How To Plant Cantaloupe [ Full Guide ]

Cantaloupe, also known as muskmelon or sweet melon, is a delicious and nutritious fruit that thrives in warm climates. Growing your own cantaloupe can be a rewarding experience, and with the right knowledge and care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the step-by-step process of planting cantaloupe, from selecting the right location to starting seeds indoors and everything in between. By following these guidelines, you can cultivate your own luscious cantaloupes and savor the sweet rewards of your labor.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Cantaloupe

Here is a quick overview of the steps involved in planting cantaloupe:

  1. Selecting the right location: Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil.
  2. Preparing the soil: Ensure the soil is rich in organic matter and has a slightly acidic to neutral pH.
  3. Choosing the right variety of cantaloupe: Select a variety suited to your climate and growing conditions.
  4. Starting seeds indoors (if applicable): In cooler climates, start seeds indoors before transplanting.
  5. Planting the seeds or seedlings: Follow spacing guidelines and provide support if growing vertically.
  6. Watering and fertilizing: Maintain consistent moisture and provide appropriate nutrients.
  7. Supporting and pruning the vines: Encourage healthy growth and fruit production.
  8. Pest and disease management: Monitor for pests and diseases and take necessary preventive measures.
  9. Harvesting: Harvest cantaloupes at the peak of ripeness for the best flavor.

Now, let’s delve into each of these steps in detail.

Selecting The Right Location

Cantaloupes thrive in warm, sunny locations, so it’s important to choose a spot in your garden that receives ample sunlight. Look for an area that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. In addition to sunlight, consider the following factors when selecting the right location for planting cantaloupe:

Soil Drainage

Cantaloupes prefer well-drained soil to prevent waterlogged roots, which can lead to disease and poor growth. Avoid low-lying areas where water tends to accumulate, and opt for a site with soil that drains well after rainfall or irrigation.

Soil Composition

The ideal soil for cantaloupes is rich in organic matter and has a slightly acidic to neutral pH. Conduct a soil test to determine the pH of your soil and make amendments as needed to achieve a pH range of 6.0-7.0. Incorporate well-rotted compost or aged manure to improve soil fertility and structure.

Space And Support

Consider the space requirements of cantaloupe vines, as they can spread extensively. If space is limited, choose a compact or bush variety of cantaloupe, or plan to provide vertical support for vining varieties. Trellises, cages, or other supportive structures can help manage the sprawling growth of cantaloupe vines and keep the fruit off the ground.

Preparing The Soil

Once you’ve selected the right location, it’s time to prepare the soil for planting. Proper soil preparation sets the stage for healthy cantaloupe growth and vigorous fruit production.

Soil Testing

Before making any amendments to the soil, conduct a soil test to assess its nutrient levels and pH. Many cooperative extension offices or gardening centers offer affordable soil testing services. Based on the results, you can determine the specific needs of your soil and make targeted adjustments.

Adding Organic Matter

Incorporate ample organic matter into the soil to enhance fertility and improve its structure. Well-rotted compost, aged manure, or commercial organic fertilizers can be mixed into the soil to provide essential nutrients and promote microbial activity.

Adjusting Ph

If the soil test indicates a need for pH adjustment, use materials such as lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it. Follow the recommendations provided in the soil test report to achieve the optimal pH range for cantaloupe cultivation.

Soil Tilling

Thoroughly till the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches to break up clumps and create a loose, friable texture. This promotes root penetration, aeration, and efficient water drainage, setting the stage for healthy root development and overall plant growth.

Choosing The Right Variety Of Cantaloupe

Cantaloupes come in a variety of cultivars, each with distinct characteristics such as flavor, size, and resistance to disease. When choosing a variety of cantaloupe to plant, consider the following factors:

Climate Suitability

Select a cantaloupe variety that is well-suited to your local climate. Some varieties thrive in hot, arid climates, while others are more tolerant of cooler temperatures. Consider the average length of your growing season and choose a variety with an appropriate maturity date for your area.

Disease Resistance

Look for varieties that are resistant to common cantaloupe diseases prevalent in your region. Disease-resistant cultivars can reduce the risk of crop loss and minimize the need for chemical interventions.

Growth Habit

Different cantaloupe varieties exhibit different growth habits. Some are compact and bushy, making them suitable for smaller spaces or container gardening. Others are vining types that require ample space or vertical support to thrive.

Flavor And Texture

Consider the flavor and texture of the fruit when selecting a variety. Some cantaloupes are known for their exceptional sweetness and aroma, while others may have a firmer texture or unique flavor profiles.

Starting Seeds Indoors (If Applicable)

In regions with shorter growing seasons or cooler spring temperatures, starting cantaloupe seeds indoors can give the plants a head start and ensure a longer period for fruit maturation. Follow these steps to successfully start cantaloupe seeds indoors:


Start cantaloupe seeds indoors about 3-4 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. This allows the seedlings to reach a suitable size for transplanting once the weather warms up.

Seed Trays Or Pots

Use seed starting trays, peat pots, or other biodegradable containers to sow cantaloupe seeds. Ensure that the containers have drainage holes to prevent waterlogged soil.

Sowing Depth

Plant cantaloupe seeds at a depth of about 1 inch in the soil, and cover them lightly with potting mix. Water the soil thoroughly after sowing the seeds, and maintain consistent moisture to support germination.

Temperature And Light

Place the seed trays in a warm location with temperatures between 70-85°F (21-29°C). Provide ample light, either from a sunny windowsill or grow lights, to encourage strong and healthy seedling growth.


Once the seedlings have developed a few true leaves and all risk of frost has passed, transplant them into the prepared garden bed, ensuring proper spacing according to the variety’s requirements.

Planting The Seeds Or Seedlings

When the weather has warmed, and the risk of frost has passed, it’s time to plant cantaloupe seeds or seedlings directly in the garden. Follow these steps for successful planting:


Sow cantaloupe seeds or transplant seedlings according to the recommended spacing for the specific variety. Typically, vining varieties require ample space, with about 36-48 inches between plants and 5-6 feet between rows to accommodate their expansive growth.

Soil Temperature

Wait until the soil temperature reaches at least 70°F (21°C) before planting cantaloupe seeds or setting out seedlings. Planting in cold soil can slow down germination and lead to poor establishment.

Support For Vining Varieties

If growing vining varieties, install trellises, cages, or other support structures at the time of planting. Direct the young vines onto the supports to encourage vertical growth and keep the developing fruit off the ground.

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Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or shredded leaves, around the base of the plants to conserve soil moisture, suppress weeds, and protect the developing fruit from direct contact with the soil.

Watering And Fertilizing

Proper watering and fertilization are crucial for the healthy growth and development of cantaloupe plants. Follow these guidelines to provide adequate moisture and nutrients:


Cantaloupes require consistent moisture, especially during the flowering and fruit-setting stages. Adequate watering is essential for preventing blossom-end rot and promoting the formation of plump, juicy fruit. Water deeply, providing about 1-2 inches of water per week, and adjust the frequency based on weather conditions.


Apply a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 or an organic equivalent, when planting cantaloupe. Side-dress the plants with additional fertilizer once they start to vine and again when the fruit begins to develop. Follow the fertilizer manufacturer’s recommendations for application rates and frequency.

Foliar Feeding

Supplemental foliar feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer can provide a quick boost of nutrients to the plants. Apply the foliar spray according to the product label instructions, taking care to avoid wetting the developing fruit to prevent potential issues.

Supporting And Pruning The Vines

As cantaloupe plants grow, they benefit from proper support and selective pruning to encourage vigorous growth and maximize fruit production. Consider the following practices for supporting and pruning cantaloupe vines:

Vertical Support

For vining varieties, train the main stems onto the trellises or support structures to allow the vines to grow vertically. This not only saves space but also helps ensure good airflow around the plants, reducing the risk of disease.

Pruning Suckers

Prune out excessive side shoots, or "suckers," that develop in the leaf axils to redirect the plant’s energy into fruit production. Remove any weak or overcrowded shoots that may hinder airflow and promote disease.

Selective Thinning

As the cantaloupe plants begin to set fruit, thin out some of the developing melons to improve the quality of the remaining fruits. This allows the plant to concentrate its resources on fewer melons, resulting in larger, sweeter fruit.

Pollination Assistance

Assist in the pollination process by gently shaking the flowers or using a small brush to transfer pollen between the male and female flowers. Adequate pollination is essential for proper fruit development.

Pest And Disease Management

Cantaloupe plants are susceptible to various pests and diseases that can impact their growth and yield. Implement these strategies to manage common issues and keep your cantaloupe plants healthy:

Pest Monitoring

Regularly inspect the foliage, stems, and developing fruit for signs of pest damage. Common pests that affect cantaloupes include aphids, cucumber beetles, and spider mites. Early detection allows for timely intervention and minimizes the risk of significant damage.

Biological Controls

Implement biological pest control methods, such as releasing beneficial insects or using insecticidal soaps or neem oil, to manage pest populations while minimizing the impact on beneficial organisms.

Disease Prevention

Promote good airflow around the plants by proper spacing and pruning, as this can reduce the risk of foliar diseases such as powdery mildew. Avoid overhead watering to prevent the spread of fungal spores and consider applying preventative fungicides if disease pressure is high.

Pest Exclusion

Use row covers or netting to protect young plants from pest infestations, particularly from cucumber beetles, which can transmit bacterial wilt. Install the covers at the time of planting and remove them once the plants begin to flower to allow for pollination.


As the cantaloupe fruits mature, it’s essential to harvest them at the peak of ripeness to enjoy their sweet, juicy flavor. Follow these guidelines for harvesting cantaloupes:

Color And Aroma

Wait until the skin of the cantaloupe changes from green to a golden yellow or creamy beige color, depending on the variety. Additionally, a ripe cantaloupe should emit a sweet, fragrant aroma from the stem end.

Stem Slip

When a cantaloupe is fully ripe, it should easily detach from the vine with a gentle twist or when slight pressure is applied at the point where the stem meets the fruit. This "stem slip" indicates that the fruit is ready for harvest.

Harvesting Technique

Use a sharp knife or shears to cut the cantaloupe from the vine, leaving a short stem attached to the fruit. Avoid pulling or twisting the fruit, as this can damage the vines and reduce future yields.

Post-Harvest Storage

Store harvested cantaloupes at room temperature for a few days to allow them to fully ripen before refrigerating. Once cut, store any leftover cantaloupe in the refrigerator and consume it within a few days for the best quality.

Successfully planting cantaloupe requires careful attention to site selection, soil preparation, variety selection, and cultivation techniques. By providing optimal growing conditions, practicing proper care, and addressing potential challenges, you can cultivate a gratifying harvest of delicious and nutritious cantaloupes. With the comprehensive knowledge and techniques outlined in this guide, you can embark on your cantaloupe growing journey with confidence and look forward to savoring the delectable fruits of your labor.

Direct Seeding In The Garden

Cantaloupes, also known as muskmelons, are delicious and refreshing fruits that are popular during the summertime. Growing your own cantaloupes can be a rewarding experience, as you get to enjoy the sweet taste of homegrown fruit.

Direct seeding is the most common method of planting cantaloupes. It is usually done in the spring when the soil has warmed up and the danger of frost has passed. Follow these steps to plant cantaloupes directly in your garden:

  1. Choose a suitable location: Cantaloupes thrive in full sun, requiring at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. Select a well-drained site with fertile soil that has a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5.

  2. Prepare the soil: Start by removing any existing weeds or grass from the planting area. Loosen the soil using a tiller or garden fork, ensuring it is sufficiently crumbly and free from clumps. Incorporate organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure into the soil to improve its fertility and structure.

  3. Create mounds or raised beds: Cantaloupes prefer well-drained soil, and creating mounds or raised beds can help achieve this. Form mounds that are about 12-18 inches high and 36 inches wide, with a spacing of 5-6 feet between each mound. This not only allows for good drainage but also aids in controlling weeds and pests.

  4. Plant the seeds: Dig a small hole in the center of each mound, approximately 1 inch deep. Place 3-4 cantaloupe seeds in each hole and cover them with soil. Space the holes at least 24 inches apart to provide ample room for vines to spread.

  5. Water the seeds: After planting the seeds, water the mounds thoroughly to ensure good soil-to-seed contact. This will help initiate germination. Be careful not to overwater, as excessive moisture can lead to rot. Remember to keep the soil moist throughout the germination period.

  6. Thin the seedlings: Once the seedlings have emerged and are a few inches tall, thin them out by removing the weaker ones. Leave one strong and healthy seedling per mound to ensure optimum growth and fruit production.

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Transplanting Seedlings

If you prefer to start your cantaloupe plants indoors or are looking to get a head start on the growing season, transplanting seedlings is another viable option. Here’s how to transplant cantaloupe seedlings into your garden:

  1. Start seeds indoors: Begin the process by starting cantaloupe seeds indoors, around 3-4 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area. Use seed starting trays or pots filled with a high-quality, well-draining potting mix.

  2. Provide proper conditions: Place the trays in a warm and well-lit area, ensuring they receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight or use grow lights if necessary. Maintain a consistent temperature between 70-85°F (21-29°C) to facilitate germination and healthy seedling growth.

  3. Harden off the seedlings: About a week before transplanting, gradually expose the seedlings to outdoor conditions. Start by placing them outside for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of sunlight exposure. This process, known as hardening off, helps the plants acclimate to the outdoor environment.

  4. Select a planting site: Identify a suitable location in your garden that meets the same requirements as mentioned earlier, such as full sun and well-drained soil. Prepare the soil by removing weeds and incorporating organic matter to enrich fertility.

  5. Dig planting holes: Dig holes in the garden, each hole should be large enough to accommodate the root ball of the seedling. Space the holes according to the desired spacing between plants, typically 3-4 feet apart.

  6. Transplant the seedlings: Carefully remove the cantaloupe seedlings from the containers, ensuring minimal disturbance to the roots. Place each seedling in a planting hole, ensuring the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Gently firm the soil around the seedling to provide support.

  7. Water the transplants: Water the newly transplanted seedlings thoroughly to settle the soil and establish good root-to-soil contact. Maintain regular watering throughout the growing season to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged.

Watering And Irrigation

Proper watering is crucial for the success of your cantaloupe plants. The following guidelines will help you provide adequate moisture while avoiding overwatering:

  • Establish a watering schedule: Cantaloupes require regular and consistent moisture. Water the plants deeply, ensuring that the soil is moist to a depth of 4-6 inches. Aim to water the plants 1-2 inches per week, either through rainfall or supplemental irrigation.

  • Avoid waterlogged soil: Cantaloupes are susceptible to root rot in waterlogged conditions. To prevent this, ensure proper drainage by creating raised beds or mounds before planting. If you have heavy clay soil, consider incorporating organic matter to improve drainage.

  • Irrigate at the base: It is best to provide water directly to the base of the plant, rather than overhead watering. This reduces the risk of fungal diseases and allows the roots to absorb the water more efficiently.

  • Mulch the soil: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the base of the plants. Mulching helps conserve soil moisture by reducing evaporation and also helps control weeds.

  • Monitor soil moisture: Regularly check the soil moisture level by inserting your finger into the soil near the plant’s root zone. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. On the other hand, if the soil feels moist, hold off on watering to prevent over-saturation.

Fertilizing The Plants

To promote healthy growth and bountiful harvests, fertilizing cantaloupe plants is essential. Here are some key points to consider when fertilizing your cantaloupe plants:

  • Soil testing: Prior to planting, it is recommended to conduct a soil test to determine the nutrient levels and pH of the soil. This will help you determine the appropriate fertilization plan.

  • Nitrogen management: Cantaloupes require a steady supply of nitrogen for proper growth. Start by incorporating a balanced fertilizer or well-rotted manure into the soil before planting. Once the plants have established, side dress with nitrogen-rich fertilizer, such as blood meal or fish emulsion, every 4-5 weeks.

  • Phosphorus and potassium: Cantaloupes also benefit from phosphorus and potassium, which promote root development, flower formation, and fruit development. Use a fertilizer with a ratio like 5-10-10 or 10-20-20, applying it according to the package instructions.

  • Foliar feeding: If you notice signs of nutrient deficiency, such as yellowing leaves or stunted growth, you can supplement the plants with foliar feeding. Dilute a water-soluble fertilizer and spray it directly on the leaves, ensuring thorough coverage.

  • Organic alternatives: If you prefer organic fertilizers, options like fish emulsion, compost tea, or chicken manure can be used as natural sources of nutrients. Follow the recommended application rates on the product labels or consult with a local extension service for specific recommendations.

  • Avoid excessive fertilization: While it is important to provide adequate nutrition, over-fertilization can lead to excessive vegetative growth at the expense of fruit development. Be cautious not to exceed the recommended application rates and monitor the plants closely for signs of nutrient stress.

Controlling Weeds

Weeds can compete with cantaloupe plants for vital nutrients, water, and space. Effective weed control is crucial to ensure healthy growth and higher yields. Here are some methods to control weeds in your cantaloupe patch:

  • Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the base of the cantaloupe plants. Mulch acts as a barrier, preventing weed growth and reducing the need for frequent weeding.

  • Hand pulling: Regularly inspect the garden for weeds and manually remove them by hand. Be careful not to disturb the cantaloupe plant’s root system while pulling weeds.

  • Cultivation: Use a hoe or cultivator to gently remove weeds from the soil surface. Take care not to dig too deeply or close to the cantaloupe plant’s base to avoid damaging the shallow roots.

  • Chemical control: Herbicides can be used as a last resort if manual methods are insufficient. However, it is important to read and follow the instructions on the herbicide label carefully. Choose a selective herbicide that targets broadleaf weeds and does not harm the cantaloupe plants.

  • Timely weed management: Weeds should be managed early in the season when they are small and easier to remove. Regularly inspect the garden for new weed growth and act promptly to prevent them from establishing and spreading.

Growing cantaloupes can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. By following the planting techniques outlined in this guide, you can ensure successful growth and bountiful harvests of these delicious, juicy fruits. Whether you choose to direct seed in the garden or start with transplants, remember to provide proper watering, fertilization, and weed control for optimum plant health. With a little care and attention, you’ll be delighted with homegrown cantaloupes that are bursting with flavor.

Managing Pests And Diseases

Cantaloupe, also known as muskmelon, is a delicious and refreshing fruit that is perfect for hot summer days. Its juicy flesh and sweet aroma make it a popular choice for salads, smoothies, and desserts.

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Cantaloupes are warm-season fruits that thrive in sandy, well-drained soil and require full sunlight to produce high-quality fruit. In addition to the right growing conditions, you will also need to manage pests and diseases, support the vines as they grow, and harvest and store the ripe fruit properly.

Pests and diseases can significantly impact the health and productivity of cantaloupe plants. Here are some common pests and diseases to watch out for and how to manage them:

  1. Aphids: These tiny insects feed on the sap of cantaloupe plants, causing stunted growth and distorted leaves. To control aphids, you can spray a mixture of water and mild soap onto the leaves or introduce ladybugs, which are natural predators of aphids.

  2. Cucumber beetles: These beetles feed on the leaves and stems of cantaloupe plants, transmitting bacterial wilt disease. To prevent damage from cucumber beetles, you can use row covers to physically block them from reaching the plants. Additionally, applying neem oil or using insecticidal soap can help control their populations.

  3. Powdery mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white, powdery coating on the leaves of cantaloupe plants. It can hinder photosynthesis and reduce fruit production. To manage powdery mildew, ensure good air circulation around the plants by proper spacing and avoid overhead watering. Applying fungicides containing sulfur or potassium bicarbonate can also help control the disease.

  4. Fusarium wilt: This soil-borne fungal disease causes yellowing and wilting of cantaloupe plants. To prevent fusarium wilt, choose disease-resistant varieties when possible and rotate your crops regularly. Avoid planting cantaloupes in soil that has previously been affected by the disease.

Supporting The Vines

Cantaloupe plants are vigorous climbers, and their vines can grow up to several feet in length. To prevent the vines from sprawling across the ground and to maximize air circulation, it is important to provide them with proper support. Here are two commonly used methods for supporting cantaloupe vines:

  1. Trellis: A trellis is a vertical structure made of stakes or poles with a mesh or netting attached for the vines to climb. This method helps keep the vines off the ground, reducing the risk of rotting fruit and making it easier to manage pests and diseases. When using a trellis, make sure it is at least five to six feet tall to accommodate the growth of the vines.

  2. Cage: A cage is a wire or wooden frame that surrounds the cantaloupe plant, providing support as the vines climb upwards. Cages are especially useful for smaller gardens where space is limited. Choose a cage that is sturdy and large enough for the vines to grow through. Regularly train the vines to grow within the cage to prevent them from sprawling outside.

Regardless of the support method you choose, it is important to regularly prune the vines to promote air circulation and remove any dead or diseased foliage. Pruning also helps concentrate the plant’s energy into producing quality fruit.

Harvesting The Cantaloupes

Knowing when to harvest cantaloupes is crucial for achieving the best flavor and texture. Here are some signs to look for when determining if the fruit is ripe and ready for harvesting:

  1. Color and Texture: The skin of a ripe cantaloupe should have a golden or yellowish hue and should feel slightly soft when gently pressed with your fingers. Avoid harvesting cantaloupes with green skin, as they are not fully ripe and may lack sweetness.

  2. Vine Slip: A cantaloupe is considered ripe when it easily separates or slips from the vine with minimal effort. This occurs when the melon reaches its peak sweetness and flavor. However, be cautious not to leave the fruit on the vine for too long after it slips, as it may become overripe and lose its quality.

When harvesting cantaloupes, use gardening shears or a sharp knife to cut the fruit from the stem, leaving a short stub attached to the fruit. Avoid twisting or pulling the fruit, as this may damage the plant.

Storing The Ripe Fruit

After harvesting your cantaloupes, it is important to store them properly to maintain their freshness and flavor. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Washing: Before storing, gently wash the exterior of the melons with water to remove any dirt or debris. Avoid using soap or detergent, as these may leave a residue on the fruit.

  2. Drying: Allow the cantaloupes to air dry completely after washing. Excess moisture can encourage mold or spoilage.

  3. Storage Location: Store the ripe cantaloupes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. A pantry, basement, or refrigerator with a temperature of around 45-50°F (7-10°C) is ideal.

  4. Storage Container: Choose a container that allows for good air circulation, such as a wooden crate or an open-mesh bag. Avoid using plastic bags, as they can trap moisture and lead to mold development.

  5. Storage Duration: Cantaloupes can be stored for up to a week at room temperature. However, if you need to store them for a longer period, refrigeration is recommended. In the refrigerator, cantaloupes can remain fresh for around two weeks.


Growing your own cantaloupes can be a rewarding experience, and by following the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you can successfully plant and care for your crop. Remember to provide the right growing conditions, manage pests and diseases, support the vines, and harvest and store the ripe fruit properly. By doing so, you will be rewarded with juicy and flavorful cantaloupes straight from your garden. Enjoy!


What Is The Best Time To Plant Cantaloupe?

The best time to plant cantaloupe is in the late spring/early summer when the soil has warmed up to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Do I Prepare The Soil For Planting Cantaloupe?

To prepare the soil, mix in a 2-3 inch layer of compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage and fertility. It is also recommended to do a soil test to determine if any additional nutrients are needed.

How Much Space Do Cantaloupe Plants Need?

Cantaloupe plants need at least 3-4 feet of space between each plant. You can also plant them in hills with 2-3 plants per hill, with each hill being approximately 4-5 feet apart.

Do Cantaloupe Plants Need A Trellis Or Support System?

No, cantaloupe plants do not typically require a trellis or support system. However, if you have limited space in your garden, you can use a trellis to train the vines to grow upwards, which can save space and make harvesting easier.

How Often Should I Water My Cantaloupe Plants?

Cantaloupe plants need regular watering, especially during the early stages of growth and when the fruits are forming. It is important to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. On average, they may need 1-2 inches of water per week. In hot and dry climates, they may need more frequent watering.