By: Kathee Mierzejewski
Growing conditions for watermelons include lots of sunshine during the day and warm nights. Watermelon is a warm season fruit loved by just about everyone. They are great sliced, in fruit salads, and the rind is even used hollowed out as a serving basket or bowl. On a hot summer day, nothing tastes better than a nice slice of watermelon.
Understanding the best growing conditions for watermelons will help you grow this wonderful fruit.
When considering how to grow watermelons, know that it is not that difficult. The plant does all the work. They grow great in the south during warmer seasons, but if you live in the north, there are tips for growing watermelons that can be followed so you are successful in your endeavors.
One of the better tips for growing watermelon plants in the north is that you should start early varieties in the house and plant transplants instead of planting the seed directly into the soil. While the plants can be started indoors and then put outside, don’t start them too early because large growing watermelon seedlings don’t do well when transplanted.
Watermelons prefer sandy loam soil over others. Growing watermelons also requires space, as the plants are vines and take up a lot of room. Seedlings should be planted 2 to 3 feet (.60-.91 m.) apart. You should definitely include 7 to 10 feet (2-3 m.) between rows.
You’ll want to be sure to keep the area free from weeds. A good, shallow hoeing works best. You do not want to disturb the roots, and you certainly don’t want to cut any shoots off the main plant.
Another thing to consider as part of your basic watermelon plant care is that they need plenty of water. You should especially give them water when it gets dry, as it often does in the dead of summer.
So how long does watermelon take to grow? Growing watermelons take about 120 days from start to finish. How do you know they are ripe and ready to harvest?
You’ll notice that those little curly tendrils will turn brown and get a little crisp. Also, the color of the melon will get duller. The skin of the watermelon will be hard and resistant to the penetration of your fingernail when you try to press it into the melon.
Another way to know if the melon is ripe is to pick one up and turn it over. If the bottom where it sits in the soil is yellow, the watermelon is probably ripe.
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Read more about Watermelons
The watermelon, with the scientific name Citrullus lanaus , is one of the most popular fruits to consume when the warm months arrive. Its sweet and refreshing flavor is one of the best companions of spring and summer and, therefore, it is worth making a place for this tasty cucurbit in our garden.
If you want to learn how to plant watermelons , join us in this article where you will see a practical guide on how to plant a watermelon seed step by step and more tips to grow and harvest it.
Watermelons grow on vines so need a lot of room to spread and grow. One vine can grow up to six metres long and each vine will produce between two and four melons. You can grow watermelons from seeds or from a seedling .
Before you even think about planting watermelons you need to think of a couple of things.
Hint: when choosing which variety you’ll grow at home the smaller the better as they won’t take as long to grow.
1. 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.
2. Plant multiple plants, then thin. An easy way to grow great watermelons is to plant multiple seeds from the start. When they start to grow, you can decide which ones look like they have the most promise, and thin out the rest. You should plant about 8-10 watermelon seeds in each hill, placing the seeds about 1 inch deep in the soil. When the seeds have grown into seedlings, thin them so that only 3 are left in each hill.
3. Watch out for bugs. 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. If necessary, you could use a chemical or natural insecticide instead.
4. Don’t water too much. One of the great things about watermelons is that they have long roots that go deep underground. As a result, if you want to grow great watermelons you should only water them occasionally. Try to keep their soil moist, but not sopping wet. And when you water, try to water the ground directly, not the foliage, as that could lead to fungi developing. While it’s normal for watermelon leaves to wilt during the hottest part of the day, they shouldn’t still be wilted by nighttime. If so, your plants are dehydrated.
5. Weed early. All plants need weeding. With watermelons, you’ll want to stay even more on top of the weeds, especially when the plants are young. This is because you’ll find it difficult to get among the watermelon vines to weed once the vines are fully developed. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself accidentally cutting vines, or even stepping on them! So try to remove weeds early on in your watermelons’ development and put down mulch to prevent other weeds from growing.
6. 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.
Have you successfully grown watermelons before?
You can grow watermelons either from the seeds or from nursery bought transplants.
Though it can be tempting to grow watermelons from the seeds of your recently eaten melon it is not a good idea. Chances are it is a hybrid and so you won’t get your desired result.
Buy watermelon seed, which is an open-pollinated heirloom variety. They are more interesting to grow.
For growing watermelons from transplants use utmost care. The roots of the watermelon are very fragile and are very sensitive to root shock.
So the best way to grow watermelons is to plant the seeds where you want to grow your plant. Transplantation process can really hurt the plant. Select the place where you want to grow the plant.
Many growers grow their watermelon seedlings in bio-degradable pots. They can then transplant the seedlings directly to the ground with very little disturbance to the roots.
You can use row covers to protect the transplants from pests. Once you see the plant starts flowering remove the covers.
The best site for growing a watermelon plant is a place where you get full sun exposer. Also, the site should be well-drained so it does not get flooded after rainfall.
Watermelon needs a lot of space to grow. The vines can reach 20 feet in length. So plant watermelon where there is plenty of open ground.
The ideal soil for growing watermelon is Sandy and loamy soil. The ideal soil pH of the soil is around 6 – 6.8. Watermelon doesn’t do well in compact, clayey soils. They need airy and well-drained growing mediums for growing.
Add well-rotted manure with the soil. This will improves soil texture and will add valuable nutrients.
Before planting the seeds make sure you have mixed enough compost with the soil. They are voracious eater.
Sow watermelon seeds 1⁄2 to 1 inch deep into the soil. If you are sowing the seeds indoor in seed starting pots, the depth should be 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch.
If you are growing watermelons in containers, use larger pots than usual. This will allow better root-growth for the plants.
Watermelon vines need plenty of room. So while planting watermelons give a space of 3 to 5 feet between two watermelon plants.
The watermelons are a very hungry plant. So make sure you have provided them enough to eat. Before planting watermelons, add a hand full of compost with the soil. Compost improves the soil by adding micronutrients and also helps in retaining water.
Spray a bit of liquid fertilizer throughout the garden season. Cut back on nitrogen levels but continue with phosphorous and potassium once the flowers start to form. Also if possible add seaweed fertilizers to your watermelon plant.
Avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers once the plant starts fruiting. Excess nitrogen never helps the fruiting process and result in an increase in the growth of foliage and vines. Add a healthy amount of phosphorous and potassium. They help in the fruit formation.
Watering is very important for growing watermelons. It is crucial in keeping the vines healthy and producing delicious fruits.
As the watermelon vines are very sensitive to drought they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week while growing, blooming, and setting fruit.
The best way to water the plant is to give water directly to the soil and not on the leaves. Wet leaves can cause fungal diseases. Learn more about how to water a plant.
Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. Water early in the morning. Cut back on the water once fruits are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melon.
You can always go for mulch to help you in watering your watermelon tree. Mulching watermelon trees helps retain soil moisture, reduces weed problems, and improves the soil near the surface.
Watermelon vines grow both male and female flowers. They grow separately on the same plant. Generally male flowers appear several weeks prior to the female flowers.
The female flowers have a swollen bulb at the base and they bear fruits.
Watermelon flowers need pollination to set fruit. Watermelons are generally pollinated by insects such as bees, wasps etc. Watermelon flowers are open up for a very short time period.
So it is crucial that your garden should have a regular visit by pollinators. There are several simple steps you can take to attract pollinators to your garden.
If pollinators are not very frequent visitors at your garden you can pollinate watermelon by hand. You can read more about how to do hand pollination in this post.
Once the fruits start ripening, add some straw or cardboard beneath the fruit. This will prevent rotting by stopping the fruit from touching soil.
After about 80 days, your watermelons should be ready to eat! Once they are at this crucial stage, pay attention as they only have about a two-week window to be picked.
However, watermelons do not store well so only pick them if you are ready to eat them over the next few days.
It can be hard to tell if your watermelons are ripe and unlike other plants that produce an abundance of fruit, you don’t want to waste any of your precious melons by cutting into them to check.
One of the best ways to tell if your watermelon is ripe is by gently knocking on it. The melon should produce a hollow sound if it is ripe.
Another way to tell if is it ripe is by looking at color. The top stripes shouldn’t have an obvious contrast in color. Furthermore, the bottom should be cream or yellow and not white.
Finally, check the tendril, which is the part of the vine that comes up from the stem and is curled. Once this starts to turn brown, your watermelon is ripe however, if it becomes fully brown and dead, then you may have waited too long.