Growing Watermelons in Raised Beds

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Welcome back! This year we’ve been planning to set out watermelons in one of our raise beds. I hope this will be a fruitful experience (no pun intended.) This will be our first season with them so I will share everything I can and find out and hopefully it will help you to set off on the right foot. Where I come from people love watermelon slices, my grandmother enjoyed it with a sprinkle of salt. .

They have a long growth period which makes sense for watermelons get pretty big. You may be wondering all kinds of things such as how big a space do you need to plot out, should you allocate one whole bed or a section of it, and how long do they take to develop. Well I hope I will answer all that here.

Watermelons are in the same family as cucumbers and squash so some of the same guidelines will still apply but there are other considerations as well.

Pin It, Gardeners….

growing watermelon

First off, varieties of watermelons…

We bought some “Sugar Baby” seeds which are going to be a little smaller. Other smaller varieties of watermelons that are ideal for raised beds and smaller spaces include the Charleston Gray, Golden Midget, sweet Beauty and Little Darling (how do these get their names?) are some good examples of “bush” varieties that may spread out but don’t get as humungous as the classic watermelon as depicted.

Some are round and some are oblong . Better yet, they have a shorter germination period too, in addition to taking up less space.

Golden Midget -These don’t get individual fruits heavier than 3-7 pounds. Each plant may produce around 5-6 fruits give or take.The outer rind is deep yellow and the inside fruit a salmon pinkish shade. These are great for shorter growing season zones as they only have a 70 day germination period. 

Yellow Petite -f you have ever tried a yellow fruited melon and enjoyed it, you might also like the Yellow Petite. It’s also bright yellow on the inside and super sweet.  On the outside they are round with the common light green with dark green speckles. With a 2 mo. growing season, you will love snacking on this one when the time comes.

Little Darlings are sweet and petite, with a 65-70 day germination period, and on average, a five pounder with light green and dark green stripes. Each plant can produce about 4 oblong fruits. on average. 

And the “Sugar babies” I mentioned earlier that we’re sprouting, have a 75 day germination period on average and are a little bigger than the others here. They can get up to 8 lbs apiece, with light and dark green markings.

Starting Watermelon Seeds

All of the above seed varieties are available depending on the season, Because watermelons are such a summer oriented fruit, I did not start any indoors this year. I used starter pots (as opposed to peat pots or starter trays) outdoors, when spring started. IF you follow this example you will have a  shorter window of time before sprouting. Seeds themselves do not have a great success rate to starting outside  is best.

watermelon seedlings in small pot

These pots we used, were originally used to pot some strawberries we got too., about several pints I started each seed about 4″ apart so about 4 seeds per cup. They are starting to sprout now and have roundish leaves. As the seedlings develop more (they’re outside …weather is nice now) so there will be no need to harden them off before planting them in the ground.

Planting and Plot Tips

When the last frost has passed, it is safe to start planting them.  Watermelons thrive in sandy and loamy soil, a slightly acidic or neutral Ph is ideal. Be sure it gets enough fertilizer as a plant that gets as big as these will consume a lot of nutrients in the soil,

Ideally, be sure our bed space is at least 8 feet in length and rectangular. Square beds are not going to be conducive to checking on the crop as things progress. Also make sure your beds are deep enough. We have a plot that is further from our main beds that will be using since our main beds are not quite as deep as they should be.

Thin out the seedlings when they reach a height of about 4-5″ apart. Young juvenile seedlings have small oval leaves as they get more mature the leaves look similar to that of an oak tree.

watermelon patchGermination and Harvest

Fruits have a range of development from about 70 to 100 days on average, all varities including the bushes, may vary but they are in this range. You can tell if fruit is viable by paying attention to the leaves, if you see them darkening, while the fruit is still developing they are dark green. The tendrils (culique stems you see on vining plants ) are your giveaway for readiness.

If the tendril is green, it’s still too soon. Leave it be but keep an eye on it going forward. If the tendril turns brown, it’s getting closer. When you notice brown tendrils on your fruits, you may want to tag them so you know which of them are getting close to being ready to pick. You can put the date on the tag with a weather proof pen.

This advice you may have hard and wondered if it was an urban legend but it is correct. Thump on a melon and if it sounds hollow, it is ready to be picked. If it’s dense, it’s probably not. 

 

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