Whether you're enjoying it as an afternoon snack or mixing it with fresh berries for a decadent dessert, fresh watermelon is the prefect addition to any summer meal. Although it's a relatively difficult plant, you can grow the fresh melons in your backyard. Before planting the seeds, know the ideal gardening season and how to produce the best plants possible.
When to Grow
A relatively demanding plant, watermelon does not cope well in cold temperatures, extreme heat or humid, soggy conditions. If you live in a tropical area, plant watermelon in the dry, winter season. If you live in a cooler climate, summer is the best time to plant the seeds. Plan for at least three months of consecutively hot and sunny weather. The temperature should remain at least 70 to 80 degrees for the plant to thrive. The soil temperature should be at least 64 degrees at the time of planting for proper seed germination.
Where to Plant
Your watermelon plants need full sun, so plant them in an area of the garden that is not shaded. They also need plenty of space, as watermelons feature rambling vines. The University of Illinois Extension recommends a sandy loam soil. Make mounds or ridges of soil in your garden before planting. Raising the soil helps keep your plants healthy and somewhat controlled. Push the seeds about 1 inch into nutrient-rich soil. Each plant should be at least 6 feet apart.
Watermelon plants require abundant moisture. Do not allow the soil to dry. If you're having trouble keeping the soil moist, covering the area in mulch traps in moisture. A watermelon plant produces male and female flowers. The male flowers are smaller and appear first, while the female flowers are much larger. The watermelon fruit grows at the base of the female flowers. If the fruit is not growing, insects are not properly pollinating the female flowers. In this case, pluck the petals off the male flowers and brush the pollen-filled stamen against the center of the female flower.
When to Harvest
Learning when to harvest watermelon can be a tricky. A ripe watermelon should have a curly tendril growing at the stem. Once this tendril is completely dry, the fruit is ready for harvest. The fruit's bottom should feature a patch of light yellow or white. A gentle knock on a ripe watermelon should also produce a dull, hollow sound. An unripe watermelon will produce a higher pitch sound when it is knocked.
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