The Q&A Archives: Cantaloupes

Question: Have tried for several years to grow small cantaloupes and melons -- both from seed in the garden and by starting indoors. No luck. They just never seem to prosper -- plenty of blossoms, a few fruit that don't ripen. I have had no problem with cukes, zucchini, or squash. Can you suggest one to try. I am considering 'Honey Girl Hybrid' or 'Sweet n Early'. We have full sun and good soil. Any ideas of what to plant and what I am doing wrong? Should I start indoors or directly in the garden?

I have become obsessed with this -- especially since we have successfully grow everything else we want including peas, beans, squash, tomatoes, and peppers.<br>Thank you, your help and suggestions are appreciated.<br>

Answer: It is hard to grow melons in the north. Barbara Damrosch, gardening author and host of "Gardening Naturally", a northern grower herself, states that northern melon growers have achieved an almost heroic status in her eyes. You can improve your chances of success by growing a short season variety such as 'Sweet Bush' or 'Sweet n Early'. 'Sweet Thing' canary melon or 'Honey Girl Hybrid' charentais melon are also options. Starting indoors would certainly give you a jump start on the season. Here are some other culture tips to keep in mind. Melons demand a site that gets full sun to be really successful. Increasing soil warmth with black plastic mulch will also help to encourage growth, and will help keep down competition from weeds. Melons like a rich soil; you may want to till in some compost before you plant. (You may want to check your soil pH to see if it is too low or too high.) Plan to side dress the plants with a balanced liquid fertilizer once they have begun to set fruits -- and remember melons need a good, consistent supply of water once they have begun fruiting. Though unlikely due to your success with other fruiting plants, poor pollination could be limiting the number of melons you are getting. You could try hand-pollinating just to give you another leg up. Simply use a small paintbrush to gently transfer pollen from male to female flowers. Believe me, I understand obsessions, I have a spot in my yard where nothing will grow. Do I admit defeat? Never! I just ordered 5 shrubs to try there this spring! Good Luck.

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