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Watermelons: Origin, Cultivation And Care

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The healthy watermelon provides refreshment on hot summer days. We show how you can grow watermelon in your own garden. Watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) are considered exotic fruits that are mostly imported from distant countries. In fact, the origin of the green-pink fruit is in West Africa, so the lush melon plants feel most comfortable when the heat is appropriate. Nevertheless, cultivation is also possible in our latitudes with the right tips and tricks. We’ll show you how to grow the melons yourself.

Planting watermelon: timing, procedure, and location

Although the watermelon is a pumpkin plant (Cucurbitaceae), it is much more sensitive to cold than cucumbers or pumpkins. You should therefore pay attention to a few points when choosing a location and the right time.

Planting watermelon: the right location

Melon plants are generally demanding in terms of location. Therefore, pay attention to the following aspects: Watermelons prefer sandy and humus-rich soil. Soils that are too heavy hinder root penetration and tend to backwater. We also recommend preparing the bed with plenty of compost before planting it out so that the watermelon plant gets enough nutrients. In addition to the right soil, a warm, sunny and sheltered place is an advantage for melons. The south wall of the house or the warm climate in the greenhouse, for example, offers ideal conditions.

In the USA, melons can only be grown outdoors if there is sufficient warmth
In the USA, melons can only be grown outdoors if there is sufficient warmth

In rough areas, it is therefore worth growing in a greenhouse

In rough areas, it is therefore worth growing in a greenhouse

Watermelons prefer sandy and humus-rich soil

Watermelons prefer sandy and humus-rich soil

When choosing a location, pay attention to these aspects:

  • Light and humus soil (too heavy soils are unsuitable)
  • Warm, sunny, and sheltered place
  • Ideally in the greenhouse or on a south wall

Planting watermelon: the right time

Watermelons are plants that have a high need for warmth – planting them out too early can therefore be fatal! Plant young plants outdoors at the earliest from the end of May to the beginning of June, in the greenhouse you can start as early as April. It should be noted that melons are sensitive to temperatures below 12 ° C.

All melon varieties are only planted from the end of May to June

All melon varieties are only planted from the end of May to June

Planting out too early can be fatal for the young seedlings 

Planting out too early can be fatal for the young seedlings

Creeping melon plants take up a lot of space

Creeping melon plants take up a lot of space

Planting watermelon: the procedure

The actual planting out of the exotic is relatively easy: Place the young plants in the bed with a sufficient distance. Basically, calculate 1 to 2 square meters per plant so that it has enough space to grow.

Plant watermelon in a pot

A good alternative to growing melons in beds is to plant them out in a pot. In this way, you save space in the bed and still don’t have to go without the delicious fruits. When growing watermelon in pots, you should note that the earth warms up faster than outdoors, but also dries out faster. Therefore, choose the largest possible pot and water frequently. It is also an advantage not to place the plant in the blazing sun, because the soil dries out faster there.

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Growing watermelons: buy plants or propagate them yourself?

Before you start growing watermelons in the spring, many people ask themselves the question: buy a melon plant or prefer it yourself? We introduce both options and show you the advantages and disadvantages.

Propagate watermelons yourself

Growing your own watermelon plants is quite unproblematic and the germination rate is high. To do this, plant one seed per seed pot about 1 to 2 cm deep from March to April. A temperature of over 18 ° C is necessary for germination, ideally, this is 22 to 24 ° C. The window sill is a very suitable place for cultivation and the first seedlings can be seen after 5 to 10 days. As soon as the first leaves appear, the young plants can then be pricked out into larger pots. When repotting, be careful not to damage the roots, as watermelons are very sensitive to injuries.

When propagating watermelons, keep these tips in mind:

  • Sow from March to April at a depth of 1 to 2 cm
  • Position on a window sill or in a mini greenhouse (min. 18 ° C)
  • The first seedlings appear after 5 – 10 days
  • Prick into larger pots as soon as the first leaves appear

Buy watermelon plants

A less laborious method than bringing forward seeds is buying young plants that have already been brought forward. You can buy these from May to June in the garden center and then plant them outdoors in the same way. One advantage of these young plants is that they are often grafted on pumpkin rootstocks and are therefore less prone to root diseases. Basically, the purchase is also a question of cost, since larger quantities of pre-grown plants are much more expensive than seeds.

Watermelon: varieties, types, and varieties

When talking about watermelon, many people think of the large green fruit with the pink pulp – but the species is actually very diverse. The varieties visually differ greatly from one another, but they are all of the Citrullus lanatus species. There are basically two variations of watermelons:

1. Citrullus lanatus var. Lanatus: This variation includes the cultivated watermelons that are grown commercially around the world. It is the classic watermelon that everyone knows.

2. Citrullus lanatus var. Citroides: This wild form of the melon grows mainly in Africa and is also known as the tsamma melon. The pulp of this variation is not pink but yellowish to light green.

If you want to grow melons in your own garden, the variety is crucial

If you want to grow melons in your own garden, variety is crucial

If you want to grow melons in your own garden, the variety is crucial 

With a little care, suitable varieties can also be grown in this country

With a little care, suitable varieties can also be grown in this country

Yellow melon varieties can also be grown in our latitudes

Bush sugar baby

  • A new breed that emerged from Sugar Baby
  • Early ripening with smaller fruits: 2 – 4 kg (1 – 2 fruits per plant)
  • Red flesh with a dark skin
  • The plant remains quite compact (1 square meter per plant)

Crimson Sweet

  • A worldwide widespread and popular variety
  • Oval and light green fruits; high fruit weight: 5 – 8 kg
  • Aromatic light red pulp
  • Good resistance to leaf rot and other fungal diseases
  • 1.5 – 2 square meters per plant

Red Star

  • Dark skin and deep red pulp; high sugar content
  • Fruit size: 6 – 8kg
  • The variety is suitable for cultivation in temperate climates and should not be cultivated in harsh areas due to the somewhat longer ripening period
  • 1.5 square meters per plant

Growing watermelons: proper care

As soon as the watermelon plant has got used to its location in the garden, its growth can hardly be stopped. However, there are a few tips you should follow to ensure that the plant is adequately supplied with water and nutrients.

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Properly water watermelons

Watermelons have a high water requirement – not surprising when you look at the juicy flesh. It is therefore particularly important in summer to water the plants sufficiently. The soil should be watered daily, especially every morning, especially during fruiting. Make sure you only use tempered water, as the plant does not tolerate water that is too cold. You can use water from the rain barrel for this, for example. When watering, make sure not to wet the leaves, as this increases the risk of infection with powdery mildew.

Melons need a large amount of water to grow optimally 

Melons need a large amount of water to grow optimally

Never let the soil dry out completely while the flowers and fruits are being formed 

Never let the soil dry out completely while the flowers and fruits are being formed

With a little care, suitable varieties can also be grown in this country

With a little care, suitable varieties can also be grown in this country

Fertilize watermelons

Watermelons are considered to be heavy consumers in the garden – a good supply of nutrients is therefore particularly important. Before planting out, it is advisable to work a primarily organic long-term fertilizer into the bed. Alternatively, compost is also suitable. The next maintenance fertilization is then about two to three months after planting out to provide enough nutrients.

Harvesting watermelons: when are they ripe?

The ripening time of watermelons is comparatively long – the large fruits are not harvested until the end of August and into autumn. For the taste, it is essential to only harvest ripe fruits, because they only develop their sweet taste over time. To tell if a watermelon is ripe, look out for these signs:

  • Dark green skin with yellowish spots
  • Dull sound when knocking
  • Wilting autumn leaves

Store watermelons

The shelf life of watermelons is relatively limited and, ideally, they should be consumed quickly. The exotic fruit can be stored uncut for two weeks at room temperature without any problems. As soon as it is cut, the shelf life is unfortunately shortened very quickly and should therefore be stored in the refrigerator. Freezing watermelons, on the other hand, is not recommended as the fruit consists largely of water and becomes mushy after thawing.

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