Cantaloupe plants should be planted 18″ apart in a row with rows spaced about 5 feet apart. If direct sowing cantaloupe seeds consider use a tighter spacing 9-18″ apart and if you are transplanting seedlings from indoors a little more space, 18-28″ apart.
If planting from seed, plant seeds every 9″ and then thin down to around 18″ apart after plants sprout and are a few inches tall.
According to 7 different sources, 5 Universities and 2 scientific papers, recommended plant spacing for cantaloupes ranges from 9 inches apart to 36 inches apart with an average of the 7 sources being 19″ apart. Row spacing is consistently recommended at about 5 feet apart.
The two scientific papers both show that tighter spacing leads to higher yields with one of the studies getting double the cantaloupe yields two years in a row when comparing the lowest plant density spacing to the highest plant density.
|Source||How Far Apart to Plant Cantaloupe Recommendations||How Far Apart to Plant Rows of Cantaloupe Recommendations|
|Illinois University||18-24"||At least 5'|
|Penn State University||24-30"||5-6'|
|University of Arizona||9"||5-7'|
|International Journal of Vegetable Science||24"||40"|
|American Society for Horticultural Science||12"||3'|
Cantaloupe Yields vs. Cantaloupe Plant Spacing – Scientific Papers From Horticultural Journals
A study published in the International Journal of Vegetable Science measured the yields of cantaloupe plants with different intra-row spacings. Spacing between rows remained constant at 100cm and intra-row spacings were varied at 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100cm between cantaloupe plants. 60cm spacing resulted in the best overall yield of cantaloupes. 60cm = 24inches.
A study by the American Society for Horticultural Science grew also studied cantaloupe plant spacing vs. yields in two consecutive growing season.
Each year they had planting spaces of 1.7, 2.5, 3.3, and 4.1 plants per m2. (1m2 = 11 square feet)
The study showed that as plant density increased, total cantaloupe yield also increased at each tighter spacing, both years.
During the first grow year as plant density increased from 1.7 plants/m2 to 4.1 plants/m2 cantaloupe yields nearly doubled from 11 kg/m2 to 20 kg/m2.
During the second grow year as plant density increased from 1.7 plants/m2 to 4.1 plants/m2 cantaloupe yields doubled from 21.9 kg/m2 to 44.3 kg/m2.
4.1 plants per m2 = 11 square feet/4 plants
That equals 2.75 square feet per plant which could be spaced something like 12″ between plants and rows of 36″
How Many Cantaloupe Plants To Plant in a Container
You want 3-5 gallons of dirt in the pot per cantaloupe plant. So, if you have a 10 gallon pot you’d want 2-3 cantaloupe plants, and if you’re using a 20 gallon pot, 4-6 cantaloupe plants per container. Arranging plants in shapes is an easy way to keep good spacing: triangle, diamond, pentagon, hexagon.
How Far Apart to Plant Cantaloupe in Raised Beds
In raised beds that are 4’x8′ I recommend planting cantaloupe every 12 inches along the 8′ long wall giving the cantaloupe plants the 4′ width of the bed to grow into.
How Deep to Plant Cantaloupe Seeds
Plant cantaloupe seeds 1/4-1/2″ deep in starter trays or pots inside. If planting outdoors plant seeds 1″ deep. If transplanting starter plants outside bury the root ball with a 1″ of soil.
How Far Apart to Plant Cantaloupe – University Recommendations
Illinois University Extension recommends that cantaloupes be planted every 18 to 24 inches apart along rows and that rows should be spaced at least 5′ apart.
Penn State University Extension recommends that cantaloupes should be started indoors for around 21 days and then be spaced 24 to 30 inches apart in rows and that rows be spaced 5 to 6 feet apart. The say that the average farmer plants 2,200-4,200 cantaloupe plants per acre.
Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service recommends direct seeding cantaloupes into the field every 6 to 8 inches apart and then thinning down to a cantaloupe plant every 12 inches. They say cantaloupe seeds should be planted 1/2″ to 3/4″ deep and that the raised beds, rows, should be space 60-84 inches apart.
Tennessee University Cooperative Extension Service believes that cantaloupes should be transplanted outside at 2-3 feet apart within rows and that rows should be spaced 5-6 feet apart. Spacing cantaloupe plants 2 feet apart resulted in 4,356 plants per acre versus 3 feet apart in 2,904 plants per acre.
According to scientific paper done by the College of Agriculture – University of Arizona, the best cantaloupe yields came with cantaloupe plants spaced 9 inches apart. The studies found that distance between rows was different at their two grow sites.
In the Yuma area, larger beds up to 84 inches were ideal and in the Salt River Valley shorter beds around 60 inches wide were ideal. The idea is you want to give the plant as much space as it can effectively fill without leaving unused space.
Planting Cantaloupes In Mounds
The scientific paper mentioned above from the University of Arizona concluded that hilled or mounded plants were not as efficient in their use of fertilizer and water. I have also found this to be the case in my garden. Growing plants in mounds in my experience leads to less plants in the same garden space.
The benefits of planting in mounds or hills can be gained by planting in a mounded row. Mounding soil leads to raised soil temperatures and better drainage.
How Does Plant Spacing Affect Yields
The norm for plant yields and plant spacing is this. A higher plant density leads to less fruit per plant and smaller fruits. A lower plant density equals more fruit per plant and larger fruits. Somewhere in the middle usually leaning towards tighter spacing is the best plant spacing for yields.
Take corn for example. Corn is an important crop and corn density vs yields has been studied thoroughly. Most corn plants in a field will yield one ear of corn per plant. However, corn on the outside row of fields commonly has corn plants that have multiple ears.
The extra sunshine, and access to water and nutrients allow corn plants on the outside of fields to produce more than one ear.
Be that as it may, farmers still plant with a tight density that leads to an average around one ear of corn per plant because this is what they’ve found to give them the best yields per acre.
Square Foot Gardening & Cantaloupes
Square foot gardening is a form of intensive gardening that helps use garden space efficiently. It is commonly used with raised beds and physically divided with small wood trim, irrigation hose, or metal fencing into square foot spaces.
Square foot gardening takes the recommended plant spacing and uses that to determine how many of a specific plant, like cantaloupe, fit into a square foot. If we say the recommended spacing for a cantaloupe plant is 19″ then each cantaloupe plant will get 2 square feet.
This is close to the 2.75 square feet per plant the earlier mentioned study published in the American Society for Horticultural Science found to give the best cantaloupe yields. However 2 square feet is tight for a vining plant that typically grows to 5 feet long and a trellis can be used to save space.
Grow Cantaloupe With a Trellis To Save Space
Growing cantaloupe plants with a trellis is a great way to save space and also has two other great benefits. On a trellis the cantaloupe plants leaves get more sunlight which can lead to greater yields and better tasting and more nutritious fruit. Air circulation is also increased which leads to less chance of disease.
The tendrils on the cantaloupe plant are not strong enough to tie the plant securely to the trellis so garden ties need to be used.
Also, each cantaloupe fruit will need to be supported because the weight of the cantaloupes plus gravity will cause the fruits to fall off the vine before they are ripe. The most common way of doing this in the garden is to fashion a small hammock with each end tied to the support for the fruit to sit in. You can use old t-shirts or whatever else you can think of.
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