Susan enjoys taking care of her cantaloupe plants and has a lot of tips and tricks for pollinating them.
Nothing Can Truly Replace the Honey Bees
There never has been, nor will there ever be, a substitute for the beloved honey bee in pollinating the cantaloupe plant—much like many other plants. If the honey bees are not available for the job, however, there are a couple other ways to hand pollinate your cantaloupe plants.
For one, you can encourage the honey bees to visit your cantaloupe vine, by planting bee friendly flowers.
Alternatively, hand pollinating through the open flowers on the plant will ensure fruit set as well, and this article will help you do just that.
Paint Brush vs. Hand Pollination
- You can use an artist paint brush to transfer the pollen, however, this method is time consuming and not as effective.
- The best way to hand pollinate your cantaloupe plants is by using your hand and plucking a male flower and transferring the pollen to the female flower.
How to Tell the Difference Between the Sexes of the Flowers
- The male flower on the cantaloupe plant has an open stalk in the center of the flower called a stamen. The stamen is where the pollen resides.
- The female flower on the cantaloupe plant will be on the top of a very small melon. It will have a knob called a stigma inside.
- The complete flowers are identifiable by the immature fruit appearing like a knot below the flower. It pollination does not occur, the complete flowers on the plant will flower without setting fruit.
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How to Hand Pollinate Your Cantaloupe Flowers
- First find a male flower and carefully pluck the petals off of it, leaving just the stamen, which contains the pollen.
- Then find the female flower and gently take the stigma from the male flower, striking the stigma 10–15 times to release the pollen.
- The complete flowers are pollinated the same way.
- Between 6 am and 9 am is the best time to hand pollinate, because the flowers are only receptive for one day.
- Fruit should set within a few days.
- Be careful not to pollinate flowers that have not opened up yet, for they are too immature to be pollinated.
- A single male can pollinate four female flowers.
- You must retrieve pollen from the male's stamen each and every time before you attempt to transfer it to the female flower.
How to Use a Paint Brush to Pollinate Your Cantaloupe Plant
- Use a small artist brush, and swirl around the stamen of the male flower.
- The brush will pick up pollen and you can "paint" the stigma of the female flower.
- Although this method can work, it is known to be time consuming and not as effective as pollinating with your hands.
Diseases That Affect Cantaloupes
- Root knot is a possible disease caused by worms known as nematodes. They attack the roots of the plant, and reproduce and suck the water and nutrients from the roots. Nematodes live in the soil and are killed or prevented from proliferating by planting a high-nitrogen cover crop like cereal rye before using the son for melons. Till the crop under before planting melons.
- Infesting roots can also cause excessive flowering.
Warnings and Tips for Hand Pollinating and Growing Cantaloupes
- When watering your cantaloupe plants, you should try to keep the plants evenly moist. They are sensitive to drought, so a steady supply of water is essential.
- Cantaloupes will continue to ripen after they are picked. Their sugar does not change after they are ripened, so they will not get sweeter with age.
- Fertilize the plants after the blossoms appear with fertilizer that has less nitrogen than phosphate and potassium. Use a granular type fertilizer with a formula of 5-10-10 or 2-12-12.
- Cantaloupes are in season May through September and need protection from cool winds.
- High temperatures or high fertility can cause the cantaloupe to produce mostly male blooms.
- Pull weeds as soon as you see them, making sure not to dislodge the cantaloupe seedlings or vines.
- One way to tell if the melon is overripe is by looking at the rind, which will appear quite yellow and soft.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.