For seven years, I have had the most delicious cantaloupes in abundance at the end of every summer. It started this way: I was talking to a friend who has a small farm. “Care to see my melon patch?” l asked.
I saw a 50 by 50 plot planted in cantaloupes, many of them ready to harvest. He picked one out that had parted from its vine and handed it to me.
It was hefty and round, with a delicious smell. “Here, open it,” lie said, giving me his jackknife. I sliced out a wedge. The flesh was very thick, salmon pink, and oozing with juice. I took a bite, and it was beautiful.
“Where did you get the seed?” I asked him. I figured it was some strain that cost plenty.
“Last year, from a huckster. I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me the name of it, fur I don’t know that. All I can say about it is that it was so delicious I saved the seed.
This whole patch came from it. So next year, I’ll plant the seeds of the biggest, best-tasting cantaloupe I get. But remember that the taste of melons depends on using new soil.
You can’t use an old garden and gel taste. A newly plowed field is best.” He took a wedge from the melon he had given me, tasted it, and smiled. “That one is tops. Take it home, eat it and keep the seeds. Use them to start a patch next year.”
“I’ll give it a try,” I said. That cantaloupe would cost 55 cents in any store; My friend had so many that he and his big family could not possibly eat them all.
Everything About Cantaloupe Culture
So, the following year, I started with the seeds of that melon. After my 7 years of experimentation, I’ll tell you what I know about cantaloupe culture.
You have to have new soil for taste. Therefore, your patch must be the new ground, not planted in the garden for generations and sandy soil.
The heavy, rich earth will not do. How can you tell the world? If it raises large beets, it will not raise cantaloupes.
If it grows lima beans, it will. You can feel the color of the soil, too. If it’s a light color, it’s probably sandy: if it’s dark, it’s heavy and rich.
Suppose your garden patch is old and raises wonderful beets. You’re not licked. I solved that one this way: Dig holes about a foot, a half deep, and a foot across.
Make the holes 3’ feet apart in rows (io, to a field used for hay, load up your wheelbarrow, and fill the gaps with that soil. It’s a little work, but it pays if you like delicious cantaloupe.
The Needed Ingredients
What ingredients are needed, like fertilizers, etc.? I use six:
- Wood ashes
- Cow manure
- Commercial fertilizer
This is how I use them: Before I put in the new soil,
I pack in a shovelful of cow manure, a handful of lime, a quarter shovelful of wood ashes, the same of commercial fertilizer, and maybe a shovelful of humus from my compost heap.
Well-decayed leaves may be used. I mix it all thoroughly, so I put in the new soil, throwing in a few handfuls of sand.
Put in about 10 seeds. When they’ve sprouted into plants, pull out the weaker ones to leave three or four in each hill (or, the way I do it, each hole). Plant the seeds about a ½” inch deep. Mound the soil if you like it that way.
I found that when the vines begin to make their shoots, they cover the ground, and weeding is out of the question, for the tendrils of the vines fasten themselves to the weeds, and when you pull the weeds, you also remove the melon plants. So weeds make it very hard to find ripe melons. I solved that this way:
I would say something other than that I liked using hay for mulch because rain rots by, and the decay spreads to the vines.
So I got roofing paper and spread it over the ground around each hole. In that way, the weeds do not have a chance, and you also keep needed moisture in the soil.
The few weeds that grow in the holes can be pulled out when they become tall. However, the damage is done, for no tendrils are close to the plant stalks.
Watch Out For Rabbits
They eat the end of the vines where the plant makes a little green ball which grows the fruit part of the plant. Unfortunately, they eat only that, and they can ruin your crop. So I use a chicken-wire fence.
You can tell a ripe cantaloupe because it parts from its stem or comes off readily when you touch the stem end. A few hours in the refrigerator make the cantaloupe a wonderful treat at any time of day or night.
Memorial Day is the right time here in southern Connecticut to plant the seeds. The crop comes early in September. From seed planting to gathering ripe melons, about ten days are needed.
Just a word of caution: When the plants first appear, dust with rotenone every few days, for the cucumber beetle attacks the plants the first few weeks.
It’s a good idea to put a marker in each hill or hole to tell where the roots are when you water the patch in a dry spell.
When you pull out the plants after harvest, note how deep the roots went and how far they extended around. That will determine the depth and width of the holes next year.
Each year the taste and the heft of the cantaloupes improve. That occurs if you use the seeds of the best melon each year.
We have a melon party each fall, inviting our best friends. Someone makes French vanilla ice cream in an old-fashioned hand freezer with cracked ice and rock salt.
Each guest gets u whole melon sliced in half, and a massive gob of ice cream heaped in the luscious excavations. In no store can you buy a taste like that.
44659 by Armand Sorento