Proper soil preparation is an important aspect of keeping melons free of cutworms and other pests. At least two weeks before planting melons, it's important to destroy all remaining plant residue from previous crops. Deep plowing well in advance (around two weeks) can be effective at preventing many pests such as the seedcorn maggot and cutworm. You should also avoid planting melon seeds in areas coming out of pasture.
To keep leafminers, beet armyworms, and field crickets away, avoid planting melons in weedy areas and locations near alfalfa, cotton, and sudangrass. This is especially important when dealing with fall melons. In general, most insect pests of melons migrate from nearby crops and weed hosts, so it's very important to consider the location of your melon crop. Also remember to avoid transplanting melons after cole crops, root crops, and fall tomatoes. Planting melon seeds in well-drained soil is very important for pest control, as well.
Once you've planted your melon crop, keeping it well maintained is essential to warding off pests. One of the best ways to prevent pests is by keeping nearby field margins and ditches free of weeds. Controlling weeds can help prevent cutworms and darkling beetles, which migrate from surrounding weedy areas. Mulching, healthy soil management, tilling, and old-fashioned hoeing are the safest ways to control weeds surrounding melons, while more intensive weed-control measures are often required for ditches and field margins.
According to the University of California, mulches are very effective at managing the silverleaf whitefly in cantaloupe crops. The California Melon Research Advisory Board studied the use of both straw mulch and reflective plastic mulch in melon crops. While both of these mulches performed very well, the reflective plastic mulch produced the best results. Reflective plastic mulch reflects ultraviolet wavelengths that repel flying aphids and whiteflies. Proper installation of this mulch is also critical to optimally benefit your melon crop.
Keeping a close eye on your melon crop is very essential to preventing pests. Carefully observe your plants daily, inspecting the shoot growth, leaves, blossoms, and fruit from all angles. Check for signs of pest infestation, which can include unusual color changes and growth patterns to name a few. Building melon plants' tolerance to certain pests is another effective method of melon crop maintenance. For example, in the southwest United States, proper irrigation and fertilization management can significantly reduce spider mite infestation in melon plants.
University of Minnesota Extension
University of California Agriculture
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
Penn State Extension