Growing Cantaloupe, Honeydew
Muskmelon’s in Northeast Florida
( cucumus melo var cantalupensis: cucumis melo var reticulatus: cucumus melo var inodorus )
Classifications of Melons are often confused at market side tables, grocery stores, garden centers, seed magazines and in home gardens. What we, here in Northeast Florida, call a Cantaloupe is in fact not a cantaloupe at all but is a Muskmelon fruit selection (cucumis melo var reticulatus not cucumis melo var cantalupensis). Fortunately the growth requirements of these detectible delicacies are similar and can for our purposes be lumped together.
For the curious minds that may want to know here are a few basic , although minor differences between these melon groups.
Cucumus melo var cantalupensis ( Cantaloupe )
True Cantaloupe melons are mostly grown in Europe and are a small fruit with hard, roughened, scaly or warty skin. (never netted) First cultivated in Italy and are said to contain the some of the best tasting of all the melon selections available. When fully ripened on the vine Cantaloupe fruits do not separate from the stem and will need to be cut from the vine.
Cucumus melo var. reticulatus ( Muskmelon)
Muskmelon are characterized by their strong fragrance that can be smelled quite a distance away from ripened fruits! Many cultivars have a raised net like pattern on the skin of the fruits. Most often labeled as cantaloupe. When fully ripe, muskmelon will “slip” away from the stem when gently pulled. They partially separate from the vine when ripe and can be harvested without cutting.
Cucumis melo var. inodorus (Winter Melons)
The winter melon group is named for their storage capacity. Perhaps the most diverse melon grouping, winter melons consists of casaba melons, honeydew, crenshaw and canary melon types.
Casaba melons have a hard skin, that is rough and wrinkled with longitudinal ribbing and originated in or near Turkey.
Honeydew melons are usually smooth skinned with a nice pale green flesh and thick hard skins.
Crenshaw and Canary type melons are characterised by their hardened rind and long storage abilities.
Wanter melons ripen later than others, should be cut from the vine to avoid damage that will cause rot faster in storage and can be stored much longer than other melons.
Foliage of the Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon Plants for Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens:
Cantaloupe, honeydew, and muskmelon plants are large growing vining plants that take up alto of space in the garden. They are most often allowed to sprawl over the ground but can be trained up a trellis with care.
Planting Season for Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon Plants in Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida and the surrounding areas:
Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon Plants will need to be planted in the early spring during March and April. Consider adding some bee attracting flowering plants in or near your melon patch to ensure good pollination of your flowers for best fruit production.
Plant your S & J Nursery transplants into the garden in mounds with 2-5 plants each per mound spaced 5-10 ft apart. Or plant your Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon plants in rows with each S & J Nursery transplant placed 2ft apart and space the rows 5-7 ft away from each other, depending on the melon variety being grown.
Melons need plenty of room to grow so don’t skimp on spacing. Without adequate air circulation around melon foliage, in Norhteast Florida gardens mildew problems quickly develop with summer rains. Adequate space between plants in mounds or rows helps keep foliage healthy and growing!
Sun Exposure for growing Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon Plants in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens:
Plant your cantaloupe, honeydew and muskmelon plants in a full sun or half day sun location for the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area vegetable garden.
Soil Preferences for Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon Plants in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida area Gardens:
Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon Plants should be planted into soils amended with good quality compost. In addition to adding much needed nutrients to the soil, compost acts as a sponge and will help maintain soil moisture levels for hard clay and sandy soils alike.
Care of Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon Plants in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Watering Your Melon Plants:
Newly planted melon transplants will require watering daily for the first few days to a week after being planted from seed or transplanted from an S & J Nursery container.
Melons need supplemental irrigation several times per week when local rainfall levels are low. Expect to need to add 2 inches of water per week to your melon gardens.
Mulching your Melon Plants:
Melon plants will benefit greatly from mulched or covered areas. Weeds tend to become problematic for gardeners due to the vast amount of space the watermelon plant will cover when large. Use a ground cover cloth with holes cut out for planting areas or mulch area generously with pine straw after planting.
Fertilizing Your Melon Plants:
Melons are fast growers and should be fertilized every 10 days with a slow release fertilizer or 6-6-6. For organic gardening use Milorganite or try fertilizing with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed (kelp) at one ounce each per gallon of water. Apply semi weekly as a foliar spray.
If your vegetable plants look like they could use a boost, give them a good watering with homemade compost tea as soon as the top few inches of soil around your plant is dry to the touch!
Harvesting Your Cantaloupe, Honeydew and Muskmelon Plants in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Perhaps the trickiest portion of growing melons is learning when to harvest the fruits. Mark your calendar for harvest dates and check melons daily for these clues…
– check the fruits on the stem end for fragrance, when ripe you can actually smell them!
– check for slipping on muskmelon varieties where the fruit starts to pull away and separate from the vine!