Cantaloupes, or muskmelon, are sun-loving cucurbits that are suited to USDA zones 3-9 with a vining habit that will rapidly overtake an area. Because of their somewhat insatiable spread, you might be wondering if you should prune cantaloupe. Cutting back cantaloupe plants is generally not necessary, although pruning cantaloupe plants does have some benefits.
Want to learn how to prune cantaloupe vines? Read on to learn how to prune a cantaloupe plant.
Should you Prune Cantaloupe?
As mentioned, pruning cantaloupe plants isn’t absolutely necessary and, in fact, the more leaves that remain on the vine the sweeter the fruit. That said, cutting back cantaloupe plants results in fewer fruit which enables the plant to put all of its energy into a scant few, resulting in larger melons.
Another reason to prune cantaloupe vines is to make them easier to trellis, either using a net trellis or string and vine clips.
To prune or not to prune is really up to you. If you wish to grow sizable melons, you should prune cantaloupe vines. If you would rather have many smaller melons, skip the pruning.
How to Prune a Cantaloupe Plant
Like their relatives, watermelon, squash, and cucumber, cantaloupe plants like full sun, and sandy, well-draining soil that is kept consistently moist. When the plants are provided all of the above, you should see a successful fruit set. You must then decide about pruning the cantaloupe plants.
If you decide to opt for larger melons, the question is how to prune a cantaloupe plant. Melons produce a primary stem with many secondary or lateral branches. When pruning cantaloupe plants, the idea is to retain the primary vine, remove the first lateral and reduce the size of all the additional secondary branches.
Using pruning shears, cut lateral vines that grow from the primary up to the eighth leaf node. Take care not to damage the main stem when cutting back the cantaloupe plants. Leave 1-2 lateral vines untouched. Once the melons begin to form, remove all but a single fruit per vine.
Continue to check the vines for forming melons. When a melon is nearing ripeness, leave another melon on the vine to mature.
As the plant grows, remove any disfigured or damaged fruit and allow the healthiest fruit to grow. Also, remove any damaged vines. In this manner, only prime fruit is left to ripen and the previous cutting back of the cantaloupe plants will allow the fruit to attain maximum size.