The muskmelon (cucumis melo), also referred to as cantaloupe, is believed to be originally from Africa and Northern Asia. Muskmelons are regarded as tender annual growing vegetables, which require heat in order to thrive. Most varieties of muskmelons grown today are hybrids, with some varieties taking 68 days (such as the Earlisweet variety) to 73 days (like the Passport variety) until they are ready to harvest.
How to Grow a Muskmelon
The University of Illinois recommends starting muskmelons indoors to get an early start on the growing season. Approximately 3 to 4 weeks before spring, sterilize your seed starting tray by rinsing it in a solution of 1 cup of bleach and 9 cups of water. Set the tray aside until dry.
Fill up each cell in the sterilized seed starting tray with a good-quality seed starting mix. Water each cell thoroughly, until the water begins to drain out the drain holes. Firm the soil down in each cell until it's well packed.
Poke a hole in the center of each cell, to a depth of 1 inch. Drop two muskmelon seeds into each hole, and cover with 1 inch of dirt. Place the cells in a warm location in your home (72 to 78 degrees F) and where there is plenty of light (ideally 10-12 hours of light a day).
Keep the cells warm and moist. Check on them at least once a day, and water from below. (See Tips section on watering from below.) Germination for muskmelons is 7 to 10 days.
Once seeds have emerged and plants have a true set of leaves, transplant them into your vegetable garden.
Transplanting Muskmelons Outdoors
Turn over the soil to a depth of 5-6 inches. Smooth and level out the area with your rake. Water the area until the ground is well dampened.
Create mounded hills that are approximately 2 inches in height at the center of each hill, and are approximately 3 feet in diameter, spaced at 3 feet apart, in rows that are 4 to 5 feet apart. Or create 3- to 4-inch-deep rows, which are spaced at 5 feet apart.
Dig holes twice the width of a cell, but only slightly deeper (approximately 1 inch). Push up from the bottom of the cell to remove a muskmelon seedling.
Put a muskmelon seedling into a hole, the stem should be near to the level of the surrounding top soil, fill the entire hole up with dirt and water each seedling well. Plant three muskmelons seedlings per hill and one every 18 to 24 inches if using rows.(See Tips for more information on caring for muskmelons.)