MINNESOTA MIDGET CANTALOUPE
ABOUT THE PLANT
Description: These small fruits measure 4–6 inches across and weigh 1-2 lbs. They have deep orange flesh that is juicy, sweet, and delicious. The skin is covered in rough, tan netting and is slightly segmented by vertical ridges. It’s the perfect melon for short-season areas, though it can be grown anywhere, and the compact plants are ideal for container gardens. It matures in 60–70 days.
Origin: It is thought that melons originated in either Africa or Asia. This little melon was introduced in 1948 by the University of Minnesota.
Usage: Slice and eat fresh right in your hand. Cut it up and add to fresh fruit salads. Use it to make delicious frozen granitas and sorbets or blend it in refreshing smoothies.
Interesting facts: Cantaloupes are related to watermelon, honeydew, cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash.
HOW TO GROW
General requirements: Melons require plenty of heat, persistent moisture and lots of sunshine. They prefer lighter sandy-loam soils that are rich in organic matter, amended with manure or compost, well-drained, deep, and slightly acidic with a pH of 6.0-6.8. Melons are susceptible to fungal disease, so it is better to use drip irrigation, rather than overhead watering. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Add a layer of mulch as it will not only help suppress weeds but also retain soil moisture. If your soil is relatively fertile to begin with, a monthly addition of a light 5-5-5 all-purpose fertilizer will be sufficient. Once fruits set, avoid nitrogen-heavy fertilizers so that energy can be directed to more fruit set and less leaf growth. Because of its compact nature, it can easily be grown in a container on a patio or balcony. If using a trellis, support the melons with slings made of old hosiery or old T-shirts.
In the garden: Sow the seeds directly into the garden when all danger of frost has passed for your area and the soil temperature is 65-80°F. Sow 3-5 seeds 1/2 inch deep in hills that are 2 feet apart in rows 3-4 feet apart. Water thoroughly. They will germinate in 5-10 days. When two or 3 sets of true leaves appear, thin to 1 healthiest plant per hill by cutting away the others. Once fruit is about 2–3″ in diameter reduce the amount of watering to prevent splitting or flavorless fruits. Water in the morning if leaves appear wilted. Keep the fruit off the soil by placing it on a brick or inverted pot.
In containers: Use sturdy, well-draining, 5-gallon containers. Plant 2-3 seeds 1/2inch deep in rich, light soil. Thin to 1 plant per container after the first two sets of true leaves appear. Keep the plants well-watered and in full sun at least 8 hours per day. Fertilize with an all-purpose 5-5-5 fertilizer every 3-4 weeks.
Transplanting: Transplanting is not recommended as melons do not like their roots to be disturbed. But if you want to get a jump start on the growing season, sow 2-3 seeds indoors ½ inch deep in peat pots 3-4 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Place the pots in a warm sunny window that gets at least 8 hours of sun per day, or use grow lights for 16 hours/day. Keep them well-watered. After true leaves appear, thin to 1 plant per pot. They will need to be hardened off for a week prior to transplanting into the garden. To do this, place the plants outdoors in a low-light area for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time until they are outside overnight. Plant the peat pots in their hills or container at the same level as the soil in the peat pot. Water in well.
Fruit: The melons will be ready for harvesting in roughly 60-70 days. Each plant will produce six to eight melons. One week prior to harvesting, cut down the amount of water that you provide to the vines. Water just enough to keep the vines alive as this allows the plants to focus their energy on creating sweeter fruits rather than making more leaves. Things to look for to tell if the fruit is ripe and ready for picking is: Look to see if the stem end turns yellow and if vines easily break away when the fruit is gently tugged. Look for melons with tan skin, and a small crack on the stem near where it attaches to the fruit. Look to see if the closest tendril to the stem has dried out. And finally you will notice that the aroma increases when ripe. Cut the fruit from the vine with a sharp knife.
Common name: Minnesota Midget Cantaloupe
Latin name: Cucumis melo
Growth habit: Vine
Life cycle: Annual
USDA Zones: 3-9
Seeds per ounce: 800-1000