Trellised Cantaloupe, anyone?

jayreynolds(zone 6/7)October 30, 2004

I've decided to go into trellised cucumbers in an effort to squeeze down on these space-hog crops, and to escape belly-rots on the cantaloupe. As I've begun my planning, I am considering how, and if, cantaloupes could be grown on a trellis as well. My market demands a fairly large eastern style muskmelon(Athena/Hale's type), up to 5 lbs, and I would be using 6"x6" steel concrete reinforcing mesh 5 ft high, with t-posts.

Most receommendations for doing this cater towards backyard gardens, and say to use old pantyhose, mesh onion bags, etc, and hang the melons before they get too big.

Nobody in my family wears hose, and I don't know enough women to come up with 100 pairs of old hose, even if they were willing to give me their old panties- know what I mean?

So I've been looking around for where the packers get those mesh bags, and I'm not big enough to buy 500 or 1000 bags, and meet the wholesaler's minimums. The closest I've come is a nylon hairnet sold for the restaurant trade(~$.10-.20ea), which may possibly be strong enough(currently waiting for a sample).

Anyone out there growing small melons this way?

Anybody else have any ideas, or a source for those mesh onion bags?

BTW, my plan includes an early planting of snow peas on the trellis, removing 1/3 of the peas each 2 weeks for cukes/melons, and following the cukes with a late crop of pole beans.

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Here's a source for those mesh bags. Fifty pound mesh onion bags are about 95 cents each. They also have 50 pound sweetcorn/cabbage bags that are about 75 cents each. The corn bags are 23 X 38. It doesn't give a size for the onion bags. Quantity minimum is one, and price break at 100 pieces.

The place is: E and R Seed, 1356 E 200 S, Monroe IN. 46772. They don't have a phone or web info, so you'll have to write. They are very reasonably priced, and their seed and supply catalogs (3), are very complete. I'd recommend them for small gardeners as well as large farmers.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2004 at 10:55PM
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adrianag(AL z7)

I grew European cukes, charentais melons and oriental beans in a pvc tunnel covered in 2" x 4" wire mesh. I really liked the system because unlike a vertical trellis, the fruit hangs down into the tunnel for easy harvesting.

Changes I would make:
1. Use heavier duty pvc, schedule 40 or galvanized pipe arches in your case because of the large fruits.
2. Use 6 x 6 mesh, or possibly just paallel wires to prevent fruit from getting "trapped" on the outside of the tunnel.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2004 at 1:39PM
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jayreynolds(zone 6/7)

so, how big do your charentais melons get, most I see get about three lbs?

Do you have a problem with the weight dropping them off prematurely, or being damaged if they do??

Perhaps I could go to a smaller variety, the trend here is for smaller quantities since many of my customers are retirees, and often need smaller quantities. I HAVE gone exclusively to smaller icebox watermelons.

The price I'm looking for in bags really needs to be 25 cents or less, because I can't guarantee these bags lasting more than one season.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2004 at 8:39AM
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jayreynolds(zone 6/7)

OK, I've found some reasonable bags that might be interesting to any selling produce. $.09 each, sold in 50 unit boxes, if the order is less than $100.00, a $10.00 charge is added, this makes them a little more.

However, I also found some adequate nylon netting
@ $25.00/72"x150' bolt.
I figure it can be cut into 450 pieces 1'x2', and used to form a 'hammock' shape by tying each long end to the 6"x6" trellis wiring. Given that they wil be exposed to the elements for 2 months or so, I might hope to get 2 or more seasons out of them. The price works out to $.05 each.

Adriana, I'd still like to hear more about your charentais melons, from what I've read, they are very sweet, perishable, and tricky to detect ripeness, they don't 'slip' from the vine, and are smaller than some cantaloupe.

What sort of production do you get/vine?
What variety(ies) have you found best?
What price do you get?
how do customer's accept them?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2004 at 8:19AM
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adrianag(AL z7)

My Charenteis never got bigger than about 4-5" in diameter, nowhere near 3#. I only grew a few plants as trials and was not overly impressed. I think they're over-rated...they weren't THAT sweet - the way to find out if they're ripe is by a slight change in color and the perfume they emit when they are ripe, you can smell it 3-4' away.

I've never sold them commercially so I can't help with price, but I would probalby try to charge $3 apiece.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2004 at 1:27PM
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Yes cantaloupe will grow up a fence. I planted the Ambrosia Muskmelon type and they did very well. They would not drop off till they were ripe and only had one bust out of about 30. I had some get almost 5 lbs. I just laced the vines in the fence as they grew. I will be planting them this way from now on.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2004 at 9:36AM
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pickahotpeppa(z5 IL)

Jay, We have grown cucumbers, canteloupe, and watermelons on trellises for the last 5 years. We grow pickling cucumbers, they perform better on the trellis than on the ground IMHO. Get more than we can use every year, they get large too and are quite prolific. Sometimes they grow thru the fence and make entertaining shapes. They definitely don't need netting. The canteloupe did splendidly the first year. We had the same experience as Hagen. We grew a 12 foot row with trellising 4 feet high and yielded about 20 or so decent sized melons, some quite large. Not sure of the variety. But since then, the vine collapses before the fruit can size up, same with the watermelons. Makes me sick every year. I can't wait to make some of that canteloupe sorbet from a fresh melon. I've been told we are having a problem with some sort of pest that feeds off the sap in the vines causing the collapse. I think we will need to resort to some sort of "unorganic" rescue powder. Blah. Good luck with your trellising. We won't grow these space hogs on the ground ever again. Congrats on the excellent netting resource and thanks for the ideas. Happy holidays.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2004 at 8:08PM
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I've grown many vines on trellises--in my experience, the stem almost always gets thick enough to support the melon without any added help. Some of the larger gourds have needed help, mainly to stop their weight from ripping the vines off the trellis (I once used large cup bras from a thrift store for some of them--got a lot of comments).

If you still want cheap supports, go to any store that sells fabric and look at their clearance items (Walmarts often have $1/yard fabric). Often there are cheap knit fabrics available that can be cut up and used (and reused) as slings. Can be quite colorful too! Just be sure to wash the fabrics first to get rid of any chemicals used to "stiffen" them.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2005 at 3:11AM
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