How to Grow Watermelons

comments (24) June 29th, 2010

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Brilliantly colored and dripping with sweet juice, a perfectly ripe watermelon is a refreshing sumer treat.
A flower forms on a watermelon vine.
A sling supports the heavy melons as they ripen.
Brilliantly colored and dripping with sweet juice, a perfectly ripe watermelon is a refreshing sumer treat.Click To Enlarge

Brilliantly colored and dripping with sweet juice, a perfectly ripe watermelon is a refreshing sumer treat.

Photo: André Baranowski

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On a hot summer afternoon, we didn’t need much more than the shade of a mimosa tree and a watermelon to stay cool. My grandfather would split one open, spear the flesh with his fingers, and pull out a chunk. We ate it with our hands and weren’t afraid to make a mess. Watermelon and I were a love match made in heaven—literally it turns out. Little did I know then that I would grow up to marry a water­melon farmer whose family has grown the fruits for the past 90 years.

Juicy, ripe watermelon
  Juicy, ripe watermelon is a summer treat.

Though it would be easy enough to bring home watermelons from the field, we enjoy growing them in the garden beside the house. Breeding has reduced watermelons’ demand for luxury berths in the garden. As you will see, they can even be trellised. When you pick and eat a perfectly ripe watermelon from your own garden, you will understand the meaning of home-grown fun.

Finding time and space
No getting around it, the 25-lb. behemoths such as ‘Crimson Sweet’, a round, red-fleshed melon with dark green stripes, and ‘Royal Majesty’, also red-fleshed but oblong, require 6 ft. by 4 ft. garden plots for each plant.

On the other hand, icebox watermelons such as ‘Sugar Baby’, a round, red-fleshed fruit with a very dark green skin, and ‘Yellow Doll’, with its namesake flesh and light green skin, are perfectly suited for small gardens. They’ll do fine with 2 ft. by 4 ft. spaces per plant and turn out fruits of 5 lb. to 18 lb.

You can tighten the quarters a bit more with a bush type watermelon, such as ‘Garden Baby’. These compact vines require just a 2 ft. by 2 ft. spot and can even be grown in a large container on a patio.

Although a warm-climate crop, watermelons can be grown in northern areas if you have the right variety. Icebox types like ‘Sugar Baby’, ‘Yellow Doll’, ‘Tiger Baby’, and ‘Garden Baby’ mature in 75 to 85 days, which should be enough time for a bountiful harvest. The larger watermelons typically take 85 to 95 days to mature. On the Delmarva peninsula, we begin picking watermelons around July 4 and continue through early to mid-September, harvesting two or three fruits per plant. But it won’t pay to rush watermelon seed into the ground when it’s cool. The plants will just idle until warm weather arrives.

The origins of the watermelon
Whence watermelons came remains a botanical conundrum. Southern Italy, the source of so much good eating, enjoyed for a time the status of chief suspect as the original home. The case could not be closed because the region harbored no wild watermelon plants.

In 1850, explorer David Livingstone called attention to Africa by reporting a great oasis of wild watermelons in the Kalahari Desert. Claims from other regions can be found as well, though most sources point to Africa first. Origins aside, these wet and weighty fruits have been borne across the continents and seas, with good reason. Mark Twain proffered a fine line for the fruit’s star-spangled popu­larity. “When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”

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posted in: watermelon

Comments (24)

timonrooster writes: i love it.
Posted: 3:40 am on August 20th
charisbaker writes: Good one...
Posted: 2:01 am on August 20th
ballidhoot52 writes: I love this guide
Posted: 12:29 am on July 27th
lyunmoss writes: watermelon is my favourite.
Posted: 5:53 am on July 26th
DonnaCox writes: want to eat this.
Posted: 2:13 am on July 26th
Dallinlarsen555 writes: good one
Posted: 12:51 pm on October 6th
matthewtweedie writes: very nice
Posted: 12:09 am on September 30th
TonjeFjell writes: I love this guide! Watermelon is one of my favorites!
Posted: 1:34 pm on July 31st
TracyPoren writes: I love to eat fresh watermelon and very good post for how to growing watermelon
Posted: 2:52 am on February 11th
SaireyGamp62 writes: I grow 3 watermelons, Crimson Sweet, Ali Baba (seeds are hard to find but once I found a few have saved them, and the last one is Black Diamond. I usually plant in rich compost with mineral worked into each planting spot. Water the ground well before transplant, then mulch heavily with wood chips, and cut the water off them them last week of July. They ripen at different times so we have melon from August thru Mid- Oct although if frost threatens i harvest and refrigerate

The Ali Baba's are stunning,
Posted: 11:41 pm on December 27th
ZoeyJ writes: I just love watermelons. Last year I`ve tried to grow, but nothing happened. I see my mistake in this article, so this year I'll succeed. Thank you so much for sharing!
Posted: 3:47 am on June 16th
growwatermelon writes: Thanks for this awesome guide
Posted: 10:07 am on November 24th
RiverDivider writes: Are watermelon one time plants or do the stems grow more melons after you harvest them? I'm an extreme beginner :).
Posted: 4:59 pm on May 12th
coolveggie writes: hffv
Posted: 6:35 pm on February 16th
coolveggie writes: when do you plant melons in NJ?
Posted: 6:34 pm on February 16th
coolveggie writes: cool! i will grow some. when do you plant watermelons in jersey. not the cow jersey the state jersey.
Posted: 6:33 pm on February 16th
captscot writes: Hi, last summer I grew two types of watermelon. One a Watson, the other Sugar Baby. Both grew OK and produced about five melons each. The Watson made a typical good ripe melon. The Sugar Baby produced melons from about 8" to 11" in diameter. I waited until late fall, until the plants dried up, to pick them. However, each melon when I cut into them was white inside, not sweet, and obviously not ripe. It is now February and I still have one Sugar Baby left, stored in the house and hoping that this last one might now be ripe, what happened?
Posted: 6:06 pm on February 15th
arconagbuya writes: I am a beginner in planting watermeronls, and as usual, I worry a lot if the baby watermerons will make it through. The soil in our place is dry, and I keep on watering them. The babies are 2-3 inches now and just have 1 true leaf sprouted but I already put them in the ground.

This article informs me a lot. Thank you very much!
Posted: 3:32 am on February 6th
pinkdancer308 writes: sounds simple enough! thantks 4 the advice. i will start growing them soon. i live in the tropics so its hot all through the year :)
Posted: 5:12 pm on September 13th
PrairieGardener writes: I have a question. The vines are getting very long. Should one ever cut them at the end to encourage fruit production, rather than more vines and blossoms?
Posted: 10:36 pm on August 10th
4bboys writes: @kubota2410, sounds like it might be a calcium deficient problem. You should use a high nitrogen fertilizer in early stages, but cut back on nitrogen & give lots of potassium once they flower & fruit.
Hopes this helps :)
Posted: 1:09 pm on July 6th
kubota2410 writes: hello, i planted some watermelons and they have ran out about 4 feet and was looking so good, i had about 12 melons and then they started to rot on the ends. is there any thing i can do to turn them around to grow some good ones,or is it to late? thanks
Posted: 5:07 pm on June 28th
petuniababi writes: This article was so educational!!Last year i was so lucky in growing seven nice sized melons,but picked them too soon.Now i know what to do and maybe this year we can enjoy them.Thanks!!
Posted: 1:48 pm on June 8th
psg writes: A very good article for a beginning watermelon grower like me. And the timing is perfect. I have 4 sugar baby watermelons nearing what tI think might be harvesting size. but I don't want to pick too early. The clues in the artilce give me a much better criteria for picking than just the sound when you thump it. Thanks
Posted: 11:06 am on July 23rd
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