Watermelons are a summer favorite fruit. Just biting into watermelon you can taste the sunshine. Do you know how to grow watermelon? Keep reading below to find out the history of watermelon, how to grow a watermelon, watermelon flowers and fruits, and how to care and harvest watermelon.
History of Watermelon
The history of watermelon is very interesting. The watermelon is a vine plant that flowers and produces berries. A watermelon is neither a fruit nor a vegetable but a berry. They are called “Pepos” and Watermelon. Berries have an interior that is sweet, juicy and full of water, that is how watermelon got its name. The exterior of the watermelon has a hard rind that is green in color with dark green stripes. Depending on the variety of watermelon, the interior can be pink, red, orange, yellow and white. They also can have lots of seeds. There are seedless varieties but I usually still find a few seeds, but not as many as non-seedless watermelon. Watermelons are grown annually and can get up to 3 meters or for us in the USA 9′ 10″ long. However, I have never seen a watermelon that long.
The watermelon was first found about 5,000 years ago in South Africa, their are still many wild variants in the area. Around 2000 B.C., they were cultivated and became everyday food in Egypt. One of the earliest proofs of that are the
hieroglyphs on the buildings from that time that tell stories about the harvesting of watermelons. Remains of watermelons were also found in tombs of the kings where they were left as food for the deceased in the afterlife. Its popularity in the hot, desert regions can be attributed to the high amount of water that watermelon contains. Even Bible mentions watermelon as the food of ancient Israelite who were a slave in Egypt at that time.
From Africa, watermelon crossed over to Europe (Moors brought it in the
10th century) where it grew successfully in the warmer parts of
Mediterranean. By the
7th century, it reached India and from their China which saw its
first watermelons in the 10th century. Today, China is the world’s
largest producer of
watermelons. Rest of Europe didn’t start growing watermelons until
the 17th century when they were widely accepted as a minor garden crop.
Watermelons were brought to Americas by European colonists and by
slave trade from Africa. The first ones were grown in Florida in the
16th century. Later,
in the 17th century, they were grown in Massachusetts, Peru, Brazil,
Panama and many British and Dutch colonies. Captain James Cook and
introduced watermelons to Hawaii and other Pacific islands.
How to Grow a Watermelon
Depending on where you live you can either direct sow watermelon seeds or if you live in a colder climate like I do in Michigan, you can start them indoors from seed. Below I am going to explain how to grow a watermelon from seed.
Direct sow in Garden – place seed 1/4″ to 1″ deep outdoors. Make a hill (pile up soil in a hill) and plant 4 to 6 seeds per hill and eventually thinning to 2 to 3 seedlings.
Start in Container indoors – place seed 1/4″ to 1/2″ deep in pot with soil. Consider using a larger pot then normal and a composing pot, nor a pot that can be cut away to not disturb the root system.
When transplanting seedlings to the garden, handle with care and try not to disturb the root system. Make sure the soil is warm. They like 70 degrees and warmer.
For best tasting watermelon, water slow and deep. Allow roots to grow deep. Try not to get the leaves wet when watering to prevent mildew.
If you decide to use a fertilizer, at the beginning, make sure it has more nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium, using a well-balanced organic fertilizer. The nitrogen is what will help the plant. Once the flowers start showing, use a seaweed fertilizer for the fruits to grow.
Watermelon Flowers and Fruits
What to do when the watermelon flowers and fruits? The watermelon vines produce male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers usually come first, sometimes, several weeks before the female flowers. Do not be concerned if the male flowers fall off.
The female flowers (which have a swollen bulb at the base) will stay on the vine and bear fruit. Blossoms require pollination to set fruit, so be kind to our bees! As fruit is ripening, prevent rotting by gently lifting it and putting cardboard or straw between the fruit and the soil.
A few Varieties over 100 days to maturity
‘Allsweet’ – matures in 90 to 105 days to maturity. Produces 25 to 30 lb melons with bright red flesh. For long growing seasons.
‘Carolina Cross’ – matures in 100 to 105 days, this watermelon variety produces 200+ pound melons, sweet red flesh, oblong shape
‘Georgia Rattlesnake’ – matures in 90 to 100 days, pale green stripes resemble a snake skin, bright pink flesh, sweet and crisp, reaches 30 pounds, heirloom variety
‘Moon and Stars’ – matures in 95 to 100 days, dark green skin with yellow spots resembling moon and stars in the night sky, sweet melons reach 40 pounds, pink to red flesh
A few varieties under a 100 days to maturity, for shorter growing seasons.
‘Sugar Baby’: 80 days to maturity. Produces 10-pound, melons with bright red flesh. This variety of smaller fruit can be
planted just 4 feet apart.
‘Sweet Beauty’: 80 days to maturity. A 2004 All-America Selection. Bears 6-pound, oblong melons with red flesh.
‘Golden Midget’: 70 days to maturity. Bears petite, yellow-skinned 3-pound melons with pink flesh. Good for Northern gardeners.
Personal size Watermelons
‘Mini Love’ – matures around 70 days, The vines of ‘Mini Love’ are compact at three to four feet long, making
this cultivar an excellent option for growing in small spaces and containers. These plants have good resistance to anthracnose.
‘Golden Midget’ – matures around 70 days. is a super early variety that’s great for short-season growers.
‘Little Darling’ – matures in 65-70 days. Expect 3 to 4 fruits per plant. small, early maturing hybrid watermelon variety that bears oblong, five to seven-pound fruit with dark green rinds.
How to care for Watermelon
Mulching with black plastic or straw around the plants will serve multiple purposes: it will warm the soil, hinder weed growth, and keep developing fruits off the soil.
Pruning generally isn’t necessary for watermelon plants, but vine
productivity may be improved if you do not allow lateral side vines to
grow and stick to the main vine. When the plant is young, just cut off
the end buds as they form (before the side shoots become vines). You can
also pinch off some blossoms to focus the energy on fewer melons.
The pests to watch out for are
- Cucumber beetles
- Squash Vine Borr Moths
- Blossom End Rot
Watermelons need lots of water, a drought in water can make the watermelon bitter and not sweet. Don’t let the soil get dry. Remember watermelons started in South Africa.
When to Harvest Watermelon
Here is some tips on when to harvest watermelon.
- Thump it. If the watermelon sounds hollow, it’s ripe.
- Look at the color on the top. The watermelon is ripe when their is little contrast between the stripes.
- Look at the color on the bottom. An immature watermelon will have a
white bottom; a ripe melon will have a cream- or yellow-colored bottom.
- Press on it. If the watermelon sounds like it gives a little, it’s
ripe. (be careful to not injure the fruit).
- Check the tendril. If it’s green, wait. If it’s half-dead, the
watermelon is nearly ripe or ripe. If the tendril is fully dead, it’s
ripe or overripe; it’s not going to get any riper, so you might as
- Stems should be cut with a sharp knife close to the fruit.
Watermelons don’t continue ripening after they are picked, so harvest time is important. They generally ripen over a two-week period, so keep your eye on them.
I hope my post helped you with how to grow watermelons, if you haven’t grown them before or were unsuccessful.
If you have grown watermelon before, how did you do? Did you find a variety that matures before 100 days? Leave a comment below and let me know how you did or if my post helped you.
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11 thoughts on “How to Grow Watermelon”
Wow, I learn something new everyday. Today, I’ve just learnt that watermelon was a berry thanks to your article. When I tell that to my friends and family, I’ll just imagine their surprised faces, haha. Anyway, It’s interesting that your refer to the phases of the moon to plant and harvest watermelon. It’s really cool. I didn’t know that watermelon could grow in only 3 months according to some species. Thanks for educating me!
I am glad I was able to help. I was amazed too in my research. I had to look it up a few different ways to make sure I found that information in more than one place. The other thing I learned strawberries are not berries LOL. They are like fruit clusters, who knew. Thank you for commenting on my post. Stop back for more tips!
As I enjoy eating watermelons and making smoothies with them, this article was very timely. Unfortunately, because I live in England, the climate is not conducive for growing this delicious fruit. However, I read your article with great interest and notice the tender care that is needed whilst watering.
For example, do not water the leaves to prevent mildew. I never knew that…
Personally, I grew bean sprouts in my kitchen and they are ready within 2-5 days. I have tried growing plants in my kitchen or living room, but because I live in a flat prone to damp, only sprouts are a sensible option.
But my, this article was interesting to read! Thanks for sharing it.
Thank you for your comments. I love eating fresh watermelon in the summer time. I am glad I could give you some tips if you are able to grow watermelon some day..
Stella, I note you like sprouts. Have you tried sunflower sprouts. We like them the best. They need to be grown in a seed tray not a bottle. I put a layer of potting mix in. Dampen (don’t wet) the mix. Spread the sunflower seeds and ‘dust’ with a bit more mix, and then cover the tray with black plastic. Keep an eye on them and mist when necessary. Once they start sprouting and turning green then remove the plastic. Harvest with scissors, just the amount needed. They do grow at different rates so harvest is spread out. We can buy these but the extra work in growing them makes them quite expensive in comparison to other sprouts. But growing them is easy. Make sure you get unadulterated sunflower seeds or get them from your own grown flowers.
Hi Helen, thank you for the added information about sunflower sprouts. I hadn’t heard this. Good information!
Thank you for commenting! I live in a northern climate which makes it more difficult to grow watermelon but I started my plant from seed indoors then planted outdoors once the temperatures were up to 70 degrees or higher. I also get seeds that mature in 70 to 80 days which also helps. I love the taste of a fresh watermelon from the garden in the summer.
Really great advice on how to grow watermelons! I’ve never tried to grow this one, but I think I will give it a try now that I’ve read your article.
I also didn’t know the history of the watermelon- that it started in South Africa and travelled to Egypt and then overseas. That is really cool that they have hieroglyphics of watermelon harvests!
That one tip to knock the watermelon on the head, and if it sounds hollow, its ripe is priceless. Then you don’t have to cut them open too early.
What is your favourite variety to grow? Easiest variety to grow?
I like to grow the seedless sugar baby. They are more on the small side but very tasty. I am glad I could help you know when a watermelon is ripe. Thank you for commenting.
Well, I have to say, I love the picture of the water melons that you have included here. It makes me want to just stick my face right into it and drink away. These are absolutely lush, especially in the hot weather, which is what we have been getting around these parts for the past few days. Lovely jubbly!
I love the taste of fresh watermelon from my garden, its the best!