It’s improbable that you’ve never tasted the juicy, sweet flavor of a giant watermelon during your childhood. These fruits are the epitome of summer, and some gardeners can’t imagine trying to grow them in their home garden. Though it seems challenging, learning how to plant watermelon and raise them to maturity doesn’t involve that much work.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, planting watermelon at the wrong time and not caring for them the right way could fail. This statement is true for any fruit or vegetable you want to grow, though.
There are a few basics to follow to grow large watermelon plants. Knowing how far apart to plant watermelon, how much water is required, and the proper watermelon plant spacing are only some things to consider.
It feels like a lot of information to take in, yet it isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. Even if you’ve never planted a single fruit in your life, follow this guide to lead you to success.
What to Know before Planting Watermelon Seeds
Watermelon is probably the most refreshing food available. It consists of over 92 percent water, with other melons like cantaloupe coming in a close second.
When a heatwave rolls through summer, sometimes a big slice of watermelon is the best thing to pull you through. Watermelons, also called Citrullus lanatus, are African natives.
Researchers believe that instead of being a food source, people first used them for water. These fruits have a thick rind that protects the watery flesh inside.
To this day, Africa still has a few watermelon ancestors that grow in the wild from the Kalahari to the continent’s western shores.
People have been growing watermelons for over 4,000 years. This fruit spread from Africa to the Mediterranean over time. Eventually, this melon made its way to Europe and then to the Americas.
The United States mostly consumes seedless varieties, but other cultures embrace the seeds and rind and create delicious snacks from them.
Watermelons grow on long vines like their relatives, including squash, gourds, and cucumbers. Watermelon vines have quite a bit of weight, too.
The fruits themselves are heavy and come in many different colors. If you’re unsure which watermelon varieties to grow, take a look at some of the most popular cultivars.
The Sugar Baby cultivar is an icebox type – small enough to fit inside your refrigerator. Growers love these smaller fruits because they thrive in minimal outdoor space and are perfectly sweet.
This cultivar is best for gardeners of all experience levels. They have a sturdy rind that isn’t easily damaged and built-in resistance to fungal diseases.
Sugar Baby melons have dark green rinds and red flesh. Each one weighs about 12 pounds, and the mature plant reaches up to 24 inches tall. Vines spread from six to eight feet long. They also resist cracking and sunburns.
Feeding an entire crowd won’t be an issue if you grow the Congo watermelon. This award-winning cultivar is prized for its high sugar content.
The melons are an oblong shape with a lighter green hue than the Sugar Baby. As they ripen, these melons grow up to 30 pounds. The rind is also the best option for making pickled watermelon rinds.
Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove and discard the outermost part of the rind until it is predominantly white with a little bit of pink on one side. Cut the melon rinds into one-inch cubes.
Pour the vinegar, water, sugar, salt, ginger, red pepper, star anise, and allspice berries into a 2-quart pan. Turn the stove’s heat to high and boil the contents for one minute before adding the rind pieces.
Let the pot’s contents come back to a boil before removing them from the stove and allowing them to cool for about 30 minutes. Set the pickles and the juice into a 2-quart canning jar.
Cover the container with a lid and let it sit at room temperature for one hour. Set the jar into the fridge overnight and eat for up to a month. Keep the pickles refrigerated when not in use.
Moon and Stars
This heirloom cultivar is one that you probably haven’t seen at the grocery store. Moon and Stars watermelons are beautiful with a dark green background and bright yellow blotches that look like the moon and stars. Each fruit grows about 25 pounds when they reach full ripeness.
How to Plant Watermelon
The best way to plant watermelon or the way to plant cantaloupe is to give them all the resources they need. Things like knowing how far apart to plant watermelon and how much water they require per week are the little details that will make your fruits blossom before your eyes.
Decide whether to sow seeds directly in the ground or work with transplants already growing. If using seeds, check the number of days it takes for the plants to reach full maturity.
This number varies depending on how long your growing season is and when you plant them. Some gardeners start seeds indoors to get a head start on the growing season.
We believe that melons succeed when sown directly into rich soil because they have very sensitive roots. Most varieties take about 100 days from germination to ripen. Try to pick types that will mature within the timeframe of your region’s growing season.
Sowing seeds directly into soil must happen after the last frost of spring. Waiting two weeks after the frost is a simple way to ensure that they won’t be damaged or killed from the cold. Watermelon seeds germinate when the soil temperature is a minimum of 60°F.
You can start watermelon seeds indoors but handle transplants carefully. If possible, wait to sow seeds outside until it is between 70°F and 95°F. Good drainage is crucial to planting seeds. Wait a few hours after a rainfall if bad weather is in the forecast. Sow seeds about one inch deep and then use extra soil to cover them.
Gently water the area every day until they sprout, which usually occurs within five to ten days. Thin your plants once they are a few inches tall with at least two sets of true leaves. The same rules apply when you grow muskmelon or cantaloupe.
Transplanting watermelon isn’t ideal because of the shallow root system, but it’s not impossible and comes in handy if you have a shorter time frame to work with.
Wait two weeks after your last frost to dig a hole in prepared beds. Cover the melon’s root ball with soil and water every day for the next few days to prevent them from going into shock.
How Far Apart to Plant Watermelon
Watermelon plant spacing helps keep each one far enough apart to prevent competition for resources. Sow seeds at least four feet from one another. Keep each row in the garden at least six feet apart. Keep transplants about 18 inches away from one another.
Caring for Watermelon Plants
Watermelon vines spread far distances and might need a trellis. Install all supports before planting seeds to keep from disturbing the roots. Give the plants lots of room to spread and grow without disturbing other plants nearby. If space is limited, plant them on the outer edge of the garden.
Once you find a site, ensure it has full sun with eight to ten hours of direct light every day. If you live in colder regions, consider using a cold frame or greenhouse to keep the plants warm.
Adding lots of thick mulch or a black plastic bag helps to keep the temperatures high and prevent weeds from competing with them.
Fruits grow best in loose, sandy soil with lots of drainage. It is always wise to conduct a beginning-of-the-season soil test to ensure that pH levels are accurate and determine what type of fertilizer you need.
The soil should be between a 6.0 and 7.5 pH level. If it isn’t fertile, amend it with organic matter like aged manure.
Create a tall mound around your plants as they grow to prevent water from pooling near the stem. The goal is to keep the ground soil moist without drowning them and welcoming powdery mildew, anthracnose, and other diseases that occur from wet conditions.
Installing a drip irrigation system is usually best; however, it isn’t necessary. For fruits that contain a whole lot of water, they have to have steady amounts of it. Give watermelon plants one to two inches of water every week.
The amount of time you spend watering might change if the season is particularly rainy. Underwatering melons only very slightly creates more sugar concentration. Watering at ground level keeps the leaves dry and prevents burning the foliage and spreading disease.
Pollinating Watermelon Plants
Most cucurbit plants do an excellent job of growing both male flowers and female flowers. Unfortunately, sometimes pollination isn’t successful, and your plants grow without producing fruit.
If this happens to your watermelon vines, use a cotton swab and gently rub it on the male flower before doing the same to the female flowers. Both male and female flowers are yellow.
The females are attached to the part of the plant that looks like a small watermelon. The males are connected directly to the stems. Consider companion planting coneflowers or sunflowers nearby to help attract bees and increase pollination in the future.
You aren’t the only one who enjoys snacking on these juicy fruits. Watermelons welcome an assortment of insects. Some of the most common insect problems on your vines are aphids and cucumber beetles.
These are both reasonably simple problems to handle. Either spray the bugs off with a hose or install floating row covers to protect from all pests flying around your garden beds.
Wait until your melons are fully ripe before harvesting, as these juicy melons do not continue to ripen after they are picked from the vine. Large sizes are a good indication that the melons are ready.
If you’re unsure, count the number of days it has been since they germinated. Another good indication they are ready is if they have a curly tendril.
The tendril should be dry and yellowing or turning brown before you pick it. You can also check the underside of the melon to see if it is creamy or light green. The skin will also look dull instead of shiny.
If your fruits have split or cracked during your harvest, use them right away. Fruits that are still intact usually last about seven to ten days at room temperature. If you have a cool basement or small root cellar, some melons stay fresh for up to three weeks.
The fridge isn’t an ideal way to store watermelons because their temperatures are too low and injure the fruits. For more extended storage, the temperature must be between 52°F and 60°F with 85 percent to 90 percent humidity.
If you already cut your melon into chunks, the best way to store watermelon is in an airtight container for up to five whole days in the fridge. Always clean the outside rind before slicing into it to prevent bacteria such as E. coli from transferring to the pink flesh.
If you’re looking for longer storage methods, consider dehydrating your melons into watermelon jerky. Neatly slice the melon into half-inch-thick slices and dehydrate them at 135°F for 20 hours.
Summer doesn’t feel the same if we don’t have at least one slice of super sweet, incredibly juicy watermelon. Even though these big melons seem like a lot to take on, there isn’t an unearthly amount of dedication that goes into tending to them.
Watermelons are pretty fuss-free and reward whoever is willing to prep their beds ahead of time and give them room to flourish.
If following our advice on how to plant watermelon has given you the sweetest melons of your life, share this guide on planting watermelon on Facebook and Pinterest.