The sweet and juicy watermelons are the best summer gift; you get to enjoy their explosive taste, but when do you plant watermelon?
These big, delicious fruits are easy to grow at home and come in many varieties. Nothing beats the flavor or sun-ripe watermelon fresh from your garden on a hot afternoon.
Just like cantaloupe, watermelons require 2 to 3 months of the sun to produce ripe fruit. It is hard to grow watermelons in the Northern regions due to cold, but not impossible. Use plastic mulch to preserve the warmth of the soil or floating row covers to trap warm air near the plants.
Watermelon is a fruit that should be found in everyone’s diet. It has health-promoting vitamin C and antioxidants, including lycopene and beta-carotene.
The first most important step in growing juicy watermelons is to select the type you want to grow. These fruits come in 3 main kinds:
Early Season or Icebox Melon – It produces petite-sized fruits that easily fit in the fridge. It takes the shortest time to mature, about 70 to 75 days.
Main Season – The fruits are larger and take longer to ripen about 80 to 90 days.
Seedless Watermelons – This interesting type is crossed between several types to create a seedless type. They produce lovely fruits and have vigorous vines.
In these 3 seasons, you can grow yellow, pink, red, or orange flesh melons.
When To Plant Watermelon
The warm growing season may not be long enough to produce good watermelons from seed. If you live in the Northern region, you can start your seeds indoors 2 to 3 weeks before the last frost date. Remember to plant your seeds in a soilless potting mix.
If you live in warm and moist areas, don’t start your seeds too early. Wait till the temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer before starting your seeds. Transplanting is discouraged to avoid disturbing their roots.
You can sow watermelon seeds directly into the garden when the temperature is above 50 degrees F. Plant your seeds at least ½ to 1 inch deep, placing 2 to 3 seeds 18 to 24 inches apart. Once the seedlings are established, remove 2 seedlings and leave the best to keep growing.
How To Grow Watermelon
Watermelons love space, so grow them where they can enjoy plenty of space. Their vines can reach up to 20 feet in length. That’s why you can’t afford to limit their space.
Watermelons love rich, well-drained soils. Improve your soil with natural matter like compost or fertilizer that is high in Nitrogen.
Watermelon plants have moderately deep roots, and watering is essential from planting until the fruit forms. During this period, these plants need at least 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
Ensure that you keep the soil humid but do not overwater it. Water at the vine’s base in the morning; avoid getting the leaves wet. Avoid overhead watering. Reduce the watering once the fruit is growing; sunny, dry weather produces the sweetest melon.
When you notice that vines begin to ramble, it’s time to side-dress your melon plants with half a cup of balanced fertilizer (5-10-5). Make sure you use a fertilizer with more nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium. This encourages leaf and vine growth.
When flowering starts, use a fertilizer with less nitrogen to encourage flowers and fruit. You can use a seaweed-based fertilizer.
You can make a third fertilizer application when melons are set. When the fruits began to mature, withhold water to intensify their sweetness.
Mulching around the plants will serve several purposes. It warms the soil, hinders weed growth, and keeps developing fruits of the soil. Use a black plastic straw to mulch.
Watermelon plants do not necessarily require pruning, but you can improve the vine productivity if you do not allow lateral vines to grow and stick to the main vine.
When the watermelon plant is young, cut off the end buds as they form before the side shoots become vines. You may also pinch some blossoms to focus on fewer melons, but most people find it challenging to eliminate a potential fruit.
Flowering And Fruiting
Watermelon produces both male and female flowers separately but on the same plant. They start by producing male flowers a few weeks before the females appear.
Do not worry if the male flowers fall off; the female flowers with a swollen bulb at the base stay on the vine and bear fruit.
The blossoms require pollination to set the fruit; allow the bees to visit your garden for pollination to happen. Make your garden habitable by providing these bees with a good source of natural food.
When your fruits begin to get ready and ripen, gently lift them and put straw or cardboard between the fruit and the soil.
How Do You Know When Your Watermelon Is Ripe?
Watermelon can be hard to tell if it’s ripe, especially if you don’t know how to check the melons if they are ripe.
Here are a few tips to help you know if your fruits are ready for harvest.
Thump it to feel if it sounds hollow; if it does, it’s ripe.
Look at the watermelon color on the top; a ripe one has a little contrast between the stripes.
The color at the bottom shows a whitish bottom for an immature melon and cream or yellow-colored for a ripe one.
Check the vine; if it’s half-dead, the fruit is nearly ripe or ripe; but if it’s green, it’s still growing, so give it more time. If the vine is fully dead, the fruit is ripe or overripe so harvest it!
When harvesting, cut the stems close to the fruit with a sharp knife.
Do not pinch the fruit to see if it’s ripe; it can cause harm to the fruit.
Note that watermelons do not continue ripening after they are picked. They ripen over a two-week period, so keep your eye on them.
Growing watermelons is a fun activity that you can enjoy doing in the early spring to summer.
Happy watermelon gardening! You will truly love the results.