Should I prune my cantaloupe?
We have two Tuscan cantaloupe plants with a great many vines. They have begun setting fruit. I wonder if I should cut back vines that haven't set fruit so the plant can put its energy into the fruit that has set. Thank you.
Multnomah County Oregon
Thank you for using Ask an Expert for help with your melon pruning issue. There are several factors to consider.
It’s easily said that the fewer melons on the vine, the bigger (and sweeter) they are. What’s trickier is what exactly that “fewer” number should be. Too many fruits on the vine will compete for the plant’s resources, and all may be smaller in the end. However, a strong vine, in a good location, can support a larger number of fruits.
One difficulty in your area is that fall weather brings cooler day and night temperatures which slow final development of the melons. And, if there are too many melons competing for the plant’s reduced energy, all may be affected.
Remember that leaves are the ones converting even the reduced sunshine into energy for the ripening fruit, so they are critical. But additional flowers/fruit will divert energy away from the existing melons.
So, here’s where the art of gardening comes in. Balance leaf production with a number of fruits that can be ripened before the weather gets too cool or cloudy. Tuscan melons generally get to be around three pounds, so that can help you judge how close to harvest they are.
Have a good gardening year,