Watermelon is one of the most delicious and mouthwatering fruit of summertime. When it comes to the hot days of July and August, there is nothing more refreshing and cool than a slice of watermelon. Besides the delightful taste, watermelon is a great source of lycopene, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
When to Plant
Since the watermelon needs a long, warm season of its growth, the best place to plant it in the IS is Southwest regions where there is enough warm weather. For gardeners in cooler regions, you can plant the seed indoors for a month and then transplant it outside, but you need to keep one thing in mind that it requires consistently at least 100 warm days and nights for healthy growth. The temperature can be around 80 degree Fahrenheit during the day and around 70 during the night. Watermelons ususally take a large space, so you shouldn’t try to grow them in small veggies garden. There are a lot of varieties of watermelon, you can opt one as per your choice.
The best way to grow watermelons is to plant the seeds indoors nearly 5 weeks before the summer days. Make sure the soil and weaher is warm enough during the days and nights as they very sensitive to cold. Try to use the hot caps in case the weather is cool during the nights. There is an option to grow it outside directly, but most of the planters report that they had better results when they use pre-sprouted seeds.
How to Plant
If you are going to plant them outside directly, sow two to three seeds in a hill and leave enough space depening on whether you are spreading them on the ground or training them on a trellis. Whereas, if you opt to plant them inside, use individual peat pots for better results.
For direct sowing and transplants, cover seedlings with hot caps to protect from frost, speed growth, and keep out pests. The vines do best if planted in hills. Rows and hills should be set 5 to 6 feet apart each way, with 2 or 3 plants per hill. Thin to the 2 strongest plants in a week.
To encourage side shoots, when seedlings have 3 leaves, pinch off the growing end. When new side shoots have 3 leaves, pinch off the central growing area again. When fruits begin to form, pinch back the vine to two leaves beyond the fruit. Make sure fruits on a trellis are supported by netting or pantyhose, and fruits on the ground vines are elevated by empty pots to prevent disease and encourage ripening.
The vines are heavy feeders, and also need adequate moisture as they start to develop. Troughs near the plants can be flooded for effective watering. For fertilizer, give each hill about 1/2 cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer, liquid manure or fish emulsion 3 weeks after planting, and again (if you can find the original hill) after flowers appear. Keep the hills well-watered up to the time fruit starts to fill out. Since weeding and cultivating are such problems with sprawling vine crops, black plastic or thick mulch proves an excellent aid to keeping weeds out, soil moisture in, and melons off the ground as they develop. The plastic mulch should be placed on the ground and anchored before planting, then central holes cut for the hills, with a few extra slits to let rain and hose water filter through. Plain cardboard and newspaper covered appropriately also work well in a smaller garden setting.
How to Harvest
Knowing when to harvest watermelons is the most difficult part of growing them. They should be harvested at the peak of freshness for best results. Waiting too long gives you nothing but a mealy mess. Not waiting long enough means you may have to throw an inedible treasure out to the chickens.
There are several methods to identify a ripe watermelon, most of which are not entirely accurate at best. Some say you should tap them and listen to the sound they make, some say to look at the small tail to determine it’s ripeness. The fact is, these are not reliable indicators for all watermelon varieties. The most reliable indicator of ripeness is the color. Ripe watermelons will have darker stripes and the spot the rind rests on will turn from white to golden yellow. Different varieties will darken to different degrees, but this will be your best indicator. If all else fails, plant a variety like Sugar Baby. Its green stripes darken to almost black when it is ripe, which makes the puzzle a little easier.
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