Growing watermelons, it must be summertime. It has been a favorite summer picnic food since I was a child.
If you think you don’t have room in your vegetable garden for watermelons, try growing watermelons on vertical supports works great even in small spaces.
The new varieties make it easier for the home gardener to add this tasty fruit to the vegetable garden. Grow it along side a cantaloupe or honey dew melon. They easily share the same space in my vertical garden.
Watermelons come in yellow and orange varieties and are full of vitamin C, lycopene and beta carotene the same nutrition found in tomatoes and carrots. In fact watermelon contains more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.
Choosing Varieties for Growing Watermelons
I started growing watermelons with a variety called Sugar Baby it is matures in 76 days. It produces 8 to 10 pound fruits, has good flavor and resists cracking. Sugar Baby is a great choice for a small garden.
If you want a little larger watermelon try Sweet Favorite which matures in 76 days and performs will in northern climates. Sweet favorite ripens sooner than most other oval watermelons and grows to 10 to 12 pounds.
Sorbet Swirl is a multicolored watermelon of yellow and red. Averages 10 pound fruits and does well in northern and southern climates. Sorbet swirl matures in 77 days. These varieties’s can be found at Johnnyseeds.com.
Start planting watermelons when all danger of frost is past. If your weather is soggy in the spring you can start the seeds indoors in individual containers a couple of weeks before you want to plant them out doors. Plant started seeds outside as soon as the first true leaves appear to lessen transplant shock.
I set up my trellis before I plant so that I don’t disturb the young plants. Make a furrow along side of your trellis. You can sprinkle some compost into the furrow or pour some Compost Tea into the furrow. This gives the plants a head start while they are young.
Sprinkle watermelon seeds along the shallow furrow spacing the seeds about 2-3 inches apart. Lightly cover the seeds with soil about ¼ to ½ inches. Thin plants to 1 every 6 inches when plants have 4 leaves.
For transplants dig your holes along side of your trellis about 6 inches apart. Fill the bottom of the hole with 1 inch of compost or fill the hole with compost tea.
Carefully remove watermelon plants from the containers by turning upside down into your hand. Careful not to disturb the roots, place the plants into the hole. Fill in with soil.
Caring For and Harvesting Watermelons
To encourage growing watermelons to climb the supports, tie the vines to the trellis with jute twine every 8 to 12 inches. Check every few days and continue to tie the vines to the trellis as the watermelon grows.
As the melons reach the top of the support you can train them back down the other side. Trim the vines as the fruit set. To insure ripe watermelons it is best to keep the melons to 2 per vine.
Keep melons watered about 1 inch a week. Mulching helps keep moisture in the soil and weeds down. Straw, leaves and chipped branches put on top of the soil before the watermelons set fruit make good mulches.
It can be hard to tell when your melons are ripe. It is best to keep track of the harvest dates for when the melons are ripening. For example Sugar Baby’s if planted the first of June will be ripe around the middle or end of August.
Growing watermelons can be a great addition to the garden and the kids will love them.