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Watermelons range from single serving types to mammoth fruits that can feed an entire little league team. Watermelon thrives in areas with long, hot summers. This vining plant needs some space to sprawl. But small-space gardeners can grow watermelon too—many new varieties boast vines that extend just 3 to 5 feet. Choose your favorite and enjoy a juicy, garden-fresh melon.
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Plant watermelon seeds when weather is warm and nighttime temperatures regularly stay above 50 degrees F. Watermelons like full sun and rich soil. Place seeds in slightly rounded hills 2 feet in diameter and 5 feet apart. Sow 5 to 6 seeds 1 inch deep in a small circle on the top of each hill. When seedlings have several sets of leaves, thin them to the 3 strongest plants in each hill.
If you're starting seeds indoors, plant several weeks before the last frost date. Sow seeds in individual pots of seed-starting mix. Keep the pots warm and moist and provide a strong light source until weather warms enough to transplant the seedlings outdoors.
Watermelon Care Must-Knows
Watermelons grow best in long, hot summers. If summers are short or cool, consider laying black plastic over the soil for insulation. Make several holes in the cover to allow moisture to reach plant roots. If insect pests are a problem, consider covering young plants with row covers. Remove the row covers when watermelon vines begin blooming as row covers prevent pollination. Water young plants regularly to encourage good growth and fruit development. Reduce watering as fruits ripen for the best sweet flavor.
Watermelons will not ripen off the vine. Experience helps in determining when to pick them, but there are several cues to help you figure out when to harvest. Each melon has a curly tendril near its stem end. This tendril turns brown when the fruit is ripe. The spot where the melon rests on the ground usually turns from white to creamy yellow as it ripens. And a ripe melon gives a dull thump when tapped with your knuckle.