The epitome of summer fruits, watermelon is easy to grow when it can receive all the summer sun it needs. From sowing to harvest, here are the tips to grow it.
Key watermelon facts
Name – Citrullus lanatus
Family – Cucurbitaceae or gourd family
Type – fruit
Height – 8 to 20 inches (20 to 50 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rich
Harvest – July to October
Sowing and planting watermelon
Watermelon needs a lot of heat to germinate well, because the seedlings can’t cope in the least with frost.
Since it needs warmth, it is best to grow it in regions nearer the Equator, or at least in a greenhouse if you’re far from it.
Seedlings can be prepared indoors in nursery pots, in a warm and well-lit room. The ideal temperature range is between 72°F and 75°F (22°C to 24°C).
The right season to sow watermelon
Depending on the climate in your area, sowing watermelon is best starting from the month of March under cover in nursery pots followed by transplanting in May after any risk of freezing has disappeared, or you can also wait for May and proceed to sow directly in the plot.
- Watermelon fears the cold, and requires warm to hot climate to germinate properly.
- Watermelon loves rather rich soil, feel free to amend the soil with compost or fertilizer before planting.
If sowing in nursery pots, count more or less 3 weeks before transplanting them to the ground. That’s why there is no need to sow early.
- Lightly press 2 to 3 seeds down in each nursery pot.
- Ensure that temperature doesn’t drop below 50°F (12°C) during germination.
- Once sprouted, keep only the most vigorous seedling.
- 3 weeks later, they can be set into their growing bed, provided that the last frost spells are past already.
- Provide for at least 3 feet (1 meter) between each plant.
Sowing watermelon seeds directly in the ground
It is also possible to sow directly in the ground starting from the month of May, if the area is prone to mild fall seasons.
This is the case in coastal areas such as climates nearer the Equator.
- Watermelon requires rich soil to produce a nice harvest.
- Feel free to add fertilizer or compost upon planting.
- Loosen up the soil well before before sowing watermelon.
- Provide for at least 3 feet (1 meter) between each plant.
Pruning and caring for watermelon
Since watermelon requires a lot of heat, it is recommended to place dark stones, shingles or tiles around the foot of the plant, they’ll store heat and share it to the plant.
Trimming the watermelon
If you’ve got the space in your garden or vegetable patch, you don’t need to trim or prune your watermelon to get nice watermelons.
Only prune for maintenance if you’ve got to control its spread to keep it from turning invasive and running over other growth.
- If so, pinch the watermelon stem just after a female flower (light yellow), counting a few leaves after the flower and cutting there.
Watermelon needs a lot of water to develop well and grow fat, especially in case of heat and/or extended dry spell.
- Water in the morning without wetting the leaves over the summer.
- Stop watering entirely 1 week before harvesting, because otherwise the watermelons would risk bursting open prematurely.
The watermelon harvest is best timed more or less 30 days after the blooming and can extend over several weeks.
How to know if a watermelon is ripe
You should observe the watermelon well, because it really isn’t easy to determine how ripe it is. Don’t wait for the watermelon to break off from the stem on its own, when this happens it’s usually already overripe.
It is said that the watermelon is ripe when the flesh has shifted from pink to red, and it must be eaten within the following fortnight.
Watermelon doesn’t react well to having too much water as it nears maturity, and would usually burst or slit open.
Best avoid watering during the last days before harvesting, and try to harvest in the afternoon instead of morning, so that the water content drops a bit.
- Weight is a good reference for maturity: it must feel very heavy for it to be ripe.
- It’s also possible to determine that the watermelon is ripe when the small corkscrew growth on the opposite side of where it’s attached to the stem is completely dry.
After having been harvested, the watermelon won’t ripen any more, and it will keep for a few days or weeks depending on how it is stored.
The ideal preservation temperature ranges from 50° to 57°F (10°C to 13°C).
- Avoid storing the watermelon in a moist room because this considerably shortens its keeping.
- The watermelon will keep for longer if stored in the shade than in the sun.
Even though the watermelon won’t ripen anymore after it’s been picked, its color and taste keep getting better for about a week, if placed at room temperature.
Smart tips and advice on video about watermelon
All there is to know about watermelon
Native to Africa, watermelon is appreciated for its powerful thirst-quenching properties, as well as for its high vitamin content.
Just like melon, squash, pumpkins and other gourds, watermelon is part of the vast Cucurbitaceae family.
Watermelon is among the largest specimens of this family that brings together gourds and squash.
It is most often round in shape, but can also be oval and grow to reach a weight of 65 pounds (30 kg)!
But most watermelons weigh between 2 and 6 pounds (1 to 3 kg).
It is known for the extremely high water content of its flesh (about 92%), which makes it one of the fruits that are the most loaded in water during the summer and is naturally very hydrating. Surprisingly, the seeds are where the vitamin C is found.
Watermelon is known to have powerful antioxidant activity.
Smart tip about watermelon
The worst enemy of watermelon is cold temperatures: ensure it will never encounter them!
Two watermelons by Ádám Urvölgyi under Pixabay license
Small fruit growing by Carl Kim under Pixabay license
Soon to be ripe by Zsuzsa under Pixabay license
Cut and sliced watermelon by Skyblue09 under Pixabay license
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