Best Soil & Soil PH for Cantaloupes
A sandy loam soil full of organic material is the best soil for cantaloupes and other vining plants. Loam soil is a mixture of clay, sand, and silt. Sandy loam soil is a mixture with more sand in it.
The three different particles in loamy soil are different sizes and that allows air, water, and roots to travel freely through it. Different organic materials make a better environment for beneficial soil bacteria and provide nutrition to the soil.
To make any soil more full of organic material, nutrient and bacteria rich, and a better texture add compost. You should be able to get access to large amounts of compost from local cities that collect grass and leaves and then pile them into huge mulch piles. Call your local city governments to find out where these piles of brown gold are.
The preferred soil PH for cantaloupe is 6.0-6.5. To neutralize soil acidity lime or wood ash should be spread throughout the garden area and worked down 8 inches into the ground so that it helps the PH in the root zone. Aluminum sulfate and sulfur are common materials used to decrease soil PH.
Using a soil testing kit is the best way to know soil PH and soil nutrient levels.
Best Fertilizer for Cantaloupes
Commercial cantaloupe farmers will do a soil test to get the exact nutrient levels in their soil. Then they will do plant tissue analysis as the crop grows to get a better look at any nutrient deficiencies their plants might have.
For gardeners applying fertilizer is essential for yields but does not have to be a complicated process. Using an all-purpose fertilizer as recommended before planting and through the cantaloupe plants life cycle will result in good yields.
Jack’s Classic is a good standard all-purpose fertilizer that measures 20-20-20.
Organic Plant Magic is my favorite organic fertilizer because it has a wide range of organic materials mixed into it and 10 different strains of beneficial soil bacteria.
An example of a more advanced fertilizer schedule would be to use a fertilizer that’s more nitrogen rich during the plants vegetative growth and then once flowering begins use something with a N-P-K ratio of 1-2-2. So that’s a fertilizer with half of the nitrogen of the phosphorous and potassium.
How Often to Water Cantaloupes
How often to water cantaloupes should look something like this. Aim for between .5″-1″ of water during vegetative growth, between 1″-2″ of water during flowering and fruit setting, and .5″ of water or less during the last two weeks before harvest.
Include rainfall into your calculations. Use a rain gauge with a wide mouth to get an accurate reading.
To know if you need to water or not feel the dirt 3-4 inches down. If it’s moist you can let it be and if it’s dry you should definitely water.
Plants wilting is a sign that they need water but not always. It can also be a natural plant defense during hot middays. If plants wilt during midday but then regain vigor and turgidity at night or by morning they are doing well.
Water more during hot weather. Water deeply so that water gets down into the dirt and not just in the topsoil where it will evaporate quickly.
Cantaloupe Leaves Turning Yellow
Cantaloupe leaves turning yellow could be a nutrient deficiency, disease, stressed plant from pests messing with it, over or under watering, or heat stress.
A possible nutrient deficiency is first thing that comes to mind. If you have not added fertilizer in a while or only small amounts of fertilizer it’d be worth buying a soil test. Besides not enough nutrients the soil PH could be the problem.
If there is brown spotting on the leaves along with yellowing that’s a sign of disease. If there’s holes in the foliage from pests the stress they are putting on the plants could easily be the cause of yellowing.
If you have 5 days or more of temperatures over 90 degrees heat stress could be causing the plants to yellow. Irregular watering can also stress plants out.
How many times did I say stress? Plants are tough and need to strain to grow, example deep waterings to make roots stretch and grow, but too much stress and plants growth will be stunted for a period which leads to less yields.
Is Epsom Salt Good for Cantaloupes?
Epsom salt is made of magnesium sulfate so it can boost the levels of those two micronutrients for a plant. It can be mixed with water and poured into the soil or applied as a foliar spray.
Magnesium and sulfur are just two micronutrients that a plant needs. A soil test will tell you the levels of these two nutrients.
In general, plants need the most nutrients at flowering and the start of fruit production.
How Much Sun Do Cantaloupe Plants Need?
Cantaloupes are warm weather plants that need full sun. Full sun is at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. If you’re growing in a small area or balcony with limited light look up ways to increase sunshine in a garden.
In general, the more sunlight the better for cantaloupes and other vining plants. The sun can become a problem if you have hot spells with more than a few days of temperatures above 90 degrees.
If this is the case for you consider giving cantaloupe plants some shade during the midday sun. Use shade cloths, bed sheets, or whatever you can think of. Also water more during hot spells.
Cantaloupe Plant Pests & Disease
The following is more of a guide on basic pest and disease knowledge and practices for the garden. For more specific cantaloupe disease and pest information with pictures check out this article from the University of Georgia Extension.
Neem oil and manual eradication is the way I deal with pests in the garden. Neem oil will coat the leaves of the cantaloupe plant with a wax like coat the makes it unappetizing to bugs. It also has an active ingredient that will eat away at insects exoskeletons and more importantly their eggs.
Manual eradication involves walking through the plants and squashing insects or throwing them in a pale of soapy water. Also checking the undersides of leaves for eggs especially in areas where the pests have been concentrated.
If you have disease in the garden it will present as discolored unhappy looking plants. If the discoloration is mostly yellowing leaves and plants and is evenly distributed throughout the plants it could be a nutrition problem. Especially if you haven’t fertilized in a while.
Disease presents in sections of the garden crop at first and then spreads. It’s usually more severe looking than nutrient deficiency problem with more brown spotting on the plants.
If powdery mildew is a consistent problem in your garden try growing resistant varieties or grow your cantaloupe plants up trellises that provide much better air circulation for the foliage.
I hope you learned something from this article and please comment below with any of your own growing tips for cantaloupe plants!