The Tricks for Growing Watermelon In Cooler Areas
Growing watermelons has always delighted me in the garden.
The main trick to being successful with this plant is to pick early
varieties if you live in a cool climate area.
Too Big = Too Long
Pick a larger, long-day variety and you'll still be waiting for fruit
to ripen when the snow is on the ground.
Red juicy watermelon
Start your seed indoors around the middle of April. Do not bother
sowing after the first of May as you won't have time to ripen a crop
with even the early varieties.
Each seed gets its own pot because you don't want to disturb the roots
when you transplant. Use two to three seeds to each four inch pot
because you'll thin out the weakest seedlings once the plant gets to
the three leaf stage. (three true leaves, not counting the first tiny
seedling leaves) Figure you'll get (realistically) three ripe growing
watermelons from each vine.
Soil temperature is critical for success with this plant. Ensure the
soil is at least 72F. 75 is even better. Only use lukewarm water on the
seedlings – never cold water. If you lower the soil temperature with
cold water, the seeds will not be happy and will not germinate.
Once the seeds are up, grow them at an air temperature of 70 to 72F
with good air circulation and high light levels. Feed with a regular,
balanced house plant food (10-10-10 etc) to keep the seedling growing.
Harden those growing watermelons off before you put them outdoors. If
you move them from high heat to outside temperatures, you'll stunt them
and set them back. This will lower or eliminate getting a good fruit
Put the melons outside after all danger of frost and when the soil has
warmed up enough for melons. In my zone 4-5 garden, this is normally
the middle of June. You can stretch black plastic mulch (garbage bags
work well) over the planting area to warm it up as soon as the ground
is workable. Then when the air temperatures are high enough, the soil
under the black poly will be quite warm enough for melons. Weight the
plastic edges so they don't fly away in the wind. Some gardeners leave
the black plastic in place for this crop and merely make a slit in the
plastic to plant the potted watermelon in the ground under the poly.
Trying to rush a growing watermelon will only result in poor garden
performance. I'd make comments about rushing spouses having the same
effect but I think I'll just let it slide by. :-)
Once planted, remember that watermelons are mostly water and you do
have to provide them with enough to both grow the vine and fruit. They
are also very shallow rooted plants and weeding next to the vine has to
be done carefully or you'll chop up the roots. So, don't move the vines
– they resent this big time.
Try to feed them some compost tea and/or fish emulsion every few weeks
to keep them healthy and growing.
Once they are large, how do you know they're ripe? Ask them! If they
don't talk back, then look for when the rind on the bottom of the
watermelon turns from white to pale yellow. Pale yellow means this baby
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