In the warm summer months there is little else more comforting than a giant slice of cantaloupes between your teeth. Sure, watermelon seems to grab all the summer attention but if you’re wanting a fruit that’s juicy, plus has some ‘meat’ to it, then rockmelon takes the prize.
Yet, while a store bought specimen may be nice, growing rockmelon yourself is far more rewarding and the fruit definitely tastes better. So, how do you grow these tasty melons?
Growing Rockmelons in Australia
The optimum time for growing rockmelon, or cantaloupes as they are often called, is at the beginning of spring. While you can plant the seeds directly in the soil you will need to wait until late spring or early summer so that the soil temperature is warm enough.
The best way to get rockmelon started is to sow the seeds in seedling trays in early spring and plant out towards the end of the season. This ensures that once they hit the soil they will already be running.
Once the seedlings have been planted in the soil, douse them with a generous coating of organic liquid fertiliser to aid against transplant shock and repeat this every two weeks.
Caring for Cantaloupes
Add some organic fertiliser or composted manures onto the soil itself to encourage root growth. In order to grow wonderfully successful rockmelons you need to increase the potassium levels in your soil and the best way to do this is with some kelp or fresh seaweed.
Water your rockmelon plants on a daily basis for about 10 minutes or so and increase this to twice per day once the fruit has begun to set and the weather gets warmer.
Once the fruit does set you may want to lift them off the soil and put them on a bed of straw mulch or lay a hessian sack underneath them. Sow bugs will be your greatest enemy now as they begin to devour the fruit from underneath so take some precautions to ensure your fruit is protected.
How to Tell your Rockmelon is Ripe
Growing rockmelon will take between 12 -16 weeks before they’re worthy of harvesting. The immature fruits remain green until they begin to ripen to a luminous orange/brown. When they are fully ripe you can sniff the skin and note the sweet aroma emanating from within.
Plus, a light push to one side will easily snap the vine. If the vine doesn’t give way easily then leave it for a few more days.
How to Store Rockmelons
Storing rockmelons has never been a problem in our house – with the kids' voracious appetites they never last long enough to store. But, if you’ve had a bountiful harvest the best storage is to leave them on the vine for as long as you can.
Once they hit peak maturity they do need to be picked and stored in the refrigerator or in a dark, cool space will prolong their life for a few weeks. Rockmelons won’t last indefinitely so if the harvest is overwhelming try offering some to neighbours and friends.