Sticking with the cucurbits family, meet sister cantaloup. Melons are relatives of cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and watermelon; hence, they suffer from similar pests and diseases.
Cantaloupes, like squash, have both male and female flowers, and male flowers usually open first and fall off. Give your cantaloupe time to develop several flowers before panicking. Because they develop male and female flowers, can you guess how cantaloupes are pollinated? Bees, right. Because bees are crucial to these fruits, you need to be positively sure that your mow and blow guys are NOT spraying pesticides anywhere in your yard. No bees, no garden.
Melons like it hot, growing really well in the interior valleys of California. Pick the hottest spot in your garden, and plant your melons there. Once your baby cantaloupes start growing, then worry about rotten spots developing. Put a chunk of straw, or whatever you use for mulch, under the full-sized fruit. If you don’t use mulch, you shouldn’t be trying to garden.
Growing melons takes trial and error. The reward of growing your own, perfect cantaloupe will be the best thing you’ve ever tasted. I will never forget where I was when I ate my first home-grown cantaloupe. I was sitting on the floor in the airport August 9, 2009, on my way to Maui. When our ride to the airport arrived at our house early that morning, I ran outside and picked whatever I had growing, already missing my summer bounty. I grabbed the small cantaloupe, cut it up, and stuck it in my carry on. I had forgotten we can’t take produce in to Maui, so I ate it waiting to board the airplane. To this day, I have never tasted a cantaloupe that good.
I continue to get it wrong. Not enough water usually. I will keep trying. Perhaps the biggest mistake of growing cantaloupe is not knowing when to harvest. Pick your cantaloupe at “full slip.” That is, when a slight crack completely circles the stem where it attaches to the fruit. You should be able to pull the stem off, leaving a smooth cavity.
Everyone should try to grow cantaloupes. If you get it right, you will be rewarded. If not, go buy one. My focus on growing food is to grow organically what we can’t easily find in the market. Cantaloupe is found nearly year-round, and because of its status on the EWG’s Clean 15 list, I can buy inorganic melons with little cognitive dissonance or guilt.