Cantaloupe is a delicious and nutritious gardening crop. There are so many variations that sometimes it is difficult to choose which to grow. The the flesh of the cantaloupe fruit can have an orange or deep yellow color. The juicy, delicious flavor of this summer crop makes it a favorite of many gardeners. As a breakfast food, dessert or as a part of a salad, Cantaloupe have found a place in many gardens and on the tables of many kitchens.
Cantaloupe is available in many varieties. If you want to start harvesting in as little as 65 days, plant the Alaska Hybrid. Another fine choice is the Honey Rock which, as its name implies, has a sweet delicious flavor that will remind you of honey. For large fruit, grow the Athena Hybrid. There are also dwarf varieties you can plant if you do not have lots of room for cantaloupe that can have vines that grow up to 25 feet long.
Cantaloupe is a warm weather crop. Seeds can be started indoors in pots in early spring or planted directly into the ground when the the danger of frost has passed and the outside temperature reaches about sixty degrees Fahrenheit.
Add three inches of compost or eco-friendly fertilizer like dried manure to the soil and till to a depth of twelve inches. The cantaloupe is a heavy feeder.The compost or manure will provide a continuous supply of nutrients to the plants during the summer growing season.
Plant seeds one inch deep in rows and build up the soil to make hills. Place four or five seeds in each hill. When planting in rows, make rows 24″ wide and five feet apart. Plant seeds two inches apart. Thin plants when they are three inches tall to allow one foot of space between plants. Mulch after thinning by adding a one inch cover of straw around the plants. The mulch will help preserve moisture and prevent weed growth. Water the plants regularly. Reduce watering during last few days of ripening to produce sweeter, more delicious fruit.
Cantaloupe are ready to harvest in 80-95 days from planting. The cantaloupe fruit is ready to harvest when the the stem on the cantaloupe starts to dry out. At that time, the fruit will easily disconnect from the stem. You can pick the cantaloupe before the stem dries completely and ripen indoors in a cool, dry place. The fruit can be safely stored in the refrigerator for about a week.
Cantaloupe is not only, delicious, but they are also filled with nutrients. Cantaloupe is a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6. Potassium, phosphorus and iron are also present. The cantaloupe is low in calories and high in dietary fiber.
The cantaloupe is a great gardening choice because it tastes delicious and is easy to grow. A slice of lightly chilled cantaloupe makes a great summer snack. The beautiful orange pulp can brighten any mixed fruit salad. The cantaloupe is an uncomplicated, fun food to grow. With a little care, you should have a abounding harvest.
Robert Gregory Donaldson is a writer and gardener living in Reno, Nevada where he grows a variety of food crops.