How to Grow a Watermelon

Space and time Requirements

The first step to take when planning on growing a watermelon is to decide on the variety you would like. These can vary greatly in size, space requirements and even color!

Be sure to check out our watermelon varities page!

For the larger varieties such as, "Crimson Sweet" or "Royal Majesty" (oval) a much larger area is required for each plant. Usually a safe bet is somewhere in the neighborhood of a 6ft x 4ft plot for each plant.

There are also smaller ice box varieties of watermelons such as, "Sugar Baby" or "Yellow Doll" (yellow flesh inside), which are great for gardens with less room. They would thrive and produce fruits between 6lb to 17lb in plot that is about 2ft by 4ft.

Bush type watermelons are also another option. These can be grown in spaces of 2ft by 2ft or even a large container on your patio.

Even if you don't have a lot of ground room watermelons can be grown on a trellis. Watermelons aren't normally climbers but with a little coaxing they can be trained. When the vines start to run tie them to a strong trellis. When the watermelons start forming they will need to be supported. This can be done by attaching slings to the trellis to hold the melon or by setting them on a small table or stool.

Support the fruit when trellised.
Watermelons, while normally a warm weather crop, can be grown in many northern areas as long as you pick a variety with a short maturation period. Smaller icebox varieties will mature between 75 and 85 days, which is usually long enough to get enough warm days for there to be a good harvest. Generally the larger varieties mature in 85 to 95 days. Don't bother putting the seeds in the ground before warm weather gets there because the plants will wait for it to warm up.

Watermelons need steady watering throughout the season, at least 1 in. per week. Blossom-end rot, caused by a calcium deficiency during fruit development, can be a problem. Maintaining the proper soil moisture makes calcium available when it’s needed.

Care Before and During Growth

Watermelons vines require a lot of nutrients to produce good melons. If you don't have rich soil you can supplement it with 10-10-10 fertilizer at a ratio of 3lbs per 100sqft right before you plant your seeds. Once the plant begins to grow its not a bad idea to apply a little more fertilizer when the vines begin to run and after

Don't let their mammoth size fool you watermelons can be affected by pests and disease. The simplest thing to do is to pick a naturally disease resistant variety. Other tactics can include proper crop rotation and providing enough room for each plant to receive good air circulation. If you see a yellow spot on top of your melon don't assume it's a disease. It is a sunburn! Just cover the fruit with a basket or cloth if you see it beginning to develop.

Stay on the look out for cucumber beetles. They do the most damage early in the season when plants are young and susceptible.

Ready to Eat!

Figuring out the best time to harvest watermelons can be tricky. Luckily the watermelon is nice enough to provide a few clues:

  • If the curly tendril near where the watermelon is connected to the vine is dead or dying.
  • Check the bottom of the watermelon is should be white for a seeded variety or a yellow buttery color for seedless varieties.
  • If you have really good hearing you can tell a watermelon is ripe by the sound it makes when you lightly hit it. It should produce a deep rich sound, but this takes some practice to get right.
Ripe Watermelon
 Now that you've got some tasty watermelons check out some of the recipes in our recipes section!