According to numerous health sites, watermelons are one of the world’s most famous and favorite picked-up fruit along with others like tomatoes (yes, it is a fruit), bananas, apples, and many more. Juicy watermelons which are also fresh are the best pick for summer. It has lots of health benefits. And it becomes more beneficial if you eat organic watermelon. So, let’s see how to grow watermelon in a simple and easy way.
Fruit salad with watermelon pieces just makes anyone’s day. How awesome it would be if you could have your own homegrown watermelon! Don’t you think? Ever wondered what makes a watermelon taste so unique?
Watermelon offers a triad of flavors, which are sweet, bitter and sour. The bitterness complements the sweetness and prevents it from overpowering and the sourness makes the bitterness more manageable. Yep, this is why watermelons are so appetizing.
Growing watermelons is a tedious task but is surely a rewarding hobby. I am pretty sure you already want to jump into the process so that is what we will do now. Without further adieu, let’s look into how to plant watermelons.
1. How to Grow Watermelon?
1.1 Step 1
The first step is to decide which type of watermelon plants you want to grow. There are three types- early season, main season and seedless watermelons. An early-season watermelon takes the shortest time to mature, that is, 70-75 days. It also has a petite size.
The main season watermelon plant takes a long time to produce ripe fruit which is around 80-90 days. They are also bigger in size.
Seedless watermelons are a comparatively new exercise in plant genetics, invented about 50 years ago. Seedless watermelons are a cross between several plants that create watermelon seeds that don’t produce them themselves. How do they propagate then? We will talk about this one later.
For now, let us look at the second step.
1.2. Step 2
When growing watermelons, the required soil temperature should be 65ºF. Sow the seeds 1-1/2 half inch deep in the soil in groups of 2-3, 18 to 24 inches apart. After the seedlings have established themselves, take out the rest and only leave the best watermelon plants in each group.
In some regions, the growing season might not be long enough. In that case, sow your seeds two to three weeks prior to the growing season in a soulless potting mix indoors. Make sure to keep the seedlings moist and warm until the outdoor temperature gets to 65ºF or warmer.
While doing this, make sure to not plant watermelon seeds too early as transporting a large plant outside can be a hefty task.
1.3. Step 3
Check the pH level of your soil. Growing watermelon requires the soil pH level to be between 6.0 and 6.5. Check the soil before adding any type of fertilizer and figure out what extra nutrients the soil needs.
1.4. Step 4
Water regularly, especially young plants. Watermelon plants require 1-2 inches of water weekly to keep the soil moist and not wet. If rain in your area doesn’t permit the required amount, then make sure to provide your watermelon with extra water.
Drip irrigation is a convenient solution as it provides water right where the plant needs it, that is its roots and it also prevents wastage.
1.5. Step 5
Pull weeds out regularly when they are small. If allowed to be grown large, their large roots would disturb a watermelon’s shallow roots subsequently hampering its growth. Applying mulch around watermelon vines to keep the soil moist and free of weeds is also advisable.
1.6. Step 6
Once the watermelon plants start flowering, the key to fruit is pollination done by flying insects. It is now in nature’s hands though you can manually pollinate the plant too. For this, take a paintbrush or a cotton swab and gather the pollen gently on it from the stamen, a flower’s male part and place it onto the fruit-producing female part called a pistil.
1.7. Step 7
Watermelon plants are really susceptible to diseases such as gummy stem blight and other fungal diseases. Use disease resistants and keep a nutrient-rich soil. Prune the extra stems and suckers off the plants to get the plant to focus all its nutrients on the fruit.
Cucumber beetles are also a common source of disease spreading. You can protect your seedlings from them by sheltering them with row covers until they mature.
1.8. Step 8
Once the watermelon has grown and ripped, it’s then time to harvest it. You can check out here to learn more.
2. How do Seedless Watermelons Reproduce?
Watermelon plants that are seedless are one of the most immensely popular watermelon varieties as they save the effort of picking out seeds and serve as a go-to snack. However, how do they come to be?
Scientists have discovered that breeding a diploid seed (with two sets of chromosomes) with a tetraploid seed (with four sets of chromosomes) produces a triploid seed (with three sets of chromosomes). This triploid seed produces watermelons that are sterile and can’t produce seeds.
They are hybrid produced by crossing male pollen from watermelon plants containing 22 chromosomes per cell with female flowers of the watermelon containing 44 chromosomes per cell. When the fruit matures, it contains white-coated seeds that contain 33 chromosomes per cell rendering it sterile.
Seedless watermelons are pollinated by seeded watermelon plants growing nearby. They grow similarly to normal watermelon seedlings, however since they aren’t busy producing seeds, they tend to grow sweeter.
3. Why are Some Watermelon Plants Sweeter?
To get a watermelon that is succulent and delectable enough to rule your fruit salads, you have to keep the plant happy until they are harvested. Provide your plant with enough water, provide protection from pests and add extra nutrients to the soil. This is the key to getting high sugar content.
4. How to Figure Out When a Watermelon is Ripe?
The biggest clue to look at is the spot where your plant had been lying on the soil the entire growing season. Throughout the blossoming season, that spot would have been white or pale green but once the fruit is ripe, it should have a pale yellow spot. Beware of not rotating the vine too much when looking for it. Just gently lift up the fruit to check for the same.
Another finding is the drying and turning brown of the green curly tendrils near the stem.
The surface would appear dull instead of shiny and the skin would resist the poke of a fingernail.
When these conditions are fulfilled, you are ready to harvest watermelons.
5. How to Grow Watermelons Vertically on a Trellis?
Watermelon plants require a lot of space. Gowing them on a trellis is an efficient way to save space as you are growing them up and not out, also growing them on a trellis helps with airflow and disease prevention like powdery mildew.
Also, it is easier to identify the suckers and remove them from your main stem so the plant can mainly focus on the ripening fruit. Sugar baby watermelons are a popular choice for growing on a trellis because they have a shorter maturity period and weigh less in pounds, hence their weight can be supported when growing up the trellis.
5.1. Step 1
When growing watermelons up, it is suggested to grow smaller and more compact varieties of it. You take a transplant of a watermelon seed or a completely new ungerminated seed and plant it right at the base of the trellis.
5.2. Step 2
Watermelons are susceptible to diseases, hence it is important to add worm castings to the soil after loosening it to provide your plant with essential microbes that would keep it healthy. Once you are done planting and filling back the soil, as the plant grows, it will start to climb up the trellis.
5.3. Step 3
Hanging watermelon plants look really pretty and as they grow, they need to be tied to a trellis and given extra support through melon hammocks. We will look at this later.
5.4. Step 4
When growing watermelons in garden rows, they need to be planted 24 inches apart, however, when growing them up on a trellis, you can plant them closer to each other. Watermelons require a lot of water and it is important to water them at their base and not leaves to avoid bacterial and fungal diseases.
5.5. Step 5
When first growing watermelons, they need to be supplied with nitrogen-rich fertilisers than phosphorus and potassium to encourage leafy growth but as they grow, they need to be supplied with less nitrogen-rich fertilisers to encourage more fruitful growth.
5.6. Step 6
Using mulch is also really necessary. Mulch is organic matter that is added to the top of the soil to cut down water evaporation and prevent it from drying. Watermelon needs a lot of water as reiterated already.
5.7. Step 7
Make sure to cut the extra stems and suckers off so the plant can focus on the main stem and its fruits. It depends on the length of the ripening season in your area. If the ripening season is long, you can get as ambitious as you want and have multiple main stems and fruits, however, if it is short, you have to get the plant to focus on a chosen main stem to blossom the fruit before the next frost comes.
You can check out here to learn more.
6. How to Create a Melon Hammock?
Creating one is super simple. You can use various materials such as a shirt, and stockings or you can simply use mesh-produce bags to hold your watermelons as used here.
Hammocks are needed because as your watermelon plant grows up the trellis, it will start weighing more and there is always a chance of the stem breaking causing the watermelon to fall down and squash apart.
You make one using stockings by following the instructions here.
Simply take a stocking, cut its leg part and then cut it lengthwise from the middle. Then tie the ends to the trellis and adjust your watermelon fruit on the hammock.
Stockings are a really good choice to use as they are stretchable and will greatly adjust to the weight of the growing watermelon.
7. Different Varieties of Watermelons
Watermelons have more than 300 varieties that are cultivated across South America and The United States. Let’s look into some of them below:
7.1. Sugar Baby
This is an icebox, a picnic-type watermelon, small enough to fit inside a picnic basket and sufficient for small families. It’s brix measurement that is its sweetness measured is as high as 10.2 and it is one of the sweetest watermelons to cultivate.
7.2. Moon and Stars
Moon and stars got their name from yellow spots of varying sizes spotting on its dark green rind. It can grow up to 40 pounds, has a thick rind and the flesh has a sweet flavor.
A millionaire is a seedless watermelon variety that grows up to 18-22 pounds. It boasts high yields and is held as a standard for seedless watermelons. The fruit has dark green stripes with a thick rind and the flesh is dark pink.
8. Watermelon Growing Mistakes that One can Commit
There can be some crucial mistakes that one may commit while growing watermelons. Check them out here.
As mentioned that a watermelon requires a lot of water, however, that is in its initial stage. Once the fruit starts developing, you don’t want to overwater it. A high concentration of water can dilute the sugar and make it less sweet.
Sometimes the fruit might not get pollinated on its own. To curb this you can either manually pollinate or you can grow some pollinator-attracting plants like sunflowers around your watermelon vine.
8.3. Crowding Out
As mentioned earlier, you might be growing too many fruits on 1 plant or maybe planting various plants together. Doing so makes them competitive and watermelon is a heavy feeder. Sow the plants 24 inches away from each other.
8.4. Planting in the Wrong Season
Watermelons are the quintessential summer plants, they require a high amount of sun, at least 8+ hours a day. If you think you can squeeze them by in a shoulder season, your efforts will only go to waste then.
These were some of the mistakes beginner growers could commit but now that you are aware of them, I hope you can be mindful now 🙂
There’s nothing better than a cool watermelon slice on a hot summer day. Watermelons are extremely refreshing and super delicious. I hope you found this article beneficial and now feel confident to grow your own watermelons.
If you enjoyed this post then check out other similar articles on IcyTales. Stay well and we will see each other next time ^^.