Watermelons are a perfect summer treat to keep you hydrated; they are juicy, sweet, and full of nutrients. Sipping on fresh watermelon juice, or digging a bite into the soft fruity chunks- the flavor is exotic and unforgettably refreshing. There is no doubt why watermelon is often called the ‘iconic fruit of the summer.’
This huge, delightful fruit can be grown in your own garden, especially if you live in an area with a warm climate. All you need is lots of sunshine, water, and amended soil as watermelons require lots of nutrients. They can also be grown in colder climates, as long as you start growing indoors and then transplant them outdoors when the weather is warmer. There are numerous types of watermelons you can grow, including honeydews and cantaloupes.
It is important to know when to harvest watermelons as the exact time varies according to the climate. There are also more tips you can follow to harvest the perfectly ripe watermelon.
When is Watermelon Season?
Watermelons primarily grow in the summertime. But the prime watermelon growing months may vary according to location. So when is watermelon season- depending on your geographical area?
Planting of watermelon seeds starts in early spring when the weather gets warmer, generally from May to September. However, there can be variations depending on where you live. For example, in South Africa watermelon season runs from August to December.
It can also vary by location in the same country as well- for example in Texas, the US watermelon season is from June to August while in California, it’s’ from June to September. To know exactly when watermelon season is, keep an eye on your local farmer’s market.
If you are planting seeds then it is important to check your last frost date. In warm climates with long growing periods, you can plant seeds up to 2 weeks after your last frost date. Just make sure the soil temperature is at least 20°C. In colder climates with shorter growing seasons, you can plant seeds indoors 3 weeks before your last frost date and then move them outside 4-5 weeks later.
Again, it is important to check your soil temperature before planting as watermelon seeds can die if the soil is too cold.
How to Grow Watermelons?
Knowing how to grow watermelons is essential as the seedlings can be quite sensitive and need to be taken care of. Make sure you grow watermelons in an area with plenty of space as their vines can grow quite long. They grow best in neutral to slightly acidic soil (pH 6–7). Since watermelons require lots of nutrients (particularly nitrogen), the soil should be amended with compost, manure, or fertilizers. Watermelons are generally planted in raised rows called hills about 5 feet wide.
Sow the seeds around 0.5 to 1 inch deep, 2 feet from each other. If you are seeding indoors in pots, then sow them 0.25-0.5 of an inch deep.
Since watermelons require lots of water (this will determine sweetness) keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. Watermelons require 1 to 2 inches of water every week. Water the base of the vines without wetting the leaves (to prevent pests). Once the fruit starts to grow, you may reduce watering. Watermelons also require at least 8 hours of sunlight to grow.
Now that you know how to grow watermelons, you just have to wait for the fruit to ripen so you can harvest it!
When to Harvest Watermelons
Watermelons are harvested during the summer season with the exact time varying according to the climate and variety you plant. On average, it takes 65 to 90 days for watermelons to ripen. Smaller watermelons mature 65 to 70 days after being planted. Whereas medium ones take 75 to 80 days before being ripe for harvest. Large varieties may take 75 to 90 days to mature.
Watermelons do not ripen after being picked, so you must know exactly when to harvest watermelons. This ensures that you will pick them when they are bursting with flavor.
This fruit can be harvested over a two weeks period. First, wait for the tendrils to turn brown and die. If they are half dead, then the watermelons are nearly ripe. If they are all dead, then the watermelons are either ripe or overripe, so pick them quickly.
Next comes a soundcheck. If there is a dull, hollow sound when you thump the watermelon, then it’s ripe.
Even the color matters. Ripe watermelons have little contrast between the stripes present on their exterior. You can also check the bottom of the watermelon. If it has turned from white to cream-yellow then it’s ready for harvest. A ripe watermelon will also have soft ends.
If you see all these signs, then congratulations, your watermelons are ready to be harvested!
The Sugar Baby Watermelon!
If you’re a true watermelon enthusiast, you need to get your hands on the Sugar Baby watermelon. As the name suggests, this popular variety is known for its’ high sugar content, making it one of the sweetest watermelon cultivars. These super sugary melons are small in size, and perfect for picnics.
Like all other watermelons, Sugar Baby watermelons also need warm and dry temperatures. They also require constant irrigation.
The Sugar Baby watermelons are also perfect for gardeners with limited space. They are usually ready to harvest in around 60 to 90 days. When the color of the rind changes from bright to dull green, and its texture becomes hard- you’re ready to harvest them.
For anyone who wants to grow a widely loved and super-sweet variety, try planting the Sugar Baby watermelon this season.
Fun Facts with Watermelon
- Did you know? August 3 is National Watermelon Day. Because watermelon is the favorite summer fruit, it is celebrated right at the center of summer (not exactly center, but pretty center). During summer, it is added to drinks and dessert. It is also a favorite fruit in backyard barbecues.
- Did you know? Watermelons are about 92% of water. This is why they are called watermelons. They are so full of water that they rehydrate and refresh, especially in the hot summer months.
- Did you know? You can eat the entire watermelon fruit, the ENTIRE fruit! Of course, we tend to just appreciate the succulent, sweet, tender, and delicious flesh. But the rinds are actually edible and extremely healthy. The rinds can be stewed or stir-fried like they do in Asian countries. Down south, rinds are pickled. The seeds are dried and roasted in Asia, and it results in a fun, easy snacks.
- Did you know? Watermelons are both a fruit and a vegetable. They are famously considered fruits because of their sweet taste and botanical anatomy. They have seeds and they grow from flowers. However, gardeners consider them as vegetables because they grow alongside other culinary vegetables such as cucumbers and pumpkins.
- Did you know? In the many varieties of watermelon, there are the seedless ones. Some may think that these are the results of genetic engineering. But they are actually not. They are the results of hybridization, which is a naturally occurring phenomenon that farmers and gardeners can exploit. Today, at least 85% of watermelons sold in the US are seedless. And the white “seeds” you find in some seedless watermelons are empty seed coats that are totally safe to eat.
- Did you know? Watermelons are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant known to reduce the risk of several types of cancer. It can help prevent lung, stomach, and prostate cancer.
- Did you know? Watermelon is the official state vegetable of Oklahoma. In 2007, the Oklahoma State Senate voted to make it the state vegetable. At the time, watermelon was the 14th largest crop of the state. It is not given the title of “State Fruit” as that title was already given to strawberry.
The best part is that this majestic fruit has lots of varieties and sizes you can choose to grow depending on your space and needs. There are a number of ways to tell you when to harvest watermelons, leaving almost no room for error.
Why not take some time out to grow and harvest your own watermelons this summer? You’ll always have a ready-made bowl of fresh, cool, juicy, and mouth-watering red bites to dive into!