Hand Pollinating Your Cantaloupe Plants
Cantaloupes are melons of the cucurbit family. Hand pollination of the cantaloupe, is done through the open flowers on the plant. There never has been nor will there ever be, a substitute for the beloved honey bee in pollinating the cantaloupe plant as well as so many other plants. However if the honey bees are not available, for the job there are a couple other ways to hand pollinate your cantaloupe plants. You can encourage the honey bees to visit your cantaloupe vine, by planting bee friendly flowers.
Pollinating your cantaloupe plants by hand will insure fruit set.
Conditions to grow your cantaloupes
Cantaloupes require heat and no environmental stress to produce sweet fruit. Lack of water, over watering, pests and disease all cause poor fruit quality in cantaloupes.
Two different ways to hand pollinate your cantaloupe plants
1. You can use a artist paint brush to transfer the pollen, however this method is time consuming and not as effective.
2. 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.
Flowers of the cantaloupe plant
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
Cantaloupe Female Flower
Cantaloupe Male Flower
Cantaloupe Mixed Flower
The best way to hand pollinate your cantaloupe plant is by using your own hands.
1. First find a male flower, and carefully pluck the petals off of it, leaving just the stamen, which contains the pollen.
2. Then find the female flower, and gently take the stigma from the male flower, and strike the stigma ten to fifteen times to release the pollen.
3. The complete flowers are pollinated the same way.
4. Between 6am and 9am is the best time to hand pollinate, because the flowers are only receptive for one day.
5. Fruit should set within a few days.
6. Be careful not to pollinate flowers that have not opened up yet, for they are too immature to be pollinated.
6. A single male can pollinate four female flowers.
7. You must retrieve pollen from the male's stamen each and every time before you attempt to transfer it to the female flower.
Paint Brush Hand Pollinating a Cantaloupe Plant
You can use a paint brush to had 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 effect Cantaloupes
Disease such as root knot, caused by a nematode, and infesting roots, cause excessive flowering, without fruit set.
Nematodes are worms, such as a round worm, or a thread worm. 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, by planting a high nitrogen cover crop like cereal rye before using the son for melons. Till the crop under before planting melons.
Hand Pollinating Cantaloupe Plant
Warnings and tips for hand pollinating and growing cantaloupes
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Fertilize the plants after the blossoms appear. Fertilizer with less nitrogen then phosphate and potassium. Use a granular type fertilizer with a formula of 5-10-10 or 2-12-12.
4. Cantaloupes are in season May through September.
5. Your cantaloupes need protection from cool winds.
6. High temperatures or high fertility can cause the cantaloupe to produce mostly male blooms.
7. Pull weeds as soon as you see them, making sure not to dislodge the cantaloupe seedlings or vines.
8. One way to tell if the melon is over ripe is by looking at the rind, which will appear quite yellow and soft.
Hand pollination has been shown to succeed only 50% of the time. However, without pollination you will have no fruit, unless the bees find favor with your garden.
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.