We all look forward to that time of the year when watermelons are in season. We get to the grocery store and peer into the large melon bin to discover they’ve already been picked over, and all the good ones are gone. At this time you decide you want to learn how to grow watermelon from seed in your home garden.
Watermelons are one of the most famous summer fruits with their high water content full of sweetness. There is just something about biting into a watermelon slice that makes you feel like all is right in the world, if for just a moment.
A fruit salad bowl filled to the brim with succulent chunks of cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon is the perfect centerpiece on the picnic table.
While the easiest way to get these melons is from the store or your local farmer’s market, growing watermelon in the garden is relatively easy if you live in an area with a long growing season and provide your plants with enough water to produce melons. Growing your own is also the greatest way to ensure you get melons with the perfect ripeness.
Growing and Caring for Watermelon Plants
So, you decide to try your hand at planting watermelons. While growing watermelon from seed is fairly simple, there are some important things to know before planting them in your yard.
Which types do you want to grow, how much space do you have in your backyard, and how long do you have to wait for them to reach maturity? As with any other fruit or vegetable, watermelons require specific soil and climate conditions to flourish.
Learn how to plant watermelon seeds indoors and in the garden and give your plants the care they need to produce healthy fruit. Learn when to harvest them at the end of the season and store and prepare them for eating.
Things to Know before Growing Watermelon from Seed
While some plant seeds grow quite well no matter where you sow them, watermelons are a different story. These plants take some time to grow and are finicky about their care.
Here are some vital bits of information to know before growing watermelon from seed to ensure your plants get what they want to produce the perfect-sized melons packed with sweet goodness.
When is the best time to plant watermelon seeds? Watermelon plants are slow growers with a long growing season, and they cannot survive outside until after the last frost passes.
It’s vital to start the seeds indoors in early spring if you live in an area with a short growing season. These plants love rich soil, and they are heavy feeders, so it’s a great idea to test your garden dirt pH to ensure it is between 7.0 and 8.0 and amend it with organic matter if necessary.
They enjoy growing in the sunshine and desire eight to ten hours of full sun daily. Watermelons require plenty of room to grow, with watermelon vines reaching up to 20 feet per plant, so plan the garden size accordingly.
However, there are different watermelon varieties, and some of them are ideal choices for a smaller garden with a trellis. Some small heirloom and hybrid types include Sugar Baby, Jubilee, and Charleston Gray.
How to Plant Watermelon Seeds Indoors
It’s always useful to start your seeds inside where the temperature is consistently warm a month or two before transplanting them in the garden, especially if you live in an area with a shorter growing season. Find out how to plant watermelon seeds indoors and care for them for healthy germination.
About seven weeks before spring’s last frost, fill seed starting trays with soil and sow the watermelon seeds indoors. An optimal way to determine how deep to plant watermelon seeds is to check the seed packet since the types vary.
Generally, place the seeds a half-inch deep beneath the dirt. Spray the soil surface with a water bottle to moisten it without getting it too soggy.
Set the tray in a warm area where the temperature is between 80 to 90°F, and keep the dirt damp to encourage germination. If your home isn’t warm enough, consider using a grow light or plant heating mat. Once the seeds germinate, keep the temperature around 75°F as they grow into seedlings.
How to Grow Watermelon from Seed in the Garden
After your watermelon seeds germinate, it’s time to prepare them for the outdoors after the danger of frost is no longer a threat and the soil temperature is just right. Prepare the garden bed and transplant your seedlings in the ground with the right spacing.
Before you plant the seedlings outside, harden them off first to prevent the plants from too much temperature shock. Move them outdoors for a couple of hours every day for about a week.
Start by setting them in a shady area and eventually move them to a sunny spot as the week progresses. Prepare the garden bed by ensuring the dirt is well-draining and nutrient-rich.
If your soil is lacking, add a couple of inches of compost or organic material and work it into the garden. Dig holes slightly bigger than the base of each plant. Make sure to give them proper spacing by making them three to five feet apart.
Carefully remove each seedling and set it in its hole before pushing soil around the base. Press the dirt down lightly but firmly, and water thoroughly to help the roots settle.
Spread a decent amount of mulch or straw over the ground to keep the soil warm, retain moisture, and keep weeds under control. This material also keeps the melons from resting on the dirt as they grow and ripen.
What Do Watermelons Need to Grow Healthy?
After transplanting your plants, it’s time to give them some TLC. Watermelons desire the right amount of watering and fertilizing to thrive, and there are certain steps to take to keep your plants safe from pests and diseases. Discover how to care for your watermelon patch to produce healthy melons.
Since watermelons contain a lot of water, their requirements are a bit more than many other garden plants. They want roughly one to two inches of water each week, so consider installing a drip irrigation system or soaker hose.
If you water your plants by hand, avoid getting the leaves wet and splashing dirt on the plant to prevent spreading diseases, and do not waterlog them.
These plants enjoy growing in warm temperatures, so consider spreading black plastic or mulch over the ground around them to keep the soil warm. They also have a large appetite, so use a slow-release fertilizer regularly as directed or feed them a fish emulsion.
Pollination is essential to watermelon plant growth. These plants have male and female flowers, and beneficial insects pick up pollen from the male flowers and transfer them to the females to encourage fruit growth.
It’s also easy to pollinate the flowers by hand if your area is lacking in pollinators. Use a small paintbrush or Q-tip and take pollen from the male flowers with the long stamen and brush them inside the females as soon as they open.
Cucumber beetles, flea beetles, aphids, squash bugs, slugs, and snails are common watermelon plant pests. Signs of an infestation include leaves chewed with holes, damaged vines, and yellowing foliage.
The most reliable way to prevent a problem is to remove the bugs by hand as soon as you spot them. Otherwise, use row covers or insecticidal soap to kill them without damaging your crop.
Bacterial and fungal diseases are other problems to deal with while growing watermelons. Powdery mildew, bacterial wilt, downy mildew, cucumber mosaic, and fusarium wilt often plague these plants, so performing crop rotation is good practice.
Anthracnose causes cankers and lesions, and it’s crucial to remove damaged or diseased vines as soon as you spot them, keep the garden clean of dead plant material, and use a fungicide when necessary.
Harvesting and Storing Watermelons
You’ve gone through the entire growing process, from seed sowing to garden maintenance, and now the time of harvest draws near. How long do watermelon fruits take to grow? Learn when and how to harvest your melons for the perfect ripeness and storage tips to keep them fresh as long as possible.
It’s easy to get impatient when growing watermelons, checking daily to see if the melons are any larger than the day before. When are watermelons ready for picking? They take about 65 to 90 days to reach maturity, depending on the type.
The best way to tell if your watermelons are ready for harvesting is by sight and sound. Once the rind turns from bright to dull green and has a hollow sound when you thump on them with your hand, they are ready to pick.
Clip the melons away from the vine with a sharp knife or garden shears. To store them short-term, keep them in a cool area like the basement for two to three weeks.
After slicing a melon open, wrap the cut area with plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you have leftover melon chunks, put them in a storage container with a lid and set them on the fridge shelf for three or four days.
The best way to store and preserve watermelon for later use is with the freezer. If you cannot eat the leftover melons fast enough, consider freezing them for smoothies. Cut the melon into small chunks and lay them in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Flash freeze them for a few hours or until they are frozen solid, and then transfer the frozen melon pieces to a freezer bag or airtight container. Store the frozen melons in the freezer for up to six months.
Using Garden Watermelons to Make Salad
We are all familiar with a fruit salad filled with melons and grapes, but what about a melon salad with cheese? This unusual watermelon salad contains feta cheese and cucumber, and its refreshing flavor will leave your family and friends pleasantly surprised.
This recipe makes four servings, so adjust the ingredients as needed for more or less. We prefer to use seedless watermelons for this recipe, but any melon type is fine.
Start by cutting the watermelon into bite-size cubes, the cucumber into slices, dice the mint leaves, and then combine them all in a large bowl.
Pour the olive oil, salt, and pepper into a small bowl and whisk. Drizzle the mixture over the fruit, toss it all gently, top with the crumbled feta cheese, and serve immediately for the freshest flavor.
Watermelons are a great addition to the garden, and growing these fruits is not as difficult as you may think as long as you have the right soil and weather conditions and provide them with the space necessary for healthy growth. There are different varieties to choose from to suit your needs.
Knowing how to grow watermelon from seed means that you get to harvest the sweetest and juiciest melons at the end of the growing season, so why not share our watermelon growing guide and tips with your family and friend circle on Pinterest and Facebook?