Gardeners often grow plants that challenge their abilities and for me it?s cantaloupes. I have fond memories of a crop I grew as a teenager. We had so many ready to eat cantaloupes it became fun thinking of new ways to enjoy the fruits. Have you ever tried cantaloupes with chocolate ice cream? Well it is not too bad.
So, this fall the "cantaloupe bug bit me" and the plantings have been in for over a month. They survived a hurricane and now the vines are running rampant across the garden. The plants look good except for yellow spots, a first challenge, starting to appear on the older leaves. This is a fungus I am sure and have applied a fungicide. The plants are kept moist and are well fertilized. Now they are flowering and I am waiting for the first fruits to forms.
As with most members of the gourd family it takes some cooperation from insects to do the pollinating. The plants are full of male flowers but only a few female ones have made their presence known at this time. None have set on the vines. I can only hope bees or other pollinators move the pollen from the male blossoms to the female ones. I guess I could give it a try but I think this is bee work. If all goes well, this challenge is out of my hands.
Next, I know the melon or pickle worms are going to try feeding on the new fruits which is another challenge. I have my Thuricide and spinosad natural insecticides handy. These do a good job of controlling the caterpillars that bore into the fruits. They may feed on the foliage too. Actually some caterpillars have already been at work and a natural spray has kept them from causing major damage.
Once the fruits are in sight, there is another challenge of keeping them from rotting. To do this, the fruits can be set on a hay or straw mulch or set on squares of plastic. If in contact with the ground they tend to rot or become a feast for other fruit eating insects.
Now here is something easy, knowing when to harvest a fruit. This is not a challenge at all. They tell you when they are ripe by loosening at the connection between vine and fruit. Simple right? Just be there when they ripen so not to feed other critters that like them too.
Why would anyone accept all the challenges of growing cantaloupes at home you might ask? Because the flavor of a fully ripe fruit from the vine is ? well something to fight, bugs, diseases and the weather for, to pick one fresh from the garden. I am ready to break out the chocolate ice cream. I will keep you posted.