by Heather Stone
If you have space, make room for a hill or two of watermelons in your garden. They are easy to grow and like any fruit and vegetable, they just taste better when they are plucked straight from the garden. Besides, nothing says summer quite like a juicy slice of watermelon.
Here are a few tips for successfully growing watermelon.
- Choose the right variety for your climate
Most watermelons need 80-95 days to ripen, but some varieties require even longer. Choose one that works for your area. You can get a head start by starting seeds indoors about three weeks before your last frost date or by purchasing established plants. Plant outside when all chances of frost have passed and the soil temperatures are in the 70’s.
- Give them room to roam
Watermelons need lots of room to ramble. It is not uncommon for vines to reach up to 20 feet in length. The vines don’t like to be regularly moved so pick a spot where you can let them roam freely.
- Know when to water
Keep plants moist when starting off and until fruits begin to form. Watermelons are fairly deep-rooted plants, so in some climates, you might not need a lot of extra moisture except during extended dry periods. When watering, water at the roots and try to avoid getting the leaves wet. This helps to keep down on the spread of fungal diseases. Once the fruit has begun to set, experts say to hold off on the water to concentrate the sugars in the fruit, giving you a sweeter melon.
- Know when to harvest
It’s not always easy to know when your watermelon is ripe. To start, check the “days to harvest” of your variety and begin to check for maturity when plants have reached that age. The color of the bottom spot where the melon sits on the ground will turn from white to yellow as the melon matures. Also, watch for the rind to turn from a bright, slick appearance to a more dulled look. The skin or rind should be tough enough that a thumbnail won’t pierce the skin. After picking, chill for best flavor.