Watering Cantaloupes

football45013June 27, 2012

I have recently planted some Hales best cantaloupe seeds. I have overcome the first obstacle, which is getting the seeds to sprout, lol. Anyways, I now have very young plants sticking out of the ground and I have a few questions as to how to best care for them and get them through to maturity. I have had a heck of a time getting vine type of plants to produce fruit to maturity. I've been trying watermelons, cantaloupes and pumpkins for like 5 years now, with no luck. So I can use all the help I can get! Anyways, how many times should I water these plants per day? Also, is there a certain time of the day that I should water? Finally, Kmart sells this 3 in 1 garden spray that has insecticide, fungicide and miticide all in one. I'm thinking about buying it, but if I do, should I go ahead and just spray the plants now with this stuff to prevent any diseases and bugs from infesting these plants in the first place? Or should I just hold off until I see the first signs of any type of disease or infestation? Any other tips for growing cantaloupes would be greatly appreciate also. Thanks!

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franktank232(z5 WI)

I rarely water my melons and they are on black plastic... They seem to be doing fine...maybe a couple times a week, if there is no rain? I have never sprayed my melons with any sort of chemical spray...just not needed..if you want, you can hand pick some of the striped/spotted cucumber beetles that seem to always show up..i like to squish the ones that are breeding :)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 12:40PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

If you are watering several times a day that is probably the reason for poor results to date. Plant them on black poly or weed barrier and you shouldn't need to water at all in Ohio. If black poly poke holes in the low spots so water can drain through.

I water about every 5-7 days but we are hot and usually dry. Also my soil is droughty. Check your plants during mid day. Don't water unless they are wilting. When you do water apply an inch or two.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Too late for black poly or weed barrier because I've already planted. But I'll definitely keep that in mind next year. I'm amazed that you guys go several days without watering, because if I go a day without watering, they start to wilt. It's crazy. For example, I watered mine last evening and then I go out around 1 p.m. today and they were already wilting. So, I watered them today. Of course, it's been in the mid-90's today and very dry here the least couple of weeks. I just can't imagine going days without watering. I definitely think they would die. I'm not doubting you guys, but in my area right now, I don't think I can go days without watering. I could just be a little paranoid though because I want to be successful with these so bad. Therefore, the first sign of stress I see, I start freaking out and immediately think I need to get them watered. But thanks for the advice guys.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 3:00PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Probably too late for a melon seedling to mature anyway. Even pumpkins, which would be your best bet in a northern zone, should have been started at least a month ago. Interesting, I didn't realize there was a zone 4 in Ohio. I'd probably try a different crop after trying for 5 years.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 4:11PM
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They may be wilting because they haven't developed deep enough roots because of too-frequent watering.

Spraying insectide on any cucurbit will kill bees, which you need to pollinate the blossoms. No bees, no fruit. The only thing I would spray preventatively would be a fungicide like daconil.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 4:59PM
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Yep. According to this map there is.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 5:27PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I don't know where that map came from but it's way off anything else I've seen.

Below is the one most will recognize. It shows Ohio 5b to 6b.


Here is a link that might be useful: New USDA zone map

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 7:30PM
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Cantaloupe and watermelon have a long growing season and they like the heat, so you need to make sure they are in the ground soon enough to have plenty of time for fruiting before it gets cold -- but you also can't plant them before it warms up in the spring. You might want to start the seeds indoors next year so they are mature once it warms up(or buy a mature plant and get it in the ground early). You should also buy shorter maturation plants, so they start fruiting faster.

We have a long season in our zone 8a, so that has never been an issue for me.

I grow mine in raised beds which can dry out pretty fast in our Texas heat, so I typically water from pop-up sprayers for about 15 minutes every other day. When it starts hitting 100 degrees every day, I'll sometimes water every day. I just keep an eye on the soil to make sure it is not drying out below a really thick layer of mulch that I have on the bed. Once the plant matures, the leaves also usually help shade the ground pretty effectively. If you start getting a lot of fruit, its been my experience that the plant needs a lot of moisture to grow those big juicy melons, so I always want to give mine sufficient moisture. I prefer Charentais.

If you are seeing wilting of the leaves during a hot day, that is a natural defense mechanism of the plant to conserve water. Then when it cools down at night and they get some moisture, they will plump back out. If they leaves aren't changing colors and plump back out in the evening or after you water, I wouldn't be that concerned.

I am 'almost' organic, and I discourage you from using a bunch of insecticide and fungicide on your plants since you are going to be eating that fruit. You're also going to kill all the ladybugs that are going to hold back the tide of aphids that love melon leaves.

Your biggest insect problems will probably be aphids (which the ladybugs should populate and eat if you don't use insecticide and otherwise aren't that harmful or devastating) and the greenish-yellow cucumber beetles that look like green ladybugs. The cucumber beetles munch on the leaves and spread a wilt virus. I have not found a way to kill those suckers, so I coexist with them. They seem to like my cucumbers more than my melon. Once the melon plant gets to a tipping point in the season, they usually produce enough new leaves to keep ahead of the cucumber beetle wilt. I also reseed over the early season as an additional precaution to help keep ahead of it, too (that may be more difficult with your shorter season).

Everything I have read says that a vegetable plant gets the most from watering in the early evening b/c it uses it more effectively to replenish in the night. The downside is that watering too late in the evening before the leaves dry off can raise your risk of fungal issues. I just water while there is enough evening light and heat to evaporate most of the spray on the leaves.

I would not overwater the plants -- overwatering is just as bad as letting the plant dry out. Try a deep watering as infrequently as possible. If you aren't getting rain, try every other day, if possible. Alternatively, try once a day in the early evening. If it rains, that usually tides the plant over for multiple days. Stick that finger in the soil and see what the moisture is a couple of inches below the soil level.

What other problems have you had in the past that caused the plant failure? Sometimes, you just have to plant in bulk and the law of averages ensures success.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dallas Fruit Grower

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 7:56PM
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Randy31513(Georgia 8b)

I just finished picking my Hales today. They are delicious. Ike for them to go completely tan with no green under tone.

It is late to plant but if you got good sun, they might make.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 2:18PM
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