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Top Problems Growing Cantaloupe and How to Fix Them

Cantaloupes are some of the world’s most beloved fruits, found everywhere from the US and Europe to India and Japan. Their sweet and creamy flesh is a common addition to fruit salads, and the juice is rather popular in Asia. Many people enjoy growing cantaloupes at home but often encounter frustrating issues.

The top problems growing cantaloupe are leaf discoloration, plants that wilt and die, insects, fungus, slow-fruiting plants, plants that don’t fruit at all, and splitting melons. Most of these issues can be solved with better watering strategies, insecticides, fungicides, or adjustments in location.

Although these issues may seem daunting, they are easily solved. Read on to learn more about growing these widely-adored fruits. 

Your Cantaloupe Leaves Are Turning Yellow

When your cantaloupe leaves start turning yellow or they start to get yellow spots, it is most likely a sign that you have been overwatering your plants. Overwatering is the result of either giving your plants too much water during waterings or by watering them too frequently. 

Overwatering your plants cuts oxygen off at the roots, which means that the plant cannot absorb the oxygen. Without oxygen, chlorophyll (the natural substance that turns plants green) can’t be produced, so the leaves turn that dull yellow color.

When you notice the leaves on your cantaloupe plant turning yellow, that should act as a sign that your watering schedule needs to shift. Cantaloupes need approximately one to two inches of water every week during the first stages of fruiting. 

When you notice your cantaloupe leaves yellowing, you should immediately slow down watering. Choose to either water your cantaloupes less frequently or simply give them less water every time.

Your Cantaloupe Plants Are Wilting and Dying

One of the sights that people find most depressing when they’re gardening is wilting plants, and almost every gardener has experienced that kind of dismay. Since the leaves of your cantaloupe plants are large and green and the fruits are large and soft, cantaloupe plants display obvious signs of wilting and death when they’re suffering. Some of the signs of cantaloupe plant wilt and death are soft and floppy leaves, mushy fruit, and browning stems and vines.

When you notice any of these signs occurring in your cantaloupe patch, you need to take a look at multiple facets of your plant. The most important question to ask yourself is, what is the weather like? Though it may seem like a silly question with an obvious answer, you should consider what the conditions are like at night in your cantaloupe patch, because this can be the reason your cantaloupes are dying.

According to the University of Minnesota Extension, if the air temperature drops below 50°F (10°C) and the weather is wet, your cantaloupes are likely to suffer from wilting and death. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is making sure not to plant your cantaloupes too early in the season – make sure to wait until after the last frost of the spring to put seeds or seedlings into the ground. 

You should also make sure to plant them in a place in your garden or on your property that gets enough sunshine and stays warm enough that the cantaloupes won’t die off.

If you are already dealing with a crop of cantaloupe plants that are wilting and dying, they have less of a chance of surviving, but there is still a chance for them to thrive. 

If you are growing cantaloupes indoors, you can simply move the planters or pots to an area that is warmer and gets more sunlight. If you’re working with a large patch, it’s unlikely that you can move the plants, so instead, you should cover your plants with a thin yet warm blanket at night – just make sure they can “breathe” and that they aren’t being squashed by the blanket.

Your Cantaloupe Plants Have Flowers but No Fruit

Cantaloupes are one of many varieties of plants that bloom before they fruit. Most of the time, these plants have no trouble producing fruit and are easy to grow. However, every now and again, a fluke will occur, and your cantaloupe plants won’t put off any fruit, which is the reason you planted them, anyway. So, what gives?

These sweet ground-growing plants (also known in some places as “muskmelons”) grow two varieties of flowers – male flowers and female flowers. To create fruit, the pollen from the male flowers must be transferred to the female flowers, and for this process to occur, pollinators such as honeybees have to do the job. When something happens to the bees, then the process of pollination is interrupted, and you won’t get any melons.

Most of the time when bees don’t pollinate your cantaloupes, it’s because of the weather. If your area has been experiencing majorly wet or cold stretches, then the bees have likely hidden inside of their hive. 

Another reason that the bees may not be pollinating your cantaloupes is that the use of pesticides in your area has killed them off. If you use harmful pesticides in your garden, replace them with more natural bee-friendly alternatives and recommend that your neighbors do the same, as well.

One of the signs that pollination of your cantaloupe plants has been successful is that the male flowers fall off. If you notice that your cantaloupe vines have wilting flowers, but the rest of the vine looks healthy, there’s nothing to fear – this is simply part of the process of pollination. Soon enough, the female flowers of the cantaloupe plant will grow and turn into the actual cantaloupe fruit that you’ve been waiting all season for. 

Your Cantaloupe Leaves Are Turning Brown/Black

In general, your cantaloupe leaves should be a soft green color with as little browning or blackening as possible. However, sometimes you will encounter leaves that turn brown or black with spots or smudges. 

When you notice your cantaloupe leaves turning dark colors, you’ll need to take care of this as soon as possible. Darkening of leaves on your cantaloupe plants is most likely a sign of fungal infection or disease, and if not taken care of properly, it will ruin your plants and can even overtake your whole crop.

If your cantaloupe plants’ leaves are turning brown or black with little spots, they likely have contracted a case of Alternaria leaf spot. Alternaria leaf spot is a fungal infection that causes irreparable “necrotic” spots to pop up on the leaves of many different garden fruits and vegetables, but cantaloupe is particularly vulnerable because of its proximity to the ground. 

One of the best ways to fight leaf spot is to use a gentle fungicide in your garden. An option that is both human-friendly, as well as bee-friendly, is Mother’s Garden Secret Insect & Disease Control, which can be mixed with water and sprayed around your cantaloupe patch. 

Your Cantaloupe Leaves Are Curling Up

Cantaloupe leaves should have a sturdy texture with a broad and smooth finish. They have evolved to be strong and resistant to normal fluctuations in weather, but sometimes the leaves on cantaloupe plants will curl up. If you notice this happening to your cantaloupe plants, even on just one plant, you should resolve the issue as soon as possible – there’s a chance your cantaloupes have become infected and will need to be treated before it spreads.

Since even the littlest changes in the characteristics of your plants can be symptoms of disease or death, you must keep a close eye on your crops and your garden. This is easier for those gardeners who are either working indoors or have a small outdoor garden or greenhouse. 

One of the key observations you should make in your garden is the texture and shape of the leaves on your cantaloupes. If you ever notice them curling up at the edges, this is a clear sign of aphid infestation.

Aphids are minuscule pests that are bright green and red in color. They are particularly fond of munching on the leaves of your plants and will often hide on the underside of your cantaloupe leaves. Because of the damage they inflict on your cantaloupe leaves, the leaves may start to curl up at the edges. The aphids also leave behind a residue called honeydew, which attracts other pests and can bring more destruction and disease into your garden.

There are two major techniques that you can use to rid your cantaloupe patch of those pestilent aphids. The first of these techniques is the most environmentally friendly option possible, as it doesn’t utilize any chemical pesticide agents, nor will it affect the environment surrounding the cantaloupe patch. 

All you need to do is take a hose with a strong sprayer and spray the aphids off of your cantaloupe leaves, making sure to aim away from the rest of the garden (otherwise, you are simply spreading the aphids around!). Make sure to get both the bugs and their eggs off the leaves.

Another method of removing aphids that will likely work if the spray-off method isn’t effective enough for your garden is to use an organic pesticide. Some botanists prefer traditional chemical-based pesticides, while others like to use an earth-friendly alternative such as an insecticidal soap. 

One such soap that acts as a pesticide is Safer Brand Insect-Killing Soap, which uses potassium salts and seaweed extract to deter pests without harming the plants themselves. All you need to do to cast the aphids out is spray and walk away – just make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on the bottle. 

Your Cantaloupe Leaves Are Turning White

We’ve already discussed the issues that are most probable when your cantaloupe plants’ leaves start to turn brown or black, but what’s the matter when their leaves start to turn white? The issue of the whitening of cantaloupe leaves is similar to the issues that cause the darkening of the leaves, but whitening is caused by a different disease altogether.

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When you notice that your cantaloupe leaves are turning white, you are most likely dealing with a case of powdery mildew. Much like the name suggests, powdery mildew is a variety of fungus that turns the leaves of the affected plant a dusty white color. Unlike other fungal infections where the entirety of the leaf may be consumed by brown or black spots that are irreparable, powdery mildew is simply a layer on top of the leaves.

There are a few things that you should know when it comes to dealing with powdery mildew. The first key thing to note when working with plants with fungal infections such as powdery mildew is that watering needs to be done from the base of the plant and not from the top down. 

When you water plants from the top down, you spread the fungus from the top of the plant to all of the succeeding leaves. But, when you water only the base of the plant, the roots absorb the moisture and spread it to the rest of the plant without distributing mildew.

To cure a case of powdery mildew, you will need to use the same protocol that you did for Alternaria leaf spot, which is to use a spray-on fungicide. Using an all-natural fungicide is the best option because it will not affect the plants themselves, only the attacking fungus. This will also ensure that you are not coating your sweet and juicy cantaloupes with inedible or even poisonous compounds. 

Your Cantaloupes Are Rotting or Cracking on the Vine

According to gardeners and botanists at Texas A&M, the biggest culprit behind cantaloupes that rot on the vine is called “Southern blight.” Southern blight causes the cantaloupes to rot from the underside and ruins the interior of the fruit, rendering it spoiled and inedible. Cantaloupe plants are particularly susceptible to this issue if they are grown in areas with minimal shade and excess water.

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The experts at Texas A&M suggest preventatively putting a layer of mulch between the cantaloupe fruits and the soil to help avoid the effects of Southern blight and emphasize that there is no way that this affliction can be prevented with chemical supplementation. They also suggest that you water your cantaloupe patch in small quick intervals to avoid the collection of standing water around the plants.

Another issue that can arise around harvest time is the spontaneous cracking open of the cantaloupe fruits. Sometimes you will find that a cantaloupe that looked healthy has suddenly burst open in the patch, leaving it exposed to the elements and turning it into a feast for all sorts of critters.

According to the people at Vegetable Gardening Online, the main reason that cantaloupes and other melons split open on the vine is due to sudden overwatering. They state that melon cracking is an issue that cannot be prevented because it’s often caused by rainstorms and not by human error. This, unfortunately, is an issue that cannot be prevented. All you can do is keep up with normal watering and compost the burst cantaloupes. 

Your Cantaloupes Are Growing Slowly/Not Ripening

If you notice that, despite frequent watering and appropriate weather conditions, your cantaloupes are growing slowly or not ripening, then you should be somewhat concerned. This indicates that there is an issue related to the growing conditions of the melon, likely somewhere in the soil or the roots.

One of the biggest issues that causes poor growth in cantaloupe plants is insufficient sunlight. When your cantaloupes don’t get enough sunshine, they won’t grow at a normal rate and will lag in their maturation. You may have also planted your cantaloupes too close together, which means that they will be fighting for the nutrients in the soil and won’t grow normally.

To counter these two issues, you will need to make sure that you plant your cantaloupes in a full-sun area of your garden (perhaps opting to gently replant them) as well as make sure that they are well-spaced from one another.

Final Thoughts

Cantaloupes are a variety of melon that is enjoyed around the world. They are generally quite easy to grow, although there are a few issues that gardeners may encounter along the way. One of the biggest issues of growing cantaloupes is the tendency for leaf discoloration, which can generally be solved through using insecticides, fungicides, or changing the amount of water they get.

Other problems include poor growth or plants that don’t fruit. Both of these issues can be caused by a lack of sunlight and proper watering, as well as a lack of pollination. Make sure you’re watering your cantaloupe plants sparingly and avoid using chemical pesticides in your garden – this will help the bees pollinate better.

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Top Problems Growing Cantaloupe and How to Fix Them

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