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How To Grow Watermelons

Growing Watermelons In Your Backyard or Garden

Planting Watermelons

Watermelon growing in a gardenWatermelons like sunny, hot weather. Plant seeds once the chance of frost has passed and daytime temperatures reach 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The ground should be dry and warm. Watermelons thrive in rich soil, so fertilize as needed.

Transplants can be started indoors about three weeks prior to outdoor planting. If planting outdoors early in the season, use black plastic sheeting or landscape fabric to trap heat in the ground.

Planted vine crops like watermelons in small hills about a foot wide. Sow four to five seeds an inch deep in each mound. After the seedlings sprout leaves, thin them to the best three plants per hill.

Space the hills two to three feet apart in rows that are six to eight feet apart. The vines need space to spread.

Watermelons are thirsty plants that need up to two inches of water a week. Watering early in the morning using drip irrigation is the best method.

A watermelon vine produces both male and female flowers. The male flowers are smaller and appear first. The later female flowers are larger and require pollination by bees to develop the fruit.

Weed regularly and watch for pests. Watermelons also are prone to mildew caused by humidity and dampness. If your garden is near the woods, remember that wildlife enjoy ripe melons, too.

Seedless watermelon varieties are a favorite because of their sweetness and ease of eating. But because they lack the fertile pollen needed to pollinate and set fruit, a traditional seeded variety must be planted nearby in the garden. Remember to plant varieties that look different. Otherwise, it will be difficult to tell the difference between the seedless and the seeded at harvest.

Picking Watermelons

Long, hot summers produce the sweetest watermelons. A few weeks before the end of the growing season, reduce the amount of water to encourage sweetness.

Most varieties are ready to pick 75 to 95 days after seeding and 42 to 45 days after pollination. Gardeners usually pick four to 10 watermelons for each 10-foot row. Harvest watermelons only when they’re completely matured. They’ll continue to ripen on the vine, but not after they’re picked.

The best indicator of ripeness is the color of underside that sits on the ground. When turned over, it should be yellow or cream colored. If the underside is still pale green or white, it’s not ready yet. The watermelon rind also becomes duller and less shiny as it ripens and the stem’s green, curly tendrils turn dry and brown.

And while many people think they can accurately tell if a watermelon is ripe by knocking on it, listening for a dull thud is not foolproof.

After harvesting the watermelons, clean-up the vines to keep insects and diseases from overwintering and harming next year's crop.

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