What’s that? Growing cantaloupe vertically? I get it. Vertical gardening is a super way to get more out of your space, and it’s a fantastic idea for fruits and vegetables like peas or beans. Cantaloupe, though? Seems like they would be too big and heavy to grow vertically. Spoiler alert: Growing cantaloupe vertically is very much doable.
It’s true. A cantaloupe can get pretty heavy, so there’s a little more to it than just setting up your trellis and moving on. But you don’t have to miss out on growing this sweet treat just because you don’t have acres of pastoral land.
Growing cantaloupe in any garden – even a container garden
First let’s talk about growing cantaloupe. They do take a little work, and you’ll need to be sure you have plenty of pollinators in your garden to carry pollen between the male and female flowers. They can also be susceptible to pests and disease. So why wouldn’t you just buy them at the store?
Like tomatoes, there’s just no competition between a store-bought cantaloupe and one you grow in your garden. It’s not even close. Heirloom varieties like the “Hearts of Gold,” or a hybrid like the small “Sugar Cube,” are as sweet and juicy as could be. And incidentally, the “Sugar Cube” is fairly disease resistant.
As for growing cantaloupe, they need plenty of warmth and sunshine, and they’re slow-growing, so unless you live in a southern climate, you’ll need to start the seeds indoors about four to six weeks before your last spring frost. Once your soil hits 60 degrees or above, you can move your plants outdoors. Pick a sunny spot and space your plants about 12 inches apart. What else?
- Make sure you have healthy, well-draining soil.
- Cantaloupes need plenty of water, but too much and their sugars won’t develop. It’s best to water them deeply, but infrequently.
- Water them less frequently as the fruit matures, cutting back as much as you can in the last week before they ripen.
- Keep the area free of weeds, as cantaloupe plants have shallow roots.
- Do NOT prune the leaves and shoots; these help sweeten the fruit.
- Do, however, limit the number of cantaloupe growing on any one vine. The more fruits there are, the more the sugars get spread out.
Growing cantaloupe plants on a trellis
Once you’ve got the how-to’s of growing cantaloupe, the vertical part is easy. The vines can grow several feet, and the fruits can be heavy, so be sure you use a sturdy, tall trellis. A fence can work well, as can an archway. As the vines grow, simply tie them loosely to your trellis. Once they’re trained, they should continue to grow around the supports without your intervention.
Since most melons typically grow on the ground, when the fruits start growing, they’ll need a little extra support in the form of hammocks. Old nylons or t-shirts work well for this, or you can buy specially designed hammocks to support the fruit.
When the rind turns tan or yellow, it’s harvest time. You may also notice a crack where the fruit and stem meet. The cantaloupe should detach easily from the vine. Then comes the part you’ve been waiting all summer for – cutting into and enjoying the sweet fruit of your labor.
What is your experience with growing fruits like cantaloupes in your garden? I’d love to read your stories in the comment section.