Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is a vine with large crinkled leaves. A heat-lover, it will grow rampantly once established without too much attention required. It is best sown by seed in spring, although you should check the gardening calendar of your region for exact details.
Choose a location for your watermelon garden and prepare the soil. Watermelons like loamy, fertile, well-drained soil. In terms of position, they need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sun daily. Watermelons produce large spreading vines, so be sure to allow space for this, usually 6 feet (1.8 meters) between rows.
Till the soil for the beds thoroughly, breaking up large clumps of packed earth. Remove any vegetative matter or deeply incorporate it into the soil.
Using a tractor or hoe, form mounds of earth (hills) to plant seeds in. Space these 2-6 feet (60cm-1.8m) apart, depending on the amount of space you have. Building the soil up at individual planting locations helps assure that the soil is loose enough for the roots to grow, allows oxygen to each them with ease, and lets excess moisture drain away from direct contact with the roots of your plants. It also helps to conserve available moisture in dry weather.
Choose the variety of watermelon you want to grow. These fruits come in sizes ranging from 3 pounds to over 70 pounds (1.3kg to 32kg), and with either red or yellow flesh. Jubilee, Charleston Grey, and Congo are large, cylindrical varieties, while Sugar Baby and Ice Box are two smaller, globe shaped types.
Form a flat, slightly concave surface on the top of the hill, then poke three or four holes in the soil with a tool or your finger, about 1 inch (2.5cm) deep. Place one to four seeds in each hole, then rake the dirt flat over the top of the seeds, and lightly press the soil to pack it sufficiently to keep the moisture from quickly evaporating around the seed.
Watch for sprouts to appear. The seeds should germinate and plants will emerge in about 7-10 days, depending on the soil temperature and the depth they are covered when planted. Keep the soil moist around the seeds during the germination period; water close enough so that the water reaches the small roots forming.
Mulch each hill with a suitable material after the plants have reached a height of about 4 inches (10cm). You can choose pinestraw, lawn fabric, or compost. Try to apply the mulch as close to the plants as possible to help prevent weeds, to retain moisture, and to keep the soil from being overheated from direct sunlight around the shallow, new roots.
After the flowers bloom, water approximately every 3 days if dry. However, don't over-water, as watermelons have a low water requirement.
-Keep the foliage and fruit dry. You can place fruit onto a clean piece of wood, large smooth pebble, brick, etc.
-On very hot days, the leaves will probably wilt even in moist soil. If this limpness can still be seen in the evening after a hot day, water deeply.
-Sweetness in watermelons can be increased by holding off watering for a week prior to harvesting. However, don't do this if it causes the vines to wilt. Once that crop is harvested, restore the usual watering to enable the second crop to come through well.
Weed regularly. Be sure to weed around base, along and ahead of the vines.
10. Harvest when ready. Under perfect conditions, watermelons will mature to full sweetness in about four months of warm weather.
-To harvest, cut the watermelons cleanly from the vine, using a knife or garden shears.
-To test the ripeness of a watermelon, thump it. A dull noise sounding back means that it has ripened. Also, check the underside––it is ready when it has turned from white to pale yellow. :)
1. Expect about two to five melons per vine.
2. For the best results plant the seeds in soil composed of earth and sand.
3. Water daily or set up drip irrigation.
4. They grow best when planted in the outer row of corn. The corn provides some shade but sunlight is still able to get through.
Watermelons are easily damaged by frost.
Downy mildew and powdery mildew can be a problem for watermelons. Note that the cucumber beetle transfers a bacterium that causes bacterial wilt, so keep it under control.
If you have wild rabbits at your house, beware! They will devour your delicious watermelons.
Watch for the cucumber beetle; this pest loves watermelons. Other pests include aphids and mites.
Watermelons are sensitive to fertilizer burn; mix commercial ones well before applying and be sparing.
Don't sow the seeds until temperatures consistently reach a minimum of 60ºF/15.5ºC. The preferred soil temperature is 75ºF/24ºC. It's fine to start seeds in pots earlier if needed.
Things you’ll need:
1. Gardening tools
2. Watermelon seeds or seedlings if planting from indoors
3. Watering devices
4. Scissors or garden shears
Sources and Citations: Sunset,The Edible Garden, (2005) ISBN 0-376-03170-0 -Research source.