Cantaloupe-Hale's Best Jumbo

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Harvest Size: 3 to 5 pounds
  • Days to Harvest: 85
  • Plant Size: Long vine

A classic favorite since the 1920s, Hale’s Best Jumbo cantaloupe tolerates drought a little better than most, though it’s still 90% water (like all melons). The fruit is ribbed with heavily netted skin. Also called muskmelon.

Melons demand 2 to 3 months of heat, making them challenging in northern regions but not impossible; use black plastic or landscape fabric to warm the soil, then plant through holes cut in the cover. Set out plants 2 weeks after the last frost date in spring for summer harvest. In the far South, another crop can be planted midsummer for a fall harvest.

Plant spacing: 36-42 inches apart; or plant 12 inches apart and grow on a trellis. Plants per person: 2 to 4.

Secrets to Success »

Cantaloupe is a thirsty and hungry plant. Prepare soil with several inches of compost or manure; some gardeners even grow melons atop their compost pile! Feed at planting and throughout the growing season with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. Provide a steady supply of water, keeping soil constantly moist but not soggy. Don’t water from overhead, which promotes foliar diseases; soaker hoses are best.

Provide plenty of room to roam. Plant in wide rows, or save space and grow on a large trellis, up to 8 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Wire fencing works well. If grown on the ground, keep fruit off the bare soil using mulch or upside-down pots; on a trellis, support fruit using slings made from netting or nylon hose.

Harvest and Use »

Melons will ripen all in a few weeks. When the cantaloupe rind changes from gray-green to yellow-buff and the netting pattern becomes more pronounced, the cantaloupe is ripe. Also look for a crack to appear at the base of the stem; a ripe melon should slip right off the vine.

Cantaloupe is rich in vitamins C and A. Store melons in the fridge for up to a week. Slice for healthy breakfast and for fruit salads; dice and freeze for smoothies, cold soup, or sorbet. An Italian delicacy is cantaloupe slices wrapped with prosciutto.

Try These Garden Companions »

  • Mint, lemon balm, basil (especially Cinnamon basil).
  • Honeydew and watermelon.
  • Strawberries.
  • Bee balm, lavender, marigolds, zinnia, lemon balm, oregano, basil to attract bees for pollination.

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