cantaloupes and tigger melons
I planted four cantaloupe plants and two tigger melons in my garden, and they have taken off and spread out a lot, and started getting blooms, but so far, no melons. They look healthy, no sign that I can see of withered leaves or even pests. I have seen a few bees around them, but, not as many as I would have expected, so maybe they aren't getting pollinated that way. There are tiny little ants on them sometimes, not fire ants, but some kind of smaller, dark colored ants. They don't seem to be eating the leave or causing damage to the vines, and I thought maybe they aided in pollination, but for all I know they are eating the blooms. Should I try pollinating them by hand? Is there any particular way to go about this? I did a search to try to figure out the problem myself, but I haven't turned up anything so far. I'll keep looking, but for all I know, I'm typing the wrong things into the search engines. I've tried 'growing cantaloupes in zone 8', 'why aren't my cantaloupe vines setting fruit?' and a few other variations with not much success. Maybe it's because the plants are too close together or from the temperature and rain? I've read that too much nitrogen can cause some plants to have a lot of foliage but no fruit, but I assumed that if this was the case, there wouldn't be any blooms on them either. I used a little fish emulsion when I started the seeds and a couple of times right after I transplanted them, but none for several weeks now. I haven't even been watering them, because we've had enough rainfall. The ground under them hasn't dried out completely, it seems to stay just moist enough to be good for the plants, and excess water runs off quickly. If over crowding is the problem, is there a way I can space them out now that won't result in killing off some of the plants? I know it's silly, but I hate to even pinch off seedlings to thin them out, and I usually start the seeds in pellets or cups individually so that I won't have to kill any baby plants. This is the most recent picture of the cantaloupes and tigger melons, taken yesterday before I started tackling the weeds. I have to weed every day, but this was after missing a couple of days. Anyway, you can see how close they are. I was a stupid, basically inexperienced noob when I planted them like that (pretty much still am). You can't see the blooms in the picture because the the tigger melons are the ones closest to the camera and the cantaloupe blooms are all underneath the leaves on the vine, you have to move the leaves aside and look for the blooms to see them, but they are there. On the other side you can see the pine straw mulch that is thinned out because the birds keep stealing it, and one of the little white bowls I used to make slug traps. For some reason the beer in the bowl looks darker than it really is. These were just things I mentioned because i find them kind of funny for some reason.