Tag Archives: watermelons

Tips for Growing Great Watermelons

Tomatoes aren’t the only stars of the backyard garden. Growing watermelons is just as rewarding. It’s also hard to resist all the beautiful varieties that you’d never find in a supermarket. However, watermelons can be trickier to grow than some other crops. Here are a few tips to help you grow watermelons this season.

Choosing a Variety

New gardeners, folks with small gardens, and those who live farther north may want to consider icebox melons or smaller melons with fewer days to harvest. Some great options include:

  • Sugar Baby Watermelon
  • Early Moonbeam Watermelon
  • Blacktail Mountain Watermelon
  • White Wonder Watermelon

Folks who’ve struggled with plant diseases in their garden should look at varieties with good disease resistance. Some options include:

  • Chou Cheh Red Watermelon (Downy Mildew resistance)
  • Crimson Sweet or Crimson Sweet Virginia Select (Anthracnose and Fusarium resistance)
  • Yellow Fleshed Moon and Stars Watermelon (some tolerance to disease)
  • Nancy Watermelon (Above-average disease resistance)
  • Strawberry Watermelon (Very good disease resistance)

Preparing Your Garden

Watermelons tend to be fairly particular about the soil they’re grown in. It’s a good idea to start by adding a few inches of finished compost to your plot.

The soil for watermelons should be well-drained and have a pH between 6.0-6.8.


The key to giving your watermelons a good start is to ensure that the soil is warm enough. Wait to plant melons until the soil temperature is around 70°F, probably about two weeks after your last frost date.

It’s a good idea to plant watermelons in hills; they don’t do well in soggy soil. Space watermelons 12-18 in. apart in rows 6-8 ft. apart. Vines require anywhere from 36-100 sq. ft. of vine space per hill, depending on the variety.


In order to get the best production, watermelons require good, consistent care.

  • Don’t disturb vines while the fruit is ripening, or else fruit may ripen unevenly.
  • Water consistently for good fruit production. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are a great choice and can help prevent fungal diseases.
  • Mulch around watermelon hills with hay or straw to keep melons off the ground.
  • Keep up with weeds, especially before the vines start to sprawl.
  • When your plants are flowering, give them a boost with compost tea or other liquid fertilizer like liquid kelp.

Harvesting Watermelons

Your watermelons are looking great, but how do you tell when they’re ready to harvest? There are four clues you can look for:

  • The spot where the fruit touches the ground turns yellow.
  • The curly little tendril on the portion of the vine nearest the fruit should be dried -up and brown.
  • The rind feels slightly rough and ridged and has a dull, opaque appearance, whereas immature fruits are smoother and glossier.
  • When a watermelon is ripe, it will have a hollow sound when you thump it with your knuckles: The melon sounds more like your chest when it is ripe; when green, it sounds more like your head; when over-ripe, it sounds more like your stomach. Mark Twain described it this way: “A ripe melon says ‘punk’ when thumped, a green one says ‘pink’ or ‘pank’.”

Put Your Watermelons to Good Use

Eating fresh watermelon is probably everyone’s favorite way of eating enjoying it, but there are some other ways to get the most of your watermelon.

  • Watermelon seeds are edible, have a nutty taste, and are commonly sold as a snack in some parts of the world. Seeds that mature to black are easier to eat than white seeds.
  • Watermelon rinds can be pickled and eaten throughout the winter.
  • You can dehydrate watermelon into “watermelon candy,” freeze it for smoothies or try your hand at fermenting watermelon wine.

12 Easy Ways to Help Your Garden Thrive in Hot Weather

So far this summer is promising to be a hot one. With the temperatures climbing and much of the east coast worrying about droughts like the ones they faced last summer a productive garden may seem like a mere dream. However there’s several easy tricks that can keep your plants cool, productive, and even lessen your water usage.

Install windbreaks.

Wind tearing through your garden can not only damage plants but also causes soil moisture to evaporate. The easy solution to this is to install or grow windbreaks in your garden. Windbreaks don’t need to be solid and stop all the wind. They can be quickly made from snow or pallet fencing. If you’d like living wind breaks consider tall annual crops, shorter perrenials that won’t shade your garden too much like berry bushes or dwarf fruit trees depending on your space, or hedge species. These should be placed perpendicular to the direction of the wind.

Invest in or diy some shade cloth.

Shade cloth can be super helpful for keeping those cools seaosn plants like peas and spinach producing longer. It can also be used over new new transplants that are adjusting to field conditions or seeds like lettuce that prefer cool soils to germinate.

Use a lot of mulch.

Mulch is one of the easiest ways to keep soil temperatures cooler and moisture levels up. Plus mulch cuts down on the weeding. Great mulch options include grass clippings, straw, hay, or old leaves all of which can be combined with cardboard or newspaper.

Water your garden consistently.

Your watering schedule will obviously be unique to your garden but you sould work hard to maintain moist soil conditions. Waiting for plants to start wilting before you realize it’s time to water harms your plants’ health and reduces your harvest.

Water at the right times.

Watering consistently is half the battle but you should also try to water at the best times of day. The early morning and evening are the best times to water. Less water is wasted waisted to evaporation because it has a chance to soak into the soil before it’s exposed to the mid-day sun and heat.

Practice interplanting.

Growing vining plants like watermelons, cucumbers, gourds, squashes, sweet potatoes, and nasturiums under taller plants like corn, sorghum, and sunflowers can help you make the most of your space and keep the soil cool. The vining plants will shade the soil, block weeds, and hold moisture once they’re mature enough.

Check out our The Three Sisters Garden Guide.

Build a shade trellis.

Create a trellis for climbling plants like cucumbers or runner beans and then plant a cool weather loving crop in the shade they create. These trellises are often set up so they’re slanted to provide maximum shade.

Learn more about trellising from Vertical Gardening: The Beginners Guide to Trellising Plants.

Use intensive planting. 

Intensive planting is a principle of biointensive gardening. Plants are grown in beds, not rows and are often planted hexagonally. This style of planting maximizes space. Mature plants may touch leaves but still have plenty of room for their roots. They shade the soil reducing moisture loss and blocking weeds.

Note: planting intensively will work best with healthy soils as you’ll be growing more plants on less space.

Transplant at the right times.

If you’re transplanting crops into your garden it’s best to avoid the heat and sun as much as possible, for your sake and the plant’s! Transplant in the early morning, late evening, or on a cloudy day for best results. The plants will suffer less transplant shock that way.

Catch rainwater around your plants. 

For transplants dig your hole a little extra deep and create a basin around each plant that extends outwards a little beyond the edges of the plant’s crown to funnel rainwater towards the roots.

For planting seeds dig your trench slightly deeper than necessary so that rainwater stills runs down into it even after you’ve covered your seeds.

If you’re feeling really productive go ahead and install some rain barrels on your gutters too!

Choose crops wisely.

Early Moonbeam Watermelon

If you live in an area with hot summer temperatures it’s a good time to start direct seeding crops that can handle the heat. These include plants like watermelon, okra, roselle, lima beans, and southern peas.

Learn about Direct Sowing Roselle.

Practice good soil and crop management. 

Whenever gardening you should be thinking about keeping your soil and therefore your plants healthy. Doing maintanence work like crop rotation, cover cropping, and applying compost will keep your soil and plants healthy. Well nourished, disease free plants will tolerate the stress of hot weather much better than those already struggling.

Gardening is never easy but hot weather can be especially tough on you and your plants. Follow these tips for a healthy and productive garden even in hot, dry weather.