Alternate Title: The Cantaloupe That Almost Wasn't
Not long after I completed the kitchen garden expansion, I started seeing what looked like little squash plants growing all along the walkway between the new raised beds. While I thought it was kinda cool that these free plants were accidentally growing in my garden, I wasn't excited about the potential of battling the dreaded Squash Vine Borer on all these plants. There were like 10 of them!
I mentioned these squash looking volunteers to my friend J and she reminded me that last year she had something that looked like volunteer squash that grew really big but never developed any fruit. Just what I need, a non-producing space-hog. I ripped out all the plants, except one that was growing toward the front of the garden because I have a little more space in that area and I was able to work around it without too much trouble.
Week after week I watched this plant grow bigger and bigger, taking up more space and eventually covering the entire walkway in the front of the kitchen garden. Flowering like crazy, not producing a single fruit. And every day I had the same internal debate with myself, my selves arguing back and forth about whether or not it would ever produce anything and how much of a moron I was for letting it keep growing while I stepped over it and around it in the garden.
Then, one day something grew out of one of the flowers. And Holy Smokes it's a cantaloupe! I've got about 8 volunteer cantaloupe growing in the walkway of my garden, and now my backyard. The plant is about 15 feet x 6 feet. It's huge and it has now invaded the raised bed with the green beans/eggplant/cucumber.
I tried to grow cantaloupe from seed last year but it only produced one fruit that never became ripe. I don't recall ever disposing of it so it's entirely possible that I just left it in the garden to decompose and the seeds were subsequently carried to this area by some critter. Year before last I did successfully grow cantaloupe on the other side of the yard - maybe the seeds came from there. Or, maybe the dirt/compost I purchased by the yard had cantaloupe contamination.
The season is already winding down in Chicago. It's only 64 degrees today. The leaves on the volunteer cantaloupe are turning yellow and short of a garden miracle, I don't see how the fruit will have time to ripen. But, it sure has been fun watching this thing grow out of nowhere.