Last Updated on June 12, 2023 by Real Men Sow
Rockmelon, or Cantaloupe in the Northern hemisphere, is a sweet melon with high water content. You can enjoy a cool, guilt-free snack on hot summer days by growing them yourself. Rockmelon is a member of the Cucurbitaceae Family which includes 965 species, including Zucchini and Watermelon.
How to Plant Rockmelon
Each rockmelon vine needs to be able to cover an area of approximately 100 cm x 100 cm. If there is enough sunlight, you can place them in the back corner. Construct a trellis/frame to allow the vine to climb if there is a limit in space.
Dig lots of compost into the soil before planting. Pile it up in mounds about 100cm by 20cm in height. After watering the mounds, place one seedling in each of them and water again. These mounds ensure that the roots of the plant are well-drained soil. As the plants grow, the vines will trail down each one.
You can grow rockmelons in large containers, such as an old bathtub. However, the vines will still spread onto the ground and over the sides of the container. Place the premium potting mix in the container and ensure that it gets at least six hours of sunlight each day. You can plant one to two seedlings depending on the size of your container. A large bath might have two. After planting the seedlings, water the soil lightly.
Seedling Care for Rockmelon
The germination period is 7-10 days. Keep the seedbed moist. Apply feed 2 weeks after germination to ensure healthier plants and maximum yield. Also, add something that will protect your vegetable garden from pests like snails and slugs.
Hints & Tips
Warm growing conditions are essential for melons. You can keep your plants irrigated with soak hoses and similar devices throughout the summer. You should not water the leaves. The melons need a long growing season. You can plant them undercover or in a greenhouse a few weeks before they mature.
General Care for Rockmelon
If there hasn’t been much rain, water the plants daily. When they begin to flower, apply granular fertiliser all around the vines. This will encourage melons to grow.
Rockmelon flowers, like pumpkins, are fertilised by bees that fly from one flower to the next. If you don’t have many bees around, it might be worth getting a paintbrush to collect pollen from male flowers. Then brush it onto the blossoms of the female flowers. The tiny melon-shaped female flowers are those with the base. After this, you will see little melons emerging from the vine.
Mulch plants once the soil has warmed up to maintain constant moisture and reduce weeds. Place melons in pots or on pieces of wood to prevent insects from damaging the fruits. To protect your plants from wind damage, you can leave a strip or rye cover crop in large plants.
Avoid planting cucumber family crops (melons squash, pumpkins, etc.) in the same place for more than two years to reduce disease and insect problems.
Don’t allow your melon plants to dry out in the middle of their growing season. They do not tolerate drought. Also, don’t overwater them as it can cause damage to the flavour and taste. Soil should be kept moist, but not soggy.
To transplant, sow seeds indoors at 1/4 inch depth in 2×2-inch square peat pots. Wait two to four weeks before you set out. When you are transplanting them, plants should have at least one true leaf.
You can transplant at the same spacings that direct-seeded crops: 2 to 3 plants per hill, spaced 4 to 6ft apart, or 1 – 2 feet apart in rows 5ft apart. Transplants can be fragile and root systems are sensitive to disturbance. Use scissors to thin the plant. When transplanting, keep the soil around the plant intact.
To allow bees to pollinate fabric row covers, take them off at flowering. The fruit set is dependent on good pollination. To pollinate plants, they need constant moisture. When fruits reach the size of tennis balls, water only if the soil is dry or leaves are showing signs of wilting.
Support melons when growing them on a trellis with slings made of fabric, netting or pantyhose. Trellising can improve air circulation and reduce the risk of foliar diseases. Reduce plant spacing by choosing small-fruited varieties.
Most fruits on a single plant will ripen in a relatively short time. The first melon will be ready for harvest when the rest of the plants follow. The rind changing from green to yellow is a sign that most melon varieties are mature. Once ripe, the stem can be easily removed from the vine by hand. Different melon varieties may have slightly different cues when they are ready to be harvested.
When the stem is pulled cleanly and easily from the fruit, harvest muskmelon. It is not fully mature if the stem must be pulled out of the melon. Also, mature muskmelons will have a distinctive, musky smell. The end opposite the stem should also be slightly soft. When honeydew is ripe, it will not slide off the stem. Harvest honeydew melons only when the stem’s end is softened and the skin turns a creamy yellow colour.
Saving the Seeds for the Next Season
The fruit should be picked at peak ripeness. You can harvest the seeds from the melon as soon as the outer fruit is ripe. Use a sharp knife to cut the melon and scoop out the inner seeds. These can be saved for seed processing. The pulp should be placed in a bowl. Add warm water to the bowl and discard the pulp. Then, you can skim the surface of the water to get rid of seeds that won’t produce plants.
To remove any sugar or pulp, rinse the remaining seeds and dry them on a screen. These seeds should dry for 3 days. Place the seeds in a bag. Mark the type of seeds and harvest date. The bag should be kept in the freezer until the next season.