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June 2008
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How to Grow Cantaloupe in the Home Garden

A funny story about using pantyhouse that I saw in an email that I received; this is not an original story, and I do not know the source, but it seems plausible:

How to Grow Cantaloupe in the Home Garden – Don’t Throw Out Those Old Pantyhose!
By A Paxhia

For many home gardeners, growing cantaloupe is not considered a viable option. Due to limited space in the average urban garden, most consider this delicious fruit impossible to grow without sacrificing precious garden space. With a few simple modifications, almost any home garden can produce this luscious fruit.

After tasting the difference between a melon that a friend had grown in her large country garden and the store bought variety, I decided to try to grow some in my own garden. Having limited space, I knew I couldn’t grow them in the traditional way. There simply would not be enough room for anything else if they were allowed to sprawl at will.

Ignoring the planting instructions on the seed packet, I began. Instead of planting in hills as suggested on the packet, I planted a single row along a section of the wire fence that borders my garden. Spacing the seeds about five or six inches apart, I planted an eight-foot long row. As the seeds germinated and the plants began to grow, I tied them to the fence and trained them to climb up their trellis. This solved the problem of having adequate growing space but that was only the beginning of the modifications that would be necessary to produce a harvest of melons.

As the summer progressed and the plants continued to grow, meticulous guidance to get the vines where I wanted them and to keep them from flopping down to the ground was needed. I also found that the plants grown this way required more water than when they are allowed to sprawl on the ground. Unlike their field grown counterparts, cantaloupe grown upright do not shade the ground and reduce evaporation like those whose vines are allowed to cover the earth under them. A generous amount of organic mulch around the base of the plants helped a little but more water was still a necessity.

When the plants started to set fruit, it was evident that some support would need to be provided to keep the weight of the maturing fruit from snapping off the vines. Preferring a material that would expand as the fruit grew larger, I decided to use nylon stockings! As each cantaloupe was about the size of a golf ball, I cut a generous length of nylon pantyhose and made a hammock to support each fruit. After securing each little hammock to the fence, daily checking and periodic adjustment of the support was necessary. As the fruits neared maturity, additional support was needed so, using strips of old bed sheets, I fashioned an additional sling to support each melon until it was ripe. Supporting the fruit in this way, we have enjoyed up to about twenty melons every year from our modest home garden.

Though this method was very successful in producing melons from the Hale’s Best variety, several melons were lost when I tried growing larger fruited varieties. This method should work well for any variety producing fruit in the four to six pound range.

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