How to best grow Charentais melons?

Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)March 29, 2005

I am growing Charentais for the first time this year. I decided to grow them on a trellis since they are small and don't slip when ripe. Now what I am trying to figure out is what the best soil condition is, so I can amend the soil in the mounds. A French friend tells me that the very best Charentais in France are grown in very chalky soil that also has a bit of hummus in it. Perhaps a mix of sand and compost would achieve something similar? Or maybe there is something in the chalk itself that affects the flavor. Maybe I should just buy a bag of chalk.

I am trying two different strains, the Baker Creek version and the "Charmel" version sold by Renee's seeds.


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bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)

I have grown Charentais for years, both on a trellis and on the ground, with much success. I realize my growing conditions are quite different from yours.

Chalk, as in Calcium carbonate, would change your soil pH. Since you are in Maryland, you probably have acidic soil, so maybe a little would help. But I would always go with what soil you have and amend it with lots of compost and other organic matter first, and after a soil test, decide if chalk/lime is needed. Whatever you've done in the past with regular muskmelons will be fine with Charentais. If the soil is nearly neutral in pH (6.5-7.5), allows for good root penetration, is well aerated, and has lots of organic matter, is kept weed free, and you have full sun with average temps of 80 or more, it will love it. Of course, you have to deal with pests and fungus, etc. And please eliminate overhead watering if you can.

I have been in College Park, MD and I thought they had an agricultural extension service there. If so, they might give you some added local info on melon culture in your state. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 7:09AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Thanks Bill. From what my friend says and what I have heard elsewhere, the melons grown in this particular region of France (Charentes) are the best tasting, and they ascribe it to the soil. Of course it could be something else that makes them taste the best, e.g. the farmers are more skilled or whatever, but it makes me wonder about whether lime plays a role. I will probably amend with as much lime as I can while still keeping the pH from getting too high.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 8:37AM
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david52 Zone 6

I have very good luck with them, but my soils are naturally alkaline. I try to mix in a good 6" of horse manure, I grow them on cattle panals. I don't know just how much the pH of the soil is going to change the flavor. If the taste is not what you are after, you could try adding some lime or something to bump the pH up later. I would wait for your first harvest before doing it, though.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 4:28PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

David, since I have never eaten one I don't know what to look for. Another thing that makes me wonder if they are not sensitive to the growing conditions is because I read they give inconsistent results. I am going to add lime and peat which will to some degree cancel each other out, and will try to get the pH to around 7.0.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2005 at 4:43PM
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douglas14(z3/4 MN)

Good luck on your Charentais. You're in for a treat, IMO.
I found the taste to be a rich, sweet, brandy-like flavor.
I'll likely grow Cantalun(a Charentais-type) this year.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2005 at 8:03AM
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sunsi(z5 NY)

I agree with're in for a real treat. When I grew mine (and I will again as soon as I get my regular garden going) I didn't amend with anything special but compost and before panting I threw a little bone meal around and dug it in. If using these other amendments makes these melons taste even better than what I had then it's worth a try:)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2005 at 5:53AM
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Violet_Skies_(5b S.Central WI)

I grew them for the first time last year too, and there is no comparison with the other melons I have grown. I will never go back! I think as long as they have enough room for a good root system, enough water, and a balanced soil you will be very pleased.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 2:42PM
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dethride(7a / 6b GA)

Yummy. I grew nine plants last year. My first melons. Started them 3 weeks before setting out 2 weeks after my May 10 frost date. Grew most up a 4 foot high 12 foot hog fence section. Amended the soil with sand, gobs of compost and warmed the soil with black plastic which I left down.They soon grew up it and everywhere else for about 15 feet in all directions. It was a problem to navigate thru them looking for melons to check their growth. I couldn't help myself and it's how I learn. But it spread wilt where I tread. Still, I got about 45 1-2 lb. melons before they got ragged. Look for the nearest leaf to the melon and when it shrivels up, squeeze (they will start to give a bit), and smell (good god!), and look for a softening of the gray/green color into a more creamy/ geen color. Pick, eat, and die happy. I learned to let them ripen to the point where the membrane that attaches seeds to the flesh turns to mush. Now that's ripe. I'm growing Ambrosia this year, I couldn't find Charentais where I ordered my seeds from and didn't want to pay for shipping one pack of seeds. They were a huge hit with my wife's family, as where my Brandywine toms.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2005 at 10:13PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I just set out my Charentais and other melons a few days ago, so we'll see how they do. I ended up with more plants living than I expected so I am also going to grow some on the ground and maybe also on some makeshift bamboo tepee kinds of things (I ran out of poles and wire to make another real trellis). Also I am trying different soil conditions, I added lime to one, sand to one, and compost/peat to all the holes.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2005 at 11:21PM
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icaru(10b Turkey)

2 years ago I saved seeds from a Charentais (Cavaillon) melon that I ate in southern France. Took the seeds to Turkey, planted them in 2004, none grew. This year I saw the remaining seeds in a plastic bag, carelessly threw them on the ground in a VERY small space (5' x 5') never expecting for a minute that they would grow.

They did and the vines covered every other plant in that tiny plot. Watered the area 2x / day but some slugs did damage to many but not all leaves. Anyway, I got a big, heavy melon which I had to pick yesterday.

Here's the problem: a week ago I was told to get the nearly ripe melon off the ground so I propped it up on 3 smooth flat stones so it would not sit in water when we watered the area. Yesterday I found that the melon had split open on one side, and the color had changed from light green to a slightly more yellowish light green. The melon separated from the vine with no resistance so clearly I had to pick it.

When I opened it, the color was right and it was ripe but not totally, therefore not as sweet as most melons of this variety.

Question 1: what would have caused it to split open? Too much water? Maybe the stones under it got too hot? I have another one sitting on these stones, it is far from grown yet, maybe I should find something else to set it on?

Question 2: I see that some people grow these melons on trellises. But the melon is so heavy (2 pounds at least) that it would have pulled the whole vine down, or broken off. So how would I keep it hanging on a trellis if I decide to try that next time?

Question 3: I threw those seeds on the ground sometime near the end of April, early May. I had to pick this melon on July 26, therefore, more or less 80-90 days later. When is the best time of year to plant these melons outside (no frost here but violent rainstorms until end of April - I don't have a greenhouse). By end of June, temps reach 35-40 degrees C.

Our soil is poor and is heavy clay. We did spread fresh goat manure around this year to try to improve the soil (only goat & chicken manure is available here, this is a small rural area).

How can I a) improve the sweetness of the melons next year, b) get more melons (already have a much bigger, flat ground area available for next year's 2nd attempt).

Many thanks!

Here is a link that might be useful: Where we are

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 4:33PM
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I am new to growing melons, but have been asking around about how to best grow it on a trellis since my garden space is quite limited. I've been told from several senior gardeners to cradle each melon with some kind of mesh and tie the mesh to the trellis. This is probably a time consuming venture if you have lots of plants. But if you are like me who only grows 3 plants at the most, I think it would be well worth the effort.

You are definitely in for a treat when your melons ripen. I tasted these beauties on my first trip to France and have been in love with their sweetness and succulence. For me no other melon compares to their taste. Since I finally have a yard, I can grow them and not wait to go to France or some other country in Europe to eat one.
And as for the soil test that you are doing, please keep me posted as I am interested in seeing if different conditions will dramatically affect the taste.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 5:42PM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)


I think that over-watering is the most common cause for melons splitting. I had some split this year, too. Try not to water too much when the melons are getting close to ripe.

I have the melons which are trellised on a fence bundled in squares of white cloth and fastened to the fence with a safety pin. I use smaller squares of cloth or rags to protect melons from sunscald.

I would start planting seeds in spring as soon as the ground is not too wet. If you have heavy clay, you can raise your planting area up a little above ground level to improve drainage. Also keep your melons off damp ground.

Melons like hot weather, but Charentais also has a reputation for ripening well in cooler temperatures, so you could try planting a few seeds each month in the summer to see how late in the year you can get melons to ripen.

We have goat manure in our clay soil here, too. It is dug in about a foot deep. This really helps. You can also use chicken manure, but not as much, as it can burn plants if too concentrated. Our plants are a little above ground level.The water goes in a shallow trench below the plant level. The plants are trained away from the area where they are watered. Even so, I have the melons (not on a trellis) on pieces of wood and such to keep them off the ground.

Good luck with your melons.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 6:37PM
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bill_southerncal(10 So.Cal)


Besides what others have posted, I would suggest you add some orangic matter into the soil, like leaves, leftover vegetables, grass, and even wood dust, etc. into your clay soil. Try to avoid diseased or chemically treated material, such as particle board which may contain formaldehye, a carcinogen. If the soil is pH-neutral and rich with nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, it will help with a better plant and sweeter fruit. BTW, decomposition of wood dust removes nitrogen from your soil, but if you're using manure of some kind, it should not be a concern.

Regarding watering, I water once a week deeply; and I try to soak the ground and not the leaves. As the melons ripen, I stop most of the watering; but just enough to keep the plants alive. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 6:45AM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)


Bill's advice for improving the soil is good. If you are adding leaves, wood dust, etc., it is easier to add chicken manure without burning the plants. Give it time to age before using, too. You should concentrate on improving the area where the roots will grow. No need to worry too much about the entire area covered with vines. The same applies for watering - you don't need to water where roots do not extend.

Watering deeply and less frequently will probably cut down on your slug problem, too. But as Bill says, don't try to water too deeply when melons are nearly ripe.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 8:22AM
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icaru(10b Turkey)

Thanks for all the suggestions! I do have some year-old chicken manure still sitting in a sack as I bought it. But as for leaves, grass and wood dust, none of that around here! Our trees are pines plus 3 very thirsty willows; grass is dichondra that doesn't get cut except by cutworms, and no wood in this area where all construction is cement. Just to find a piece of wood anywhere around the house or garden to raise the melon off the ground was impossible. I used an old shoe and 3 flat shoes instead. But next year I'll try the hanging-from-the-trellis idea.

Yes, I think I overdid the water, especially seeing that the melon was exceptionally heavy. But with temps over 100 degrees, and most plants drying up, I exaggerated on the other side. Now I have another one growing, have raised it off the ground, will try to water it less. Live and learn! (-:

    Bookmark   July 30, 2005 at 2:05PM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

Living in Zone 10, you might also consider trying three or four seeds now, depending on when your next rainy season is expected to start.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 12:01AM
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jcordette(z7 GA)

I think I am overwatering. My largest Charentais melon (Summer Dream variety) is alsolutely enormous,and the skin has cracks all over it. The cracks don't appear to go down to the flesh. The rind is pale green still and I really doubt that its ripe, given that the stem is still fully alive, the fruit is hard as a rock and no sweet smell at the blossom end. What should I do? Do you think if I cut way back on the watering it will still taste alright? Has anyone grown summer dream variety before?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 3:07PM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

Most melons taste best if you stop watering completely when they get big enough to start ripening. You may need to give a smidge of water later if the leaves start to wilt, but it's best if you don't have to.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 7:44PM
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I am also growing for the first time Charentais melons plus several others. I am in north central Iowa and ground is black dirt. I was thinking of 5 gallon buckets filled with 1/3 dirt, 1/3 sand, 1/3 horse manure. Vines would be trained to trellis on cattle panel. Does this mix and container size sound right for 2 or 3 plants per container.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 1:48PM
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Bumping this topic. I've been growing "Savor" Charentais for a few years, and the taste is fantastic. But I wonder if another variety might be less prone to cracking. After a record wet summer, we've had a perfect August for ripening melons - hot and dry. But the Savor melons are splitting open all over the place, even though they aren't ripe yet.

None of the other melons are cracking at all, so I wonder if this is all Charentais or whether Savor is particularly crack-prone. Does any know another variety less given to cracking?

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 1:29PM
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Tieing a mesh sleeve around a melon (on a trellis) is only for melons that "slip" off of the vine when ripe- ie Muskmelons. Charentais do not slip off the vine.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 1:32PM
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I just planted Charentais melons (type not specified on seed pack): one on trellis and one on the ground. Both are in raised beds in full sun. I'm anxious to see if either method produces better or more melons. I will reduce water when melons are beginning to ripen. Anyone with experience in zone 10 (or Los Angeles, California area)?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 8:48PM
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I'm growing them for my 1st time too, but I can tell you what my LA experience with other melons has been 100% in the past -- powdery mildew appears, sweeps through every melon & cuke & squash leaf in the yard, then I race this terminator fungi to reach full vine fruition with hose washings, milk spray, hand-picking the worst leaves and trying to anticipate each plants' needs, so growth never stalls.

This gets me great squash, good cukes and the melons are a total crapshoot, but are often crispy critters when the melons are still unripe and unsweet. Every year I vow it will be different. In 2009 I had 60 really nice, tasteless honedew. 2010 I didn't bother, as Spring was so cool. It's probably a fogbelt issue, but I see PM in every yard in the neighborhood on various plants, so it's not going away no matter what I do. If you're in Burbank or Pasadena, you might never notice. If you're in Venice or Palos Verdes, you might be in for a fight.

Reposted from the Produce Hunter, because it makes me want to even bother to wage 2 months of battle with asexual spore dispersal:
Melon mavens assert that tourists in France have been known to pull to the side of the road, drawn to a halt by the incredible scent of a CHARENTAIS MELON field. We have not witnessed this phenomenon first hand, but can believe it to be true. Charentais melons (also known as Cavaillon melons) are a true cantaloupe, globe shaped, around 3 1/2" in diameter and weighing 2 pounds each. Creamy green to golden beige in color with darker longitudinal ribbings, they have flesh the color of the traditional canteloupe. What makes the Charentais melons so special are their superior eating quality and heady, perfumey aroma. Their flesh is softer than that of a cantaloupe, and their flavor is deeper and sweeter. The French traditionally serve Charentais with prosciutto, but also feature them as an hors d'oeuvre by cutting them in half, scooping out the seeds and filling them with a sweet wine such as Barsac, Marsala, Port or Madiera.

I will have Charentais sangria, dagnabit!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 8:22PM
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Relatively short season up this way, I decided to try the Charentais anyhow, just to find out if it's possible up here. I decided to try something different because of several spots that indicated the melons don't want to be on the ground, I used 4 old iron barrel stave holders, filled it with about 2/3 native very good soil, 1/3 horesmanure, so it's about 10 inches above grade, covered it with black garden cloth for heat retention and weed prevention, cut small openings and planted 4 plants started indoors in peat pots. I am using a large tomato cage as a trellis. I placed some waterpipe insulation on the cage crosspieces in order that the weight doesn't break the vines. Have absolutely no idea whether or not this will work, but so far, so good. I put them out the middle of May, they began flowering this week. (4th of July)fwiw, I'm growing (in a raised bed) Caspian Pink tomatoes which I found to be the best I have ever eaten. I found that the steel mesh used in concrete work, 5 ft. high with 6" openings allows the plants to be "espaliered" and allows for one to reach through and pick a fruit.... if I ever get a fruit.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 7:55PM
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Thanks for all the good info.. I have my first 3 Charentais planted this year and they are flowering but I'm worried the cuke beetle blight will get them if I don't row cover... anyone have any feedback on this? Last year my sugar bush baby watermelons grew to full size and then rotted on the vine from it and it was heartbreaking.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 9:47AM
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How long does it take from planting seeds to harvesting the Charentais and are there different kinds ?

I have been trying to find seeds of the Charentais (Cavaillon) melon.
Where would I go to order seeds ?

My postal address is:
Laura-Lynn McPherson
59 Pallister Private
Nepean Ontario Canada
K2G 0B5

Kind Regards
Laura-Lynn McPherson

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 10:09AM
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It was very informative to see all the information that is on this thread. My boss is looking to start a medium sized farm in the Hamptons (NY) and loves the Charentais (Cavaillon) melon. We are interested:

Has anybody grown any other small melons that are comparable?

Has anyone actually eaten them melon while in France? How would you compare USA grown Charentais melons to those actually grown in Cavaillon, France?

Do you have any preferences on where to purchase seed?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 2:11PM
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newyorkrita(z6b/7a LI NY)

Bumping up for content.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 10:03PM
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