Growing Muskmelon Indoors from Seed – a Full Guide

Introduction Growing Muskmelon indoors

Muskmelon is also called Kharbuja or nutmeg melon, any of several varieties of netted-rind melons in the gourd family (Cucurbitaceae), noted for their musky-scented sweet juicy orange flesh. Muskmelons are among the most-important commercial melons and commonly eaten fresh.  Muskmelon thrives best on sandy or sandy loam soil with pH level 6 to 6.8, good fertility and drainage. In this article we also discuss below topics;

  • How do you grow Muskmelon seeds
  • How long do Muskmelon seeds germinate
  • Muskmelon plant care
  • Growing Muskmelon from seed
  • Tips for Growing Muskmelon in pots
  • Different varieties of Muskmelons
  • Growing Muskmelon problems

A step by step guide to growing Muskmelon indoors

Muskmelon or Cantaloupe is a species of melon that belongs to the gourd family. The term “cantaloupe” refers to two varieties of Muskmelon such as the North American cantaloupe and the European cantaloupe. Given that both types of cantaloupe are a variety of Muskmelon, their nutritional contents and also health benefits are similar. Though, the skin of the North American cantaloupe has a net-like appearance and a subtler, less distinct flavor. Meanwhile, the European cantaloupe has light green color skin and sweeter flesh. Though all cantaloupes are Muskmelons, not all Muskmelons are cantaloupes. In addition to cantaloupe, the other varieties of Muskmelon include honeydew, Persian melon, and Santa Claus melon. Muskmelons take about 35 to 45 days to ripen after the flower has been pollinated. Higher temperatures mean a shorter ripening time. Cantaloupe vines generally take 90 days to grow from seed to ripe fruit.

Select Muskmelon varieties for growing indoors

While you can grow full-size Muskmelons in containers, you’ll get the best results with dwarf cultivars that produce smaller fruits and shorter vines. The secret for a successful Muskmelon container garden lies in plant selection. Like most melons, Muskmelons produce long vines and larger fruits that can be difficult to maintain in a container. Bushier melon varieties with smaller fruits, including the “Serenade” and “Little Sweetie” cultivars, are available for containers. The plants produce Muskmelons about the size of a softball on shorter vines. Other varieties are Sugar cube, Tuscanito.

Choose a sunny location for growing Muskmelon indoors

Pick a spot outdoors where seedlings will get full sunshine and plenty of warmth during the day. The ground temperature must be above 21°C before you begin planting, or else the seeds will not germinate.

Fertilize your soil for growing Muskmelon indoors

Test your soil to ensure its pH level is between 6.0 and 6.8, which ensures there are sufficient calcium levels in your garden. Once your pH levels are correct, fertilize plant beds using compost or a natural fertilizer from a nursery or home and garden store. This will ensure that your Muskmelons are planted in a nutrient-dense environment.

Choosing the right container for growing Muskmelon indoors

These Muskmelon plants need plenty of space for their roots to grow, so choose a container that’s at least 16 inches deep and 14 inches wide. Indoor or patio-garden growers may want something smaller and also easier to move around. The pot you choose can be made from sturdy plastic, terra cotta, and breathable fabric. A close up of a ripe Muskmelon growing in a black plastic container and supported with string to prevent the Muskmelon fruit from dropping prematurely.

Muskmelon growing tips

  • Choose a container for growing Muskmelon that’s at least 16 inches deep and 14 inches wide.
  • Maintain even moisture until the last week before harvest, and then reduce watering to only when dry.
  • Train Muskmelon vines to grow vertically on a trellis to save even more space.
  • A trellis will hold the vines above the soil and prevent the Muskmelons from rotting. Though, if you plant a full-size variety, you’ll also need netting, old pantyhose, or cloth slings to support the fruit on the trellis and keep it from pulling loose from the vine prematurely. You’ll need a location where the cantaloupes are exposed to at least 8 hours of bright sunlight per day.

Sowing Muskmelon seed indoors

Step 1) Direct sowing is recommended, but to get a head start you can grow cantaloupe indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost in individual biodegradable pots indoors. Sow about 2-3 seeds per pot.

Step 2) Sow seeds about ½ inches deep in the seed-starting formula. Keep the soil moist at 21°C and seedlings emerge in 7-10 days. As soon as seedlings emerge, provide plenty of light on a sunny windowsill or grow seedlings 3 to 4 inches beneath fluorescent plant lights turned on 16 hours per day, off for 8 hours at night. Raise the lights as the Muskmelon plants grow taller. Incandescent bulbs will not work for these processes because they will get too hot and most plants require a dark period to grow, do not leave lights on for 24 hours.

Step 3) Seedlings do not require much fertilizer, feed when they are about 3 to 4 weeks old using a starter solution (half strength of a complete indoor houseplant food). Thin to one Muskmelon plant per pot.

Step 4) Before planting in the garden, seedling plants want to be “hardened off”. Accustom young Muskmelon plants to outdoor conditions by moving them to a sheltered place outside for a week. Be sure to protect plants from wind and hot sun. If frost threatens at night, cover or brings containers indoors, then take them out again in the morning time. This hardening off procedure toughens the plant’s cell structure and reduces transplant shock and scalding.

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Growing Muskmelon indoors from seed

Step 1) Plant Muskmelon seeds in high-fertility soil amended with mature compost. Composted soil retains water and balances the soil acidity/ alkalinity ratio. Muskmelons need soil pH levels of 6.0 to 6.8. Improper pH balance reduces the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the soil.

Step 2) Select a full-sun area of the garden to plant cantaloupe and give it 3 to 12 feet to spread. As they need a long growing season, melons are best started indoors approximately 3 weeks prior to the last frost of the season. Sow seeds ½ inches deep in flats or small pots, sowing 3 seeds per pot. Keep medium moist while awaiting seed germination. Additionally, Muskmelon seeds will show better germination rates with heat. Keep the soil between 26-32°C, using a heat mat if necessary.

Step 3) Once seeds start to germinate, lower soil temperature, for 1-2 weeks, also decreasing water. Thin to one plant per cell or pot. Once the first set of true leaves has developed, reduce watering once more, but do not allow plants to become desiccated.

Step 4) Plant six seeds per hill, 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Thin them to three plants when they have grown 2 to 3 leaves. Seeds germinate in 3 to 5 days when the temperature is 32°C and 10 days at 21°C.

Step 5) Harden plant by gradually exposing to outdoor conditions and transplant to a permanent site in late spring after the last frost has passed. If possible, transplant on an overcast day to minimize wilting and make a more amenable environment for your young plant.

Planting Muskmelon in pots/containers

If you want to grow Muskmelon in pots, there are a few caveats you should know prior to planting your container grown cantaloupes. Unless you can provide an extra-large container such as a half whiskey barrel, you’ll have better luck with a dwarf variety such as ‘Minnesota Midget,’ which produces juicy melons weighing about 3 pounds, or ‘Sugar Cube,’ a sweet, disease-resistant variety that tops out at about 2 pounds. Look for a container that holds at least about 5 gallons of potting soil. A trellis will hold the vines above the soil and prevent the Muskmelons from rotting. Though, if you plant a full-size variety, you’ll also need netting, old pantyhose, or cloth slings to support the Muskmelon fruit on the trellis and keep it from pulling loose from the vine prematurely. You’ll need a location where the cantaloupes are exposed to at least eight hours of bright sunlight per day.

Muskmelon plant care

Muskmelon can fall prey to damage from aphids, cucumber beetles, cutworms, and squash bugs. But because you’re growing Muskmelon in containers, you can keep a closer eye on the plants and nip any infestations in the bud. To manage aphids, spray the vines and leaves with a strong blast of water and then apply diatomaceous earth which can help manage squash bug infestations.

In the case of bad infestations, you can use neem oil or insecticidal soap, which can help get rid of cutworms and cucumber beetles. Alternaria leaf blight affects Muskmelon plants in hot, humid conditions, and it’s caused by the fungus Alternaria cucumerina. The disease begins as small brownish-yellow spots that grow bigger and spread to foliage. Remove affected plant eaves and spray with a fungicide. To avoid this condition, bring plants indoors during very hot and rainy weather. Downy mildew is a common but annoying disease that causes brown spots on the Muskmelon leaves and eventually kills them. It is caused by Pseudoperonospora cubensis and is best treated with a fungicide. To avoid it in the first place, keep the plant out of overly humid conditions and abstain from overhead watering.

How and when to harvest Muskmelons

When rinds begin to change from green to tan or yellow, the Muskmelon is typically ripe enough to pick. Be careful not to pick too early, however. Your Muskmelons will be ripe and ready to eat by late summer or early fall. You’ll know your Muskmelons are ready for harvest when you can smell the melon through the skin. Once they’ve been picked from the vine, Muskmelons will get softer, but not sweeter. If you don’t eat your melons shortly after harvest, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 12 to 15 days.

Look for a crack in the stem where it attaches to the fruit. This is a sign of ripeness as well. The fruit must be easy to separate from the vine, but if they fall off by themselves they are usually overripe. Harvest Muskmelon when vines are dry and are careful not to damage them. Muskmelons will soften after harvesting, but will not continue to sweeten off the vine. Muskmelon can be stored uncut for 5 or 6 days. If cut, they can last in the refrigerator for 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic.

Commonly asked questions about growing Muskmelons

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Questions about growing Muskmelons.
Questions about growing Muskmelons.
Is it better to grow Muskmelon seeds or plants?

Muskmelon can be direct sown after all danger of frost or started indoors 3-4 weeks before setting out.

Which is better watermelon or Muskmelon?

Watermelon is best to eat when cut and Muskmelon is delicious as a juice.

Is Muskmelon a climber?

Like all melons, Muskmelons are annual vines that need a long warm growing season. They have hairy trailing stems with clasping tendrils and bear round to lobed plant leaves.

How long does it take to grow Muskmelon?

Muskmelon fruits take 35 to 45 days to ripen after the flower has been pollinated. Higher temperature levels mean a shorter ripening time. Muskmelon vines take 90 days to grow from seed to ripe fruit.

How far apart do you plant Muskmelon?

Space Muskmelon plants 36 to 42 inches apart. Or, to save space, plant Muskmelons 12 inches apart at the base of a trellis. When trellising Muskmelons, tie vines to the trellis daily, using soft plant ties that won’t crush stems. A trellis for Muskmelon should be large up to 8 feet tall and 20 feet wide in warmest climates.

Why does Muskmelon fruit have a bitter or poor flavor?

Bitter flavor can be caused by a number of factors such as hot and dry temperatures, overwatering, or poor soil fertilization. Muskmelons have shallow roots; make sure the soil is moist but never waterlogged. Test your soil for nutrient deficiency.

Why do I have lots of leaves but no flowers in Muskmelon plants?

The Muskmelon plant is likely getting too much nitrogen, which triggers it to grow foliage, and not enough phosphorus, which favors flowering and fruiting. Select a fertilizer that has a balanced ratio of the three major elements, such as 10-10-10, or where the middle number (phosphorus) is larger than the first number (nitrogen) such as 2-3-1.

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Note: The above-provided information may be useful to grow Muskmelons indoors in Greenhouse or Polyhouse along with on the Terrace, Balcony, or Backyards.

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