Rockmelon, or cantaloupe, are large fruit that grow on vines that trail along the ground. Each melon can weigh between 1 and 2kg and one vine can produce around 4 to 6 melons.
Rockmelons are round or oval in shape and have a textured brown skin that looks like it has been covered in netting. When the melon is cut open, the centre contains lots of seeds that are scooped out. It’s the delicious orange flesh that is a favourite to eat on a hot summers day.
Rockmelon vines need a fair bit of space with each one covering an area that is about 100cm x 100cm. This could even be in the back corner of the garden, providing there is direct sunlight. If space is an issue, a trellis or frame can be built which the vine will climb.
Before planting, dig lots of compost through the soil and pile it up into mounds that are about 100cm wide by 20cm high. Water the mounds lightly and then plant one seedling into the middle of each mound and water them again. These mounds make sure that the roots of the plant are in rich soil that is well drained and, as the seedlings grow, the vines trail down the side of each one.
Rockmelons can be grown in very large containers such as an old bath but the vines will still spill over the sides and onto the ground so make sure there is plenty of room around it. Choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and fill the container with premium potting mix. Depending on the size of the container, plant one or two seedlings in each one; a large bath could have two growing in it. Once the seedlings are planted, water the soil lightly.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Water the plants every day unless there has been a good amount of rain and apply a granular fertiliser around the vines when they start flowering, this will encourage more melons to grow.
Like pumpkins, rockmelon flowers are fertilised by bees which fly from flower to flower. If there aren’t many bees in the area, it’s a good idea to get a little paint brush to collect the pollen from male flowers and brush it on to the blossom in the centre of the female flowers. The female flowers are the ones with a tiny little melon forming at the base. Once this has been done, little melons will start popping up from under the vine.
The melons are ready to harvest when the stalk near the melon withers and the melon can be pulled away easily. The melon will also have a delicious sweet smell which is another good sign that it is ready to eat. Don’t be tempted to pick them too soon though as they won’t have as good a flavour and the flesh might still be a bit green.
Once a rockmelon has been harvested try to be patient and take it inside to finish ripening for a day or two. This will ensure that it has the best flavour possible.
HOW TO EAT
By far the best way to eat rockmelon is to slice it into long wedges and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Then, take the melon outside, lean forward and bite into it letting the delicious juices drip onto the floor.
Another great idea is to chop the orange flesh into cubes and mix it through fruit salads or just serve it on its own with vanilla icecream. If the melon flavour isn’t quite as sweet as it should be, sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar onto it and let it sit for about ten minutes before digging in.
Rockmelon can also be used to make slushies, ice cream and smoothies. Find some great recipes in the Smarty Plants Kitchen.
HOW THEY GROW
Rockmelon grow on a vine which will either scurry along the ground or climb up a fence or trellis. As the vine grows, flowers will form and when these are pollinated, the melons begin to form. The large green leaves on the vine will shade the melons from the sun.
Botanical Name: Cucumis melo
Life Cycle: Annual
When to Grow: Spring through to autumn in most areas. Very cold areas should grow them in summer and tropical areas should grow melons in autumn and early winter.
Height/Width: The vine will spread to 100cm wide and grow 40cm high.
Requirements: Plant in full sun and water every day unless it rains. Apply extra fertiliser when planting the seedlings and again when the vine is flowering.
Nutritional Benefits: Great source of vitamin C as well as potassium which helps those people that eat too much salt.