In this article, we share a comprehensive guide to growing watermelon at home.
Quick Guide Information
Common Name: Watermelon
Scientific Name: Citrullus lanatus
Life Span: Annual
Time Till Harvest: 100-120 days
Light Requirement: Full Sun
Optimum pH: 5.5 - 6.5
There’s no better way to beat the heat of summer than with a fresh slice of watermelon. This is even more true if it’s a sweet freshly harvested watermelon from your own garden. There’s a reason why watermelons are ready to harvest in the dead heat of summer!
Growing watermelons is not too difficult if done properly. They love hot weather, fertile soil, and plenty of water. Watermelons are sprawling vines that can take a lot of room in your garden, similar to other melons, cucumbers, and pumpkins. With proper technique they can also be cultivated on a trellis.
Watermelons can be grown in both tropical and temperate climates, requiring temperatures above 25C to properly thrive. In temperate climates they are best planted in spring well after the last threat of frost.
Propagation, Planting, and Maintenance
Watermelons can be planted by direct seed once temperatures are reaching into the mid 20C range. Alternatively, they can be started in small pots and transplanted once the weather is adequate.
Watermelons require fertile and well-draining soil. Choose a warm place in your garden with plenty of room for the vine to spread. You want your plants to have at least 1 to 2 meters between them. If you are planting directly from seed, then it is best to plant 3-4 seeds close together (5 cm apart) and choose the strongest and most robust seedling after they have germinated. Germination takes 1-2 weeks.
If you are transplanting from pots, you should try acclimating your plants by placing them in full sun before transplanting. After transplanting, consider using a temporary shade structure for about 1 week to reduce stress on the plant. Keep well-watered and mulch heavily to prevent evaporation and weeds. You can train the vine to grow in a certain direction although they tend to be pretty set on growing towards where there is most sunlight available.
After about 3 months you should have some melons ready for harvest! Watermelons should have a deep green colour and have a hollow sign. Another way to know they are ripe is to look for the tendril closest to the fruit. If this is brown and weathered, then the melon is ready.
Aphids - These are common on watermelons and not always catastrophic. Consider removing by hand or using a natural aphid repellent such as a soapy-water spray.
Sudden Wilting - Make sure your plant is well watered and your soil well mulched. If this is not the problem, it could be due to a root born illness or the presence of root-knot nematodes. This can be catastrophic and extremely difficult to reverse.Mildews - These can occur on older plants or when the climate is hot and humid. While not typically catastrophic it can slow the growth of the plant. Remove heavily infected leaves and try to avoid overhead watering if the issue continues.