How to Grow Watermelon in Your Garden
*** Easy to Grow ***
“When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat”
... Mark Twain (see more gardening quotes...)
Watermelon is one of summer's favorite fruits. In addition to the sheer delight of eating fresh watermelon, the memories that inevitably follow only add to the enjoyment. Watermelon even has a day named for it... National Watermelon Day (August 18th).
Watermelon is pretty easy to grow, but few gardeners practice growing watermelon. Probably because growing watermelon requires a so much space in the garden (unless you're creative with trellising and supports). Additionally growing watermelon requires a climate with long, hot summers.
In a cooler climates, try growing watermelon varieties that mature faster (and start the seeds inside). "Baby" varieties that are smaller are better for a shorter growing season. Also, row covers may help.
Note: I like growing the smaller watermelon varieties like "sugar baby" better anyhow. With the bigger watermelons, it is always a challenge to fit the leftover watermelon for the fridge!
Watermelon is a good source of potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and antioxidants.
Growing watermelon as a container plant is possible, but pick a variety with smaller fruits. Use a large container that's at least 2 feed deep and that allows drainage. Mix in a healthy dose of compost.
If growing watermelon in containers, you will need to water frequently (water from beneath the leaves) and feed twice a month with a liquid fertilizer (like compost tea).
When growing watermelon, select a spot with full sun exposure and good air circulation. Watermelons need a lot of sun. Good air circulation helps prevent plant diseases.
You'll have your best success in growing watermelon if you've added plenty of compost (or well-rotted manure) to your soil. The soil pH should be from 6.0 to 7.0 (Test your soil pH.) Watermelon also needs soil that drains well.
Note: If your soil is heavy, consider raised beds to help drainage.
Watermelon is a heavy feeder and doesn't like competition. Keep it weeded.
Make mounds of dirt 3 feet in diameter. Allow 4-5 feet between mounds.
Gardening Tips for How to Grow Watermelon:
Many gardeners have success growing watermelon by covering the mounds with black plastic (secured to the ground). The mulch helps retain moisture and warms the roots, keeps weeds out, and helps the fruit from rotting. (Leave openings for the sprouts and keep them uncovered by the plastic.)
If you don't use black plastic, mulch your watermelon patch well with straw or other organic mulches.
Plant seeds in the garden after spring's last frost and once the soil temperature is at least 70 degrees. (Watermelon seeds won't germinate if it is cooler.)
Plant the seeds in a circle around each mound, setting the seed about 1" deep and covering with soil. After the seedlings immerge, thin to 3 healthy plants per mound.
You can start them earlier by growing watermelon seeds inside a month ahead of the expected last frost date. Wait until after the last frost before planting them outside. Harden off your seedlings by gradually introducing them out-of-doors. Introducing them too quickly to the bright sun will damage the seedlings.
When planting the watermelon seedlings, cut a slit in the plastic sheet (if using plastic). Dig a hole in the dirt where the plastic was, and plant your seedling (I like to plant them nearly up to their first set of leaves). Water thoroughly.
Organic Gardening Tips for How to Grow Watermelon:
Slide a flat stone under each watermelon once it is about half grown. This can help keep it from rotting prematurely.
When growing watermelon, keep in mind that this plant does not take drought. Water frequently, but water under the leaves (not over top). Once it starts producing fruit, you can cut back a little on watering.
How to Grow Watermelon - Fertilizing
Watermelon is a heavy feeder. Fertilize every couple of weeks with a liquid fertilizer such as compost tea.
Watermelon is susceptible to several plant diseases. Try growing varieties that are promoted as "resistant" to Fusarium and Powdery Mildew. Most diseases can be prevented by rotating your crop from year to year.
Organic Gardening Tips for How To Grow Watermelon:
Keeping your soil enriched with well-rotted organic matter and compost, and fertilizing regularly with compost tea will keep away many plant diseases.
Watermelon will not ripen once picked. Wait until fully ripe before harvesting.
Harvest when the watermelon slips easily from the stem. Plan to pick watermelon in the morning on a dry day. (This helps prevent the spread of any plant diseases in your garden.) Be gentle when harvesting, so that you don't damage the vines and hinder new growth.
Store watermelon in a cool, humid location away from direct sunlight. (Note: these will not keep for more than a few weeks.)
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Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.