Heirloom. An old, classic favorite dating from the 1920s, this ribbed melon has a heavily netted skin. Also called muskmelon. As melons go, this one is a little more drought tolerant than most, but remember that all melons are more than 90% water. Likes hot weather. Delicious, firm flesh is rich with antioxidants. To save space, plant 1 foot apart at the base of a trellis where vines can climb.
Light requirements: Full sun.
Planting: Space 36 to 42 inches apart.
Soil requirements: Provide well-drained, nutrient-rich soil that’s high in organic matter. Work at least 3 inches of organic matter into planting beds—more is better. Soil should be at least 70ºF at planting.
Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist. The most crucial time for water is from planting to fruit formation. Add mulch to help maintain consistent soil moisture. Avoid overhead watering to beat foliar diseases; use soaker hoses instead.
Frost-fighting plan: Even a very light frost (31 to 33ºF) can kill cantaloupe vines. Use frost blankets or cold frames to protect vines and prolong the harvest season. To ensure remaining fruits will ripen before frost, remove any blossoms that start to develop within 50 days of your area’s average first frost date.
Common issues: Pests to watch out for include melon aphids, along with spotted and striped cucumber beetles. Fungal diseases such as alternaria leaf spot, gummy stem blight, anthracnose, downy mildew, and powdery mildew can attack plants.
Harvesting: Harvest when rind changes from gray-green to yellow-buff and the netting pattern becomes more pronounced. Look for a crack at the base of the stem. A ripe cantaloupe should slip right off the vine. To harvest a honeydew, clip off, leaving about an inch of stem attached to keep melons from rotting if they’ll sit before use.
Storage: Store melons in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you have extra melons on hand, dice or cut the flesh into balls and freeze it.