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How To Grow Cantaloupe In Containers – A Helpful Guide

Cantaloupes are fun beginners melon. They are easy to grow, and they are relatively hardy. A frequently asked question is if cantaloupes can be grown in containers. Believe it or not, they actually can grow quite nicely in pots! 

Maybe you don’t have much space in your raised bed, or maybe you only have a patio or a deck to put plants on. If you thought your dreams of growing cantaloupes were gone, do not fear. This is a complete guide on how to grow cantaloupes in pots. It’s everything you need to know and think about when growing cantaloupes in pots.

Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about growing cantaloupes in pots and what to look out for when doing so. 

Growing Cantaloupes In Containers

We often think about cantaloupes being grown right out of the ground or in a raised bed, where they almost sprawl out or vine out. Rarely do people think growing cantaloupes can be possible in pots, but it can most certainly be done! Starting from seed, let’s take a look at how to grow cantaloupes in containers.

Starting Your Seeds

Cantaloupes are a summertime crop, so it’s best to sow your seeds around four weeks before the last frost. You can start your seeds in seed trays, ensuring they are under light for 14-16 hours a day. This can be achieved by putting them in a sunny spot, or the better option, keep them under grow lights. Cover your seed tray with a plastic dome and keep the soil moist. 

Choosing a Container

Since cantaloupes are a vining, sprawling vegetable, they will need some sort of vertical support when we grow them in pots. So basically, you will be hanging your cantaloupes in the air with support. When you are choosing a container for this, you will need to make sure it is a larger container, at least a 5-gallon pot or 16 inches deep (for their roots to grow) and 14 inches around.

You can use a fabric or plastic grow bag, a hard plastic pot, a bucket, really any container you desire, AS LONG as it’s the right size. In this situation, I recommend using the grow bags because they promote healthy root growth, and your cantaloupes won’t get rootbound in a grow bag. 

Placement

Where you place your container matters, it will be hard to move the container once the plant has grown more and the vines are getting longer, so pick a destination where the pot can stay for most of its life. Cantaloupes like getting at least 6 hours of sunlight but do much better when they have closer to 8, so they are a full sun vegetable. Place the container in a place where the sun is good.

Transplant

When your seeds are a few inches tall and have some growth on them, they are ready to be planted at their final pace (in this case, the pot). Carefully take the seedlings from the seed tray and put them in a small hole in the container, cover with dirt.

Supporting Vertical Cantaloupe Growth 

You can use a few methods to support vertical growth for cantaloupes and train the vines to grow upwards. You can use:

Bamboo U Hoops: These are found at any garden store or Home Depot and are the easiest way to support your cantaloupes. They are simply just large hoops with one end open made from bamboo. Simply tie them from something, hang them down, and direct the vines to grow through these hoops. You can also add the hoops in once the melons have grown to lift them and support them. 

Tomato Cage: You can use a regular tomato cage, put it over the pot, and the vines will be supported that way. 

Plastic Trellis: Plastic trellis comes in rolls and looks like a grid. Cut sections of it, lay it over your plant, and tie the ends down on something. Use multiple layers as the plant grows. 

Caring for Cantaloupes

Cantaloupes, like most fruits, need lots of water to grow and produce yummy fruit. Ensure they are getting 1-2 inches of water a week, and make sure the soil remains moist. About a week before harvest, cut back on water almost completely and water only when bone dry. 

Cantaloupes are like a well-balanced fertilizer, so you can mix good compost into your soil before your plant. As the plant grows, you can use a liquid feed with the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) of 10-10-10. Feed once a week until the fruit has about a week to go until harvest. 

Harvest

Time for the best part! You will know a cantaloupe is ready for harvest when the fruit rinds change from green to tan. Where the stem meets the rind will also begin to crack. If the fruit is very soft, you’ve waited too long to pick. Reach in, be careful around the trellis, cut the fruit from the stem using scissors or a knife. 

Best Cantaloupes For Growing In Containers

There are wide varieties of cantaloupes, and some are much better for container growth than others. Here are the top 5 best cantaloupes for growing in containers.

Sugar Cube

This hybrid cantaloupe grows only 2-4 pounds in weight, so they are perfect for small containers. They are tiny and perfectly sweet.

Tasty Bites

The size of a large fist, these are perfectly small cantaloupes that can be as small as one pound when fully ripe! 

Alvaro Melons

Possibly the smallest of the cantaloupes, these grow only about 5 inches in diameter. If grown in a pot, they may not even need vertical support. Done in only 65 days, these are a quick, fun, and delicious cantaloupe to grow.

Tuscanito

Producing around 2-pound melons, these are another great mini melon packed with flavor. These cantaloupes are also known for their great shelf life, lasting up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Minnesota Midget

Also falling within some of the smallest cantaloupes around, these can be as small as 4 inches in diameter but are full of flavor! These are great for containers because the melons are small, but the vines only grow to be 3-4 feet long. 

Cantaloupe Growing Tips

Although cantaloupes are super easy to grow, there are some tips to help you along your cantaloupe season. 

Mulch

Add mulch around the base of your pot once the plant has been planted. This will help retain moisture, and especially in hot, dry climates, mulch will help a lot. You won’t have to water as much as you normally would without mulch. Remember to remove the mulch when you are ready to stop watering before harvest. 

Space

Cantaloupes, like most melons, really love their space! When you are growing in containers, only plant one melon per container. If you are growing multiple plants in multiple containers, don’t put the containers right next to each other; space them out at least 2 feet so their vines have room to grow. 

Nitrogen Sensitive 

Cantaloupes tend to be fairly nitrogen sensitive. When you are putting down initial fertilizer, don’t put one down that is high in nitrogen. Try using a ratio of 5-10-10. Also, when your cantaloupes are starting to fruit, cut back on nitrogen drastically; use something like 0-10-15. This will boost the sugars but stop the actual plant from growing. 

Pollination

Unless you have plenty of bees or birds around, you may need to help your cantaloupes pollinate. Male flowers will be produced first, and the female flowers will follow (the flowers that produce the fruit). Bees will land on both flowers, pollinating the female flowers that tell the fruit to grow.

However, if you do not have action in your garden, you will have to hand pollinate. Simply take a q-tip and rub it around the male flower. Then take the same q-tip and rub it around the female flower. Do this very often, a few times a day for a week, to ensure that the female flowers are pollinated. 

Harvesting

It usually takes a cantaloupe 35-45 days after pollination to be ready for harvest. Unlike other fruits or melons, do not wait for the fruit to fall off the vine because this will be over ripe for cantaloupes. It’s best to cut the fruit from the stem, do not rip or pull the fruit off the vine. 

Some Unique Concerns From My Experience Growing Cantaloupe In Containers

Having grown cantaloupe in containers on multiple occasions, there are a few unique issues I’ve run into. The first time I tried it, my plant was overrun with disease and pests. It’s interesting just how quickly this can happen. In one moment the plant is a bright green, the foilage and flowering are really taking over, and all looks well.

However, as soon as a fungus develops in the soil, that can all go to brown, dying leaves in a matter of days. Pests eating away at the vines can also cause huge issues. If they enter the fruit while it’s still young, it can destroy the entire development process.

My second attempt at growing a cantaloupe was much better, and I was able to get two fruit in the process.

The only issue I can remember was that late in the fruiting stage, the vines began to turn brown and hollow out. This meant the plant was no longer receiving vital nutrients from the soil, and in a way, the entire plant became compromised.

While I was able to harvest the cantaloupe (the outside was still a rough green color), the inside had that beautiful orange color we all expect to see. Upon biting into it though, the flavor was anything but sweet. It simply needed more time, but because the plant was failing, it never quite got there. I’ve experienced this watermelon as well.

While the soil was suffering from a fungus, the other reality is that I was growing the plant out of season. While it’s possible, especially in the hot southern climate I live in, anytime the temperature dips can have an adverse effect that plants sometimes cant recover from.

I just thought I’d share this bit that seasonality, nutrients, keeping the plant regularly sprayed with fungicides, and of course heading off pests before they enter the vines is super important to a successful harvest!

Final Thoughts

Cantaloupes are an excellent summer fruit that anyone can grow! If you don’t have space in your yard or garden, it is just as easy to grow your cantaloupes in a pot or container. With the right size container and the perfect mini cantaloupe, you have plenty of delicious melons to eat for the end of summer. Happy gardening!