You can easily grow your own watermelon right in your garden, watching your plants as they progress through the different stages of growth before enjoying the fruits of your labor. The fruit may taste even sweeter when you have nurtured them yourself from tiny seeds—and seeing them grow from a long, green vines into plump, juicy watermelons.
The dark, teardrop shaped seeds should be planted indoors two to three weeks prior to frost in areas with a short growing season, but can be planted directly in the garden in warmer regions. They should be planted in a bed that has had an ample amount of composted manure turned into the soil, to make it nitrogen rich, and mulched with black plastic, at least two weeks prior to planting. They should be planted in hills that are 4 to 5 feet apart, with three to four seeds, or two to three seedlings per hill after the soil is thoroughly warmed.
The first leaves to appear nourish the new seedling, and are not true leaves. These will appear about 10 days after planting. When seedlings sprout, it is time to place row covers to provide warmth and to protect the tender, green foliage from cucumber beetles and other would be garden pests. Cultivate shallowly until vines have formed. The seedlings will soon turn into vines that can grow to over 15 feet in length, with dark green, ruffled foliage. Water weekly with applications of compost tea or fish emulsion to make the vines strong and encourage growth. Remove row covers as soon as the small, white blossoms appear. From the blossom, a melon bud will appear, which will mature into a plump, ripe melon.
Watermelon plants take about two to three months to mature. Fruits range in color, from dark to light green, with rinds that can be solid, mottled, or striped. The bright red flesh that we associate in with watermelons can vary with cultivars, and orange, yellow or white fleshed cultivars are avaialable. Watermelons are fully matured and ripened when the tendril that lies closest to the fruit becomes brown and shriveled. This is the time to harvest the watermelon.
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