Grow cantaloupe in a raised bed with an area of at least 24 square feet (2.2 sq m). The bed needs to receive 6–8 hours of full sunlight and should contain soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Sow cantaloupe seeds in the spring once the soil temperature is 70℉ (21℃). Then, use drip irrigation or a soaker hose to water the soil to a depth of 4 in (1.6 cm) 1–2 times per week. To reduce the risk of fungal and bacterial infection, train smaller cantaloupe varieties using heavy-duty trellises. Harvest cantaloupes when they have a split in their stems, smell sweetly musky, and have a golden hue.
6 Steps to Growing Cantaloupe in Raised Beds
Let cantaloupe cultivation be a mystery no more! In this article, we will provide crucial information for successfully growing cantaloupes in your raised garden bed. Starting with bed and soil requirements and following through to harvest, these 6 steps will guide you through the process of raising cantaloupes of your own.
Position Your Raised Bed for Success
Since cantaloupes are a warm-season crop, they need to be grown in an area where the temperature is consistently over 70℉ (21℃). If the temperature drops below 50℉ (10℃), even for short periods of time, cantaloupe growth will be severely stunted.
- Establish your raised bed in an area that gets 6–8 hours of full sun exposure daily.
- Cantaloupe grows best in warm climates above 70℉ (21℃).
- To have enough space for your melons, your raised bed should be no smaller than 4 feet by 6 feet (1.2 m by 1.8 m).
- A raised bed for growing cantaloupe needs to be 2 feet (60 cm) deep.
Cantaloupes require 6–8 hours of full sunlight daily, which is important to consider when deciding on raised bed placement. The minimum size for a raised bed where you intend to grow cantaloupe is 4 feet by 6 feet (1.2 m by 1.8 m). Cantaloupe roots require a raised bed 2 feet deep (60 cm).
Fill Your Raised Bed with Soil
The soil best suited to growing cantaloupes is sandy, loamy, and well-draining. Your soil should be as warm as possible for your plants to thrive. The ideal soil pH for cantaloupes is between 6.0 and 6.5. It’s a good idea to test your soil several months in advance so you can add any necessary nutrients to it well before planting.
- Soil pH in your raised bed should be 6.0 to 6.5.
- Use this soil test months before you plant to determine what amendments your soil needs before planting.
- To neutralize soil that is too acidic, mix this dolomitic limestone into the top 6–8 inches (15–20 cm) of the soil 2–3 months before planting.
- Use a soil thermometer so you can track and manage the soil temperature.
- While germinating seeds, the soil temperature should be above 75℉ (24℃) but below 95℉ (35℃).
- To help the soil retain enough heat, you can use this plastic mulch that absorbs heat from the sun.
Cantaloupes thrive in warm soil, so we recommend using a soil thermometer while growing them to ensure your raised bed is ready for planting. Using materials such as black plastic or straw to mulch can help keep the soil warm and moist for growing cantaloupes.
Plant Your Cantaloupes
Plant cantaloupe in spring once the soil has warmed up to at least 70℉ (21℃). Planting when the soil is too cool will result in much slower growth and can lead to root disease. Seeds should be planted 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep in groups of 2 or 3. Space your planting holes 18–24 inches apart (45–60 cm) in a row.
- Sow cantaloupe seeds in your raised bed when the soil temperature rises to 70℉ (21℃).
- You can start plants indoors in the spring if the soil is below 70℉ (21℃).
- Plant 2–3 seeds 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep, with 18–24 inches (45–60 cm) between planting holes in a row.
- Space cantaloupe rows 5 feet (1.5 m) apart with room for trellises.
- Growing a smaller variety such as Sugar Cube, Sivan, or Zena cantaloupes is recommended for raised beds with limited space.
Rows of cantaloupe must have at least 5 feet (1.5 m) of space between them. Consider the variety of cantaloupe you wish to grow and how much space it may end up needing. In a raised bed, small melons will benefit from trellising, so be aware of the space a trellis will take up.
Water Your Cantaloupe
Your cantaloupe plants need to be watered 2 times per week with a soaker hose. Use a soaker hose to water for 30–45 minutes, or until the top 4 inches (10 cm) of soil are moist. Reduce to once-weekly watering 2 weeks prior to the melons’ ripening, since too much water during this last stage of development can cause cantaloupes to split open.
- Cantaloupe requires 2 inches (5 cm) of water each week.
- Water your plants twice per week.
- Use this soaker hose to moisten the soil to a depth of 4 inches (10 cm) each time you water.
- As cantaloupe reaches full size, reduce watering to once per week to prevent melons from splitting.
- If you use a plastic mulch cover, run your irrigation system under it.
- Depending on the amount of rain your area receives, it may be beneficial to use a rain gauge to avoid overwatering.
To avoid overwatering, place a rain gauge in your raised bed. Then, adjust your weekly watering based on the amount of rainfall your raised bed receives. It is important to use drip irrigation because sprinklers will make leaves and melons wet, which makes them more vulnerable to fungi and mildew.
Support Your Cantaloupe with Trellises
Though it is not a necessity for growing cantaloupe, trellising your plants is a good way to monitor fruit development and keep your raised bed tidy as your plants sprawl. Training cantaloupes to grow on a trellis allows the fruit to grow uninhibited by other plants and soil pests.
- Since space is limited in a raised bed, it is a good idea to use a trellis for your cantaloupe plants.
- Use a fence-style trellis made of sturdy material, such as these welded wire panels attached to tall posts planted deep into the soil.
- Make sure the fencing or trellis used has a grid structure so vines can climb and sunlight can reach the plants uninhibited.
- A-frame trellises will work, so long as they are made of materials strong enough to support the weight of long vines and 2 – 6 lb (0.9 – 2.7 kg) fruit.
- Use a soft material, such as garden twine, to tie tendrils and vines to the trellis.
- Training vines onto a trellis will prevent them from getting fungal infections.
- Once melons have begun forming, attach this netting to the trellis and use it like a hammock to support the growing melons.
Once melons begin to grow on your trellised vine, support them with melon hammocks. Attach a netting or stretchy material to the trellis to act as a sling that holds each melon. The hammock will prevent the melon from breaking off and falling before they ripen. Hammocks also keep the fruit off damp soil, which helps keep your crop safe from fungus and pests.
Depending on the variety of cantaloupe and time of planting, your cantaloupe harvest will take place between June and August. A tell-tale sign that cantaloupes are ripe is when the color beneath their netting is golden rather than green. The netting on the rind will also have a more yellow-cream hue
- Some cantaloupe varieties will be ripe by June and others may take until late August to be ready for harvest.
- Do not harvest too early or your melons will not be as sweet. For sweeter melons, it is best to let them ripen on the vine.
- Your cantaloupes should have a golden color beneath yellowed netting when you harvest them. If they still appear green, they need a bit more time on the vine.
- Cantaloupes are called muskmelons for a reason: when they are ripe, they will smell musky and sweet.
- Gently pick up the fruit and pull. Ripe melons will come off the vine easily.
Before picking your cantaloupe, check to see if they are ready to be harvested. Smell your melons and check their attachment to the vine. Ripe cantaloupes will smell musky and sweet, plus they should have a split in their stem so they easily detach from the vine.
How Do You Fertilize Cantaloupe Plants?
To fertilize your cantaloupes, mix compost or balanced fertilizer into the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil prior to planting. When cantaloupe plants have developed 3 or 4 leaves, use 4 tbsp (60 g) of nitrogen-rich fertilizer around each plant. You can use this 21-0-0 fertilizer, or use organic matter such as blood meal or feather meal.
Can You Grow Cantaloupes in a Raised Bed?
Anyone can grow cantaloupes in a raised bed as long as they know what to do. Here are the steps:
- Position a raised bed that is at least 4 feet by 6 feet (1.2 m by 1.8 m) where it can receive 6–8 hours of sun daily.
- Fill your raised bed with soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
- Plant cantaloupe seeds or seedlings in rows when the soil is 65–70℉ (18–21℃).
- Twice per week, water until the soil is moist to a depth of 4 inches (10 cm). Reduce to once-weekly watering once melons reach full size.
- Train your cantaloupe vines to grow on a trellis and use stretchy material to make a hammock for each growing melon.
- Harvest cantaloupes in the summer once they smell sweetly musky and have turned a golden hue.
With these steps, you’ll be able to grow cantaloupes in your own raised bed with ease. The proper soil, sun, and water will yield amazing fruits.