Growing sweet and juicy homegrown watermelons requires 2 to 3 months of heat to produce ripe fruit, which can be challenging in certain regions. However, by using plastic mulch to warm the soil and floating row covers to trap warm air near the plants, gardeners in any country can experience the explosive taste of homegrown watermelons, much better than store-bought ones.
If you’re looking for a delicious and rewarding summer project, look no further than growing watermelon! Growing watermelons is surprisingly easy with the right know-how. This blog will cover the eight main stages of watermelon growth so that you can enjoy fresh, juicy melons from your own garden in no time. Read on to learn how to grow watermelon like a pro!
Are watermelons easy to grow?
With the right conditions and a little dedication, you can absolutely reap juicy, sweet rewards from your garden. They’re somewhat finicky fruits that require a long, hot growing season (full sun) and a lot of space for their sprawling vines. Additionally, adequate water and nutrient supply are important for their optimal growth.
One of the unique things about growing watermelons is that they’re a fantastic test of patience. They’ll need your attention and care but also the space to do their own thing. It’s kind of like nurturing a relationship. It’s all about balance.
How long does it take for a watermelon to grow?
Like most things in life, good things take time, and watermelons are no exception. Watermelons take about 80 to 100 days to grow once planted. That’s right; it’s quite a stretch. But the wait is oh-so worth it.
The key here is patience. During the 80 to 100-day period, you’ll need to closely monitor your plants for signs of growth (and pests). The best way to do this is by observing the watermelon’s eight stages of growth. Let’s take a look at each one!
Watermelon Growing Stages
If you are good at gardening, you might enjoy observing the intriguing life cycle of a watermelon plant. Every stage is an exciting journey from a tiny seed to a sprouting seedling, to a rapidly vining plant, and finally, to the satisfaction of harvesting ripe, juicy watermelons.
1. Watermelon Seedlings
It all begins with a tiny watermelon seed. Planting your seeds correctly is critical to setting your watermelons up for success. Begin by choosing a variety of watermelon that suits your region and your personal preference. If you’re starting watermelon seeds indoors, do so about a month before the last expected spring frost. Alternatively, you can sow the seeds directly into the soil outdoors once it has adequately warmed up.
Plant the watermelon seeds about 1 inch deep in lightweight, well-draining soil to ensure germination. Make sure the area where you plant your seeds gets plenty of sunlight. The seeds prefer a warm environment to germinate, ideally with a soil temperature of around 70-95°F.
Germination is the magical process by which the dormant seed comes to life. With proper warmth and moisture, the watermelon seed will begin to sprout a week after planting, although this may vary slightly based on conditions. This stage involves the seed’s coat splitting open and the emergence of the radicle, which will develop into the plant’s root system.
While waiting for germination, ensure the soil remains evenly moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to the seeds rotting, while under-watering can prevent or delay germination.
3. Young Seedling
Once germinated, the watermelon seed grows into a young seedling, which will display its first true leaves. This is an exciting stage, as you can finally see the fruits of your labor (quite literally). However, it’s also a sensitive time, as the young seedlings are prone to pests, diseases, and adverse weather conditions.
Ensure your seedlings have plenty of light to promote strong, healthy growth. If the seedlings appear weak or leggy, they may need more sunlight. Additionally, provide a steady supply of water and consider an initial feeding with a balanced, diluted fertilizer to support their growth.
Following the seedling stage, the watermelon plant enters the vining stage. The plant begins to stretch out, producing long watermelon vines that can reach up to 20 feet in length. During this stage, the plant focuses on growing larger and establishing a strong root system.
Regular watering and feeding are important at this stage to support the plant’s rapid growth. Be mindful of your watermelon plant’s space – these aren’t suitable for tiny garden corners!
The next stage in the watermelon life cycle is flowering. Watermelon plants produce both male and female flowers. A male flower typically appears first and in greater numbers, while female flowers have a small fruit at the base.
Pollination is crucial during this stage. Typically, bees will do this job for you. They transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female ones, enabling watermelon fruit formation. If bees are scarce in your area, you might have to play matchmaker and do the pollination manually using a small paintbrush.
6. Bearing Watermelon
After successful pollination, the plant enters the fruit-bearing stage. This is where the tiny fruits at the base of the female flowers start to swell and grow into the watermelons we know and love. The rate of growth during this stage is fascinating, with the fruits rapidly enlarging under optimal conditions.
It’s vital to ensure that your plants continue to get ample water during this stage, as watermelons are made up of about 92% water. It’s also important to provide additional support to the developing fruits if the plant is trellised. You can make slings from fabric or pantyhose to cradle the growing watermelons and prevent them from falling off the vine.
Ah, the most gratifying stage of all – harvesting! It can be difficult to know when to harvest watermelons as there are multiple criteria to consider. Watch for the underside of the fruit to change from light green to yellowish, the tendril nearest the fruit to dry out, and the fruit surface to become less shiny.
To harvest a ripe fruit, use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut it from the vine. Leave a couple of inches of stem attached to the ripe watermelon. This will help prevent rot and extend the fruit’s shelf life.
The final stage of the watermelon plant’s life cycle is drying. After the watermelons have been harvested, the plant starts to wither and dry out. This is a natural part of the process and signals the end of the plant’s productive period for the year.
At this stage, it is recommended that you remove the old vines and tidy up the planting area to prevent the soil from being infested by diseases and pests during the winter. If you’re planning to plant watermelons again the next year, consider rotating your planting site to a different area to help disrupt pest cycles and prevent soil-borne diseases.
Quick Tips on Growing Watermelon
Here are some quick tips to help you get a bumper crop of watermelons:
- Start planting watermelon from late spring through the beginning of summer, when soil temperatures have warmed to at least 70° F.
- Place watermelon plants 3 to 5 feet apart in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH range between 6.0 and 6.8.
- For a successful start of the growing season, amend your native soil with several inches of mature compost or other rich organic material.
- Maintaining a steady water supply is essential to cultivate large, tasty watermelons; for optimal results, utilize a soaker hose or drip irrigation system and avoid wetting the foliage.
- Watermelon plants are heavy feeders. Sustain them with a regular supply of nutrients by applying a slow-release fertilizer routinely.
- To keep young watermelons off the soil, provide a layer of straw.
- When their color shifts from bright to a more muted green, they harvest watermelons and emit a hollow sound when thumping.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to plant watermelon?
For optimum growth of watermelons, it is recommended to plant them during spring when the soil has reached a temperature of at least 70°F. This usually coincides with late May or early June in most areas. Please note that the timing may differ according to your locality’s climate and weather conditions.
Do watermelons require a lot of water to grow?
Watermelons need a significant amount of water for their growth because they are made up of about 92% water. It is recommended to water thoroughly but not excessively to avoid waterlogging the soil and potential disease issues. A good rule of thumb is to provide 1-2 inches of water per week, more in hot, dry weather.
Do my watermelon plants need to be fertilized?
Absolutely! Fertilizing your watermelon plants is crucial for their growth. Use a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer at planting time and again once the plants begin to vine. Once the fruit sets, switch to a high-potassium fertilizer to help the fruits develop.
What is the maximum number of watermelons a single plant can yield?
The number of watermelons a single plant can yield varies greatly depending on the variety, growing conditions, and care provided. Generally, most vine-type watermelon plants can produce 2 to 4 fruits per plant.
How long does a watermelon reach its full size?
Depending on the variety, it can take anywhere from 30 to 45 days after the fruit set for a watermelon to reach its full size. Again, this can vary depending on environmental conditions and care.
Growing watermelons can be challenging, but it’s also a lot of fun. Watching the transformation from a tiny seed to a full-sized, juicy watermelon is nothing short of magical. Remember, it’s a learning process. So don’t be discouraged if things don’t go perfectly the first time. With a little practice, patience, and perseverance, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor (literally) before you know it.