough. Cut down to half an inch of water when the fruits are near maturity.
How To Grow Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe plants require at least six to eight hours of sun exposure, but the more sun it gets, the better.
Besides sunlight and watering, it’s also important to check if the soil is healthy enough to support the growth of your plants.
When growing cantaloupe, you might want to do a soil test when vines begin to spread.
If you find that it lacks nutrients, use a standard liquid fertilizer to correct the issue.
Then, cut back on fertilizers rich in nitrogen once fruits start growing.
This type of fertilizer encourages the growth of foliage, so your cantaloupe plants will end up focusing less on producing fruits.
It might also be a good idea to cover your plants to keep pests away.
However, you will need to remove these covers about a month after germination or once the plants begin flowering.
These flowers require pollination to create fruits, so you’ll need to give bees and other pollinators access to them.
Around this time, you will also notice your plants growing thick and wide vines.
If your garden isn’t spacious enough to accommodate their growth, you can encourage them to grow vertically using plant support.
Then, remember to provide support for the hanging fruits using an old pantyhose or a breathable, netted produce bag.
Each plant is capable of producing up to eight fruits, given proper care.
However, it might be best to grow two to three fruits on each plant so that it can focus on growing them to a large size.
How Long Does Cantaloupe Take To Grow?
From germination, you can expect to harvest sweet and juicy cantaloupe fruits in about 80 to 90 days.
The harvest time varies depending on the cultivar you choose to grow.
For instance, the Athena Hybrid, being an early variety, will have produced fruits in as quickly as 70 to 80 days.
How quickly they mature also depends on when you planted them. They will grow quicker in warm weather.
Cantaloupe is a nutritious and mildly sweet-tasting fruit rich in vitamin A and C.
Its refreshing flavor and vibrant color make it the perfect afternoon snack during the hot and humid summer days.
Even better, you can try growing them in your backyard garden even as a beginner.
By following the tips we shared here, we’re confident you’ll have these nutrient-rich fruits to harvest and serve in three months’ time.