Watermelon

Updated: Apr 6

Watermelon is a flowering plant species of the Cucurbitaceae family and the name of its edible fruit. A scrambling and trailing vine-like plant, it is a highly cultivated fruit worldwide, with more than 1,000 varieties. The scientific name of watermelon is Citrullus lanatus.



It is native to tropical Africa and cultivated around the world. The fruit contains vitamin A and some vitamin C and is usually eaten raw. The rind is sometimes preserved as a pickle. Watermelon contains a high content of water.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

1-3 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

5-20 feet


Approximate pH

5.0 - 6.8


Growth Nutrition of Watermelon Plant


Watermelon plants need lots of nutrients. While the plant is growing, use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Once the plant starts putting out fruits, switch to a fertilizer that has a heavier amount of phosphorus and potassium.


Watermelon Varieties


Early/ short-season varieties mature in 70 to 75 days:


  • 'Blacktail Mountain' has red flesh with a dark green rind. They weigh 6 to 12 pounds.

  • 'Faerie' produces watermelons with red flesh and a yellow rind. They are relatively small fruits, at 5 to 6 pounds.

  • 'Golden Crown' watermelons have red flesh and yellow rinds. They weigh 4 to 7 pounds.

  • 'Sugar Baby' is a great red-fleshed cultivar. Melons weigh 6 to 10 pounds.


Long-season varieties mature in 80 to 85 days:


  • 'Ali Baba' has oblong-shaped melons with red flesh. Melons weigh 12 to 30 pounds.

  • 'Moon and Stars' is a hybrid plant with beautiful melons. Both red- and yellow-fleshed cultivars are available.

  • 'New Queen' has orange-fleshed melons with few seeds and a high sugar content. They weigh 5 to 6 pounds.


Seedless varieties: So-called seedless varieties are not truly seedless, but the seeds are small, white, and edible. These are self-sterile hybrids. Seedless watermelons have a lower germination rate and they are more expensive than seeded watermelons, so starting them in peat or paper pots will give you a slight edge over starting them in the ground.


  • 'Revolution' is a red-fleshed melon that matures in 80 days. Melons are 20 to 26 pounds.

  • 'Superseedless' has red-fleshed melons that are ready to harvest 90 to 95 days after sprouting. Melons are 16 to 20 pounds.

  • 'Sweet Bite' has red-fleshed melons that are ready to harvest in about 75 days. Melons are 5 to 8 pounds.

  • 'Triple Gold' is a yellow-fleshed melon that matures in about 75 days. Fruits way 8 to 10 pounds.


Planting Watermelons

When to Plant Watermelons

  • In cool climates with short growing seasons, start seeds indoors 2 to 3 weeks before your last frost date. Plan to transplant seedlings into the garden about 2 weeks after that date or when the soil has warmed to at least 65°F (18°C).

  • In warmer climates with long growing seasons, sow seeds directly outdoors 1 to 2 weeks after your last frost date, as long as the soil temperature has warmed to at least 65°F (18°C).

  • Young watermelon plants can also be bought from nurseries. Plant these after there is no longer a chance of frost occurring; they are very tender. Watch the local forecast and err on the side of caution! Consider laying black plastic over your planting area in order to warm the soil even more.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Amend soil with aged manure, seaweed, and/or compost before planting. Watermelons are heavy feeders, meaning they need soil that is fertile and has a high nutrient level. Learn more about soil amendments and preparing soil for planting.

  • Watermelons do best in loamy, somewhat-sandy, well-drained soil. They can struggle in soil that contains too much clay and doesn’t drain well.

  • Watermelons prefer a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.5 (“slightly acidic to neutral”).

  • Watermelons need A LOT of space—up to 20 square feet per plant. Their vines need room to sprawl, so plant them in a place where they won’t crowd out other crops.

  • Growing the vines in raised rows, known as hills, ensures good drainage and will hold the sun’s heat longer.

  • Plan to space the plants 2-3 feet apart in a 5-foot-wide hill.

  • If you’re growing in traditional rows, space them at least 6 feet apart.

How to Plant Watermelons

  • Sow seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep outdoors or 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in seed-starting pots indoors.

  • If direct seeding outdoors, sow 4 to 6 seeds per hill, eventually thinning to 2 to 3 seedlings.

Transplanting Seedlings

  • Handle watermelon seedlings with extreme care when you transplant. Their roots are very fragile, so try not to disturb the soil when removing them from pots.

  • After transplanting, cover the plants with row covers to keep pests at bay. Remember to remove the row covers when you see both male and female flowers on the vine, as pollinators will need to access the flowers.

  • Find even more tips for planting melons in your home garden.


Growing Watermelons


Watering

  • Watering is very important—from planting until fruit begins to form. While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week.

  • Keep soil moist, but not waterlogged. Water at the vine’s base in the morning, and try to avoid wetting the leaves and avoid overhead watering. Reduce watering once fruit are growing. Dry weather produces the sweetest melon.

Fertilizing

  • If you choose to fertilize (and many do), make sure it delivers more nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium, as this will encourage leaf and vine growth. However, after flowering begins, use a fertilizer with less nitrogen to instead encourage flowers and fruit. We like to use a seaweed-based fertilizer.

Flowering and Fruiting

  • Vines produce male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the females appear. 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 the bees! Learn how to support pollinators in your garden.

  • As fruit is ripening, prevent rotting by gently lifting it and putting cardboard or straw between the fruit and the soil.


Care for Watermelons

  • Early in the season cover plants with a floating row cover. This will keep insects away and hold warm air around plants. Once plants begin to flower, remove the row cover during the day so that bees can get to the flowers.

  • Encourage watermelon plants to set three or four fruits at the same time; if a plant sets one fruit early, pinch it out to encourage the plant to develop several fruits at the same time. One fruit off to a head start can suppress all further fruiting on the vine until that fruit matures.

  • Cultivate carefully around vines until they cover the ground and smother out competing weeds.

  • Mulch around watermelons with straw, dry chopped leaves or set down black plastic or garden fabric. Mulch will keep down weeds and conserve soil moisture.

  • For sprawling watermelons, place a tile, wooden shingle, or a piece of plastic under each melon to keep the fruit clean and dry and to store solar heat which will help ripen fruit.

  • About 50 days before the first expected autumn frost, remove all new blossoms from a plant; this will allow the plant to concentrate its energy into the development and ripening of fruit already on the plant.


Pests and Diseases


Pests

  • Aphids and spotted and striped cucumber beetles will attack melons.

  • Hose away aphids with a blast of water or pinch out infested foliage.

  • Hand-pick and destroy cucumber beetles promptly; they can transmit cucumber bacterial wilt to melons. You can also control cucumber beetles by spraying insecticidal soap, neem oil, or dusting with kaolin.

Diseases

  • Watermelons are susceptible to anthracnose, Alternaria leaf spot, bacterial wilt, and powdery and downy mildew.

  • Planting disease-resistant varieties when they are available and maintaining the general cleanliness and health of your garden will help cut down the incidence of disease.

  • Do not handle the vines when they are wet; this can spread fungal diseases.

  • If a plant does become infected remove it before it can spread the disease to healthy plants.

  • Bacterial wilt which is spread by cucumber beetles can cause watermelon plants to suddenly wilt and die just as they begin to produce fruit. Control cucumber beetles as soon as they appear.

  • Anthracnose is a soil-borne fungal disease that can cause leaf spots, leaf drop, wilting, and sometimes death. Keep the garden clean and plant disease-resistant varieties. Remove diseased plants from the garden immediately.

  • Powdery mildew and other fungal diseases can be prevented and slowed by spray-misting plants with compost tea or a solution of 1-part skim milk and 9-parts water.


Harvesting


Judging the ripeness of a watermelon requires some experience, but there are a few signs that can help you learn how to determine when they are ready:


  • The watermelon rind will start to become dull.

  • The curly tendrils on the vine, near where the melon attaches, will turn brown.

  • You should not be able to pierce the rind with your thumbnail.

  • The part that rests on the ground will change from pale light green to a pale yellow.


Watermelons are best eaten right away. Cut watermelon should be refrigerated and only keeps for a few days. Don't store uncut melons in the refrigerator. Opt for a cool room (45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit), if possible. In this environment, uncut melons will keep for up to two weeks.


Benefits of Watermelon


August 3rd of every year is considered watermelon day and is one of the best fruits that you can take on your picnics or backyard parties. Other than being sweet and juicy, this healthy fruit is said to be loaded with health benefits that can do good to your health. Here are some health benefits of consuming watermelon.

Keeps you hydrated

This healthy fruit consists of 92% water and this means that you are consuming fewer calories and with a lot of food. This fruit has the capability to curb your dehydration and this means that you need to add this to your weight loss diet. Staying hydrated most often can prevent you from mouth dryness and is good for cardiovascular health. Staying hydrated will keep your body cool during high summers. It will cleanse your body and keep your skin healthy. So, all you need to do is just consume one cup of watermelon every day and you will be good to go.

Helps in blood sugar management

This juicy fruit helps your kidneys convert L-citrulline (amino acid) into L-arginine (amino acid). In fact, these two amino acids have a tendency to protect you from diabetes. Medically speaking, the L-arginine supplement that watermelon has is crucial for regulating glucose metabolism and insulin by the body.

Aids in weight loss

In case you are wondering how to reduce weight naturally, then don’t miss out on adding this healthy fruit to your weight loss diet. Since this fruit consists of mostly water, it gives you a feeling of fullness and this will curb your appetite from snacking on your favourite food. So, if you are looking to get on the lighter side, then you need to make a point to add this juicy fruit to your weight loss diet.

Helps to prevent cardiovascular disease

Lycopene is a substance that is found in the watermelon and this gives the fruit its reddish colour. Even tomatoes have this substance, but did you know that this substance is found more in watermelon than in tomato? Well, lycopene can reduce cholesterol and thereby reduce your risk of developing heart-related diseases. All you need to do is to consume one cup of watermelon daily and this will do the job.

Decreases severity of Asthma

Watermelon has a good source of vitamin C which is responsible for reducing the effects of asthma and this could mean that you could be fighting some of the severe effects of asthma with just one cup of watermelon daily. Moreover, asthmatics with low levels of vitamin C tend to experience more asthmatic symptoms and thus watermelon is a great recommendation if you are battling with one such disease. In simple terms, watermelon has about 40% of vitamin C that is good for asthmatics.

Reduces dental problems

Consuming one cup of watermelon every day can prevent you from a periodontal disease which is a condition that affects about 25% of the world’s population. This disease is characterised by tooth loss, infection and is also linked to other heart diseases. The major substance that reduces the adverse effects of periodontal disease is vitamin C. So all you need to do is just add some watermelon to your everyday diet and this will do you good.

Fights inflammation

One of the most common forms of inflammatory diseases that most people currently face is inflammation which is the cause of many serious diseases. These diseases include heart disease, cancer, and fibromyalgia. Inflammation has loads of problems that most face today and fighting this disease is something that needs to be taken as a precaution. However, one simple way to fight this sort of inflammation is by simply adding watermelon into your everyday diet.

Good for nerve function

Watermelon has a rich source of potassium that can regulate nerve function. In more simple terms, it facilitates electric impulses and messages. You need to keep in mind that less potassium in the human body can cause numbness and tingling. So if you are suffering from leg cramps in your leg, then this may be the cause of low potassium in your body. All you need to do is just sip a glass of watermelon juice.

Prevents heat strokes

Heatstroke is a dangerous problem faced by many people in the US. However, this condition can be life-threatening such that is marked by fever, and the body’s temperature regulates extremely high temperatures. Watermelon contains electrolytes that can prevent heat strokes. All you need to do is just sip some watermelons juice and this will keep your body cool and help regulate body temperature.

Good for kidneys

The human body is exposed to a sum load of toxins from food including the air we breathe. However, these toxins are flushed out by your kidneys and in order to keep your kidneys healthy and functioning well, you need to drink 1 glass of watermelon juice every day. The main nutrients in watermelons are calcium and potassium which help in fighting toxins and flushes them away from your body.

May help with eye health

Watermelons contain a plant compound called lycopene, which may be involved in preventing degeneration of the eye tissues. Lycopene is considered to be an antioxidant and an inflammation reducer. While there’s still more research needed to see how lycopene truly supports healthy eyes, for now, it looks promising that watermelon may indeed be good for the eyes.

Soothe sore muscles

Watermelon in fruit or juice form has been shown to improve athletic performance and reduce the soreness you feel after working out. It is thought to be related to the amino acid called citrulline. Citrulline may help your body boost nitric oxide production and lead to better blood circulation. Although more testing is required to confirm this health benefit, why not give it a try and make watermelon juice part of your workout recovery!

Potential digestion benefits

Watermelon has both water and fibre, these two nutrients are essential for a happy digestive system. A diet low in fibre can lead to constipation and other issues. Add watermelon and other fibre-rich foods to your diet to ease any indigestion or constipation woes.


Uses


Watermelon is usually consumed as a fresh fruit. In Africa it is sometimes cooked before eating and may also be used as an animal feed

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