Watermelons aren’t a difficult crop to grow, so if you have the space I highly recommend learning how to grow this rewarding fruit. Growing your own watermelon is fun, and a great way to get some fresh summer fruit on the table. If you are thinking about growing your own watermelon this year, take a look at these tips for how to grow watermelon in your garden.
There are many cultivars available, including seeded and seedless types. Red-fleshed watermelons include Royal Sweet, Oasis, Sugar Baby (a smaller melon) and Fiesta. Yellow-fruited watermelons include Sunshine and Yellow Baby (also smaller). Seedless varieties are considered harder to grow in home gardens, but you can try Triple Sweet, King or Queen of Hearts, or Tiffany among seedless cultivars. The largest watermelon grown was well over 200 pounds and was massive in size.
Grow Watermelon from Seed
Seventy to 90 days are needed from planting to maturity, so be sure you have that many days available to let your melons grow. If you live in a colder climate, that means you’ll be better off starting your seeds indoors. You will need soil temperatures of at least 70 degrees. Should you wish to start seeds indoors, you will need a nutrient rich soil and seed starters that can be planted directly into the soil when you are ready to transplant. This way, you don’t disturb the roots.
To start seeds, fill your containers with seed starting mix and place the watermelon seed about 1 inch under the soil. Water well initially and keep the soil damp but not wet. Watermelon seedlings sprout and grow quickly, making them very susceptible to becoming root bound in small containers. Keep your seedlings in a sunny location. If you are starting them in the garden, they will flourish best in hills. Add fertilizer when starting seeds to help germination and early growth.
When your watermelon seedlings are a couple of inches high and have at least one set of true leaves then can be planted out into the garden. You can get it in the ground when it’s warmed up. Mid to late May is a popular time for west coast folks, but on the east coast, June to July works quite well too.
Growing the vines in raised rows, known as hills, ensures good drainage and will hold the sun’s heat longer. Space the plants about 2 feet apart in a 5-foot-wide hill. But if you’re growing in rows, space 6 feet apart by 6 feet apart. Handle them gently when you transplant. After you transplant, pest control jacksonville fl suggests to cover the plants with row covers to keep pests at bay. You’ll remove the row covers when you see both male and female flowers on the vine. There are experts that can help you get rid of pests and you can go on their page here to get help.
As far as soil acidity, they prefer a pH in the 6.0 to 6.8 range for best growth, but will be fine in soils down to a 5.0 pH as well. People have to check out rat removal sydney if they need the best pest removal. A sandy, loamy soil rich in nutrients is the best for watermelons, to provide good drainage. Make sure that your soil is amended with plenty of organic material. Watermelon’s are heavy feeders and will grow better and taste sweeter in nice, rich soil. It’s possible to grow watermelon in containers, too. You’ll want at least a five-gallon container so the plant has enough root space, but you can teach your watermelon to climb upward.
There are two stages of fertilizing which apply to watermelons: young plant and fruit development. A young plant is going to require a high nitrogen boost to do its growth spurt. So for the initial stage at and after planting, using a high-nitrogen fertilizer is best. That will provide all of the nutrition your watermelons need to develop their foliage.
When the vines begin to flower, it’s time to switch to a lower-nitrogen, but higher-phosphorous and higher-potassium fertilizer. The combination of potassium and phosphorous is necessary for stimulating flower production and for healthy fruiting.
How to Care for Watermelons
Give the plants enough space. Watermelons need space. A lot of space, in fact. Not only do most watermelon plants grow large fruit, but they also need a lot of space for their vines. Some vines can travel as far as 20 feet from a plant. To ensure your plants have enough space, place each watermelon hill 3-4 feet apart from the other and plant each row of hills 8 feet apart.
The time at which your watermelon vines will be most sensitive is when they’re still young, as they’re still vining and spreading out. Until the leaves create a canopy to shelter the vine beneath, you may want to use a shade cloth to cool the plants down if the heat spikes.
Watermelons need an extensive and warm growing season, regardless of what variety you choose. Watermelons grow best when the temperature is 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and 65-70 degrees at night. However, watermelons are tolerant of hot summer temperatures, and can easily grow even in hotter conditions once established. They create their own shade beneath their leaf cover for the vine and its fruit to stay protected. Watermelons require 8 hours a day of sunlight to thrive. They will grow in shadier conditions, but the fruit may be smaller or less sweet.
While melon plants are growing, blooming and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Water at the vine’s base in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves and avoid overhead watering. Reduce watering once fruit are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melon. When you do water, water deeply from the base of the plant and water early in the morning or in the evening.
Prevent Soil Contact
When you’ve got watermelon fruits growing, you’ll want to make sure they don’t touch the soil. In order to grow great watermelons, you’ll need to put a barrier between the watermelons and the ground. This is to reduce the risk of rot and disease. Good ground barriers are straw, or even cardboard.
Mulching under black plastic will serve multiple purposes. It will warm the soil, hinder weed growth and keep developing fruits clean. Don’t let the garden get overrun with weeds, consider weed control products. They can easily choke watermelon plants out if you are not careful. Once the watermelon vines get growing it is easy to miss weeds. Be vigilant about removing them when you see them so overgrowth doesn’t become an issue.
Like most crops, watermelons are susceptible to damage from insects. In particular, you should watch out for vine borers and cucumber beetles. To protect your watermelon plants from these pests, you can use floating row covers. However, those aren’t a permanent solution as you’ll need to remove them when it’s time for the watermelons flowers to get pollinated by bees and other insects. Simply remove the covers when the flowers appear for pollination purposes.
Try growing herbs, nasturtium or marigold around your watermelon plants to attract beneficial insects and pollinators. A good companion plant is radishes. They help prevent some diseases and keep the cucumber beetle population down. There are a variety of pests that would love to eat your watermelon. Netting can help keep birds and four-legged critters from dining on them, while a food-safe insecticide can help with bugs.
Watermelons do not further ripen when they are off the vine. It will depend greatly on the variety you choose but the average time to harvest is about 80 days. You can find some early watermelons that are closer to 70 days and some varieties that will take closer to 100 days. Most watermelons are ready to pick and eat when the stem of the fruit is dry and brown and the underside of the melon has changed color.
You may hear that a watermelon will sound ripe by giving a dull thump when tapped. This can be an unreliable indicator, so also check the surface of the fruit, which should turn duller and rougher. The melon should snap off easily from the stem, with no tearing or cutting needed.
Check the tendril. If it’s green, wait, if it’s half-dead, the watermelon is nearly ripe or ripe; if the tendril is fully dead, it’s ripe or overripe; it’s not going to get any riper, so you might as well pick. When you are munching through the fruit, just be sure to put a few seeds aside from ripe heirloom varieties to plant again next season.