In A Sling

It has been an exciting gardening year here. After putting up new fencing and expanding the garden last fall, I was able to grow some vegetables I haven’t grown in a while, as well as try some new varieties. For me trying new things is part of the fun of gardening. And one thing that I was really looking forward to growing was cantaloupe. Actually they are more properly called muskmelons, but most people refer to them as cantaloupe – me included!

At my old place, I used to grow a lot of cantaloupe and watermelon. The soil may not have been the greatest for growing melons, but I had plenty of room and lots of energy to plant a huge garden. These days I seem to have considerably less energy, and thankfully the garden is a big smaller, though still plenty big enough to keep me busy. But we have a nice silty loam soil here that should be great for growing cantaloupes, and both me and my wife love eating them. So I started some seedlings this year and set out plants near the edge of the garden, after enriching the planting hole with some compost and slow release organic fertilizer.

Ambrosia cantaloupe

Ambrosia cantaloupe

My plan this year was to plant the vining things like winter squash and melons around the edge of the garden, where they could take advantage of the sturdy metal fence for support. I had grown winter squash that way before, and it worked out well. But somehow, it never occurred to me that might not be a good idea for the cantaloupe. I had forgotten that most cantaloupes slip right off the vine when they are ripe. Which means, if they are hanging up off the ground and left unsupported, they will fall to the ground and split open just as they ripen. Talk about a big uh-oh! Winter squash usually hangs on to the vine quite nicely as it matures, but not cantaloupe.

neck pumpkin hanging from garden fence

neck pumpkin hanging from garden fence

I thought perhaps I could keep the cantaloupe vines on the ground, but they found the fence and were vining up it before I even realized it. They also latched on to a nearby tomato cage that hadn’t been needed for the tomatoes. That meant I had to support the cantaloupes before they started ripening. Fortunately there are several different ways to do this, and I tried two this year. First I ripped up an old t-shirt and used it to make a sling for the young cantaloupe. The idea is to give the fruit enough support that it won’t fall to the ground when it’s ripe and slips off the vine.

That worked, but I found it was hard to get the shirt tied up to the fencing. So I decided to try the popular method of using nylon hose. Not having any of my own, my wife came to the rescue, and donated some old nylon hosiery for me to use. An article from Texas Gardener explains how to do it.

The trick is to make an expandable sling for the fruit that supports it, while keeping it or the vines from falling down under the weight of the expanding and ripening melon. I cut the hose in pieces about a foot long, then slit them from one end to the other. That made a nice expandable nylon support for the fruit that was easy to tie up to the metal support.

Waltham butternut supported by fence

Waltham Butternut supported by fence

Time will tell if the supports do the trick, but if I tied them securely they should hold on. The first melons I harvested were growing on the ground, and didn’t need any support. We also have quite a few winter squashes that are using the fence for support. Barring any injury or other unusual incident, they should do just fine without additional support.

Kumi Kumi squash

Kumi Kumi squash

Gardening is always an adventure for me, and this year the cantaloupes provided a little drama as well. Will they hold on? Or will they ‘split’ when the t-shirt or hose gives way and the fruit crashes to the ground? Stay tuned to see how this story ends. Hopefully these melons will end up on a plate. Now that will be a real happy ending!

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12 Responses to In A Sling

  1. Daphne says:

    I hope it works out for you. Last year I had melons growing up some old tomato cages. I used slings made of bird netting. It worked well, but too much of a pain for me. So this year they grew on the ground.

  2. Dave says:

    Yes, it was a pain tying them up. Next year I will try and keep them growing on the ground!

  3. Michelle says:

    I’m trying melons for the first time in years. The cool weather here mandates growing them on the ground and I’ve even got them in a now rather crowded tunnel to help keep them warm. Hope your slings work!

  4. Stoney Acres says:

    With the much smaller garden that we have now I’m going to have to come up with some kind of trellis system for my melons. I just don’t have the square footage I use to so I’m going to have to grow “up”. Thanks for the pointers!!

  5. Susan Klein says:

    Very nice job, Dave. I’m going to try the fence method next year with the winter squash.

  6. Jason says:

    Your melons look great! We are gardening in limited space this year, so we’ve been growing Minnesota Midget muskmelons, which require less space and produce 4-inch melons.

    In fact, I have one hanging over a wall, which I will gently reposition so as not to lose it when it ripens. Thanks for the tip.

  7. elizabeth says:

    Do you let any of the Tatume mature to winter squash? What do they taste like?

    • Dave says:

      I’ve let a few Tatume mature. I would say they are average tasting as winter squash. I think I prefer them as summer squash though. How did the bread turn out?

  8. elizabeth says:

    I didn’t mean to make any Tatume winter squash, but a few got away from me and I left one, since it was on the ground. I may try stuffing the other two biggies with a grain/veggie mixture and baking.
    I made a sandwich loaf, which was nice for a change, since I usually make rounds. I liked the crunchy millet and soft oats. It didn’t have quite as much flavor as the crusty multi-grain boules I usually make, but I’ve been enjoying it for tomato sandwiches, nut butter and honey and just plain and it seems to keep well. I also tried the rolls on your site and I liked the millet/oat bread better. I don’t usually add sweeteners to my bread and I think both had either honey or sugar. I like trying new recipes, Thank you for posting them!

    • Dave says:

      The rolls must be an old recipe. I would like to find a better roll recipe myself. And I love a good crusty whole grain boule too. The Whole Grain Bread recipe works for that, but we like the sandwich loaf better for toast and sandwiches, and I don’t always have the time for a sourdough loaf. I’ve got a loaf in the oven today, made with cracked wheat and oatmeal. It will be good for sandwiches and croutons for salad.

  9. elizabeth says:

    I should make some croutons, how do you make your croutons?
    Sorry, it wasn’t rolls, it was the bun recipe, but mine looked more like rolls.

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