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Jim Hunter
master gardener








Watermelon (Citrullus Vulgaris)
July, 2017

Could anything else be as refreshing as a cold melon on a hot Florida day?  Watermelon is in the gourd family (cucurbitaceae).  A native of Africa, these plants are grown and cherished around the world.  Seasonally, large stand of wild watermelons still occur in Africa!

Grown in this country since colonial time, watermelon are prized crops in the deep south.  Thomas Jefferson did thousands of melon trial plots.  His experiments were multi-purpose but ultimately he was looking for the perfect melon for the short growing season in Virginia.  Today, watermelons are grown from south Florida to New Jersey.  Florida is the number is the number one producer of watermelons.  Texas, Georgia and California also grow large amounts for the commercial market.

To successfully grow watermelons full sun with good air flow is a must.  Ideal soil is lightly sand that can hold moisture.  The pH of the soil should be 5.5 to 7.5, with 6.0 being ideal.  The temperature needs to be above 55 degrees at night and above 80 degrees in daytime.

Watermelons are usually planted on ‘hills’ to promote drainage.  The hills should be 4 – 10 feet apart.  Small varieties are planted 4 feet apart.  Seeds are planted after danger of frost.  Seed depth is ½ to 1 inch.  Seedlings emerge after 7 – 14 days.  From this time to picking varies from 57 – 130 days.  Small melons would be on the short end of the scale.

Most any vegetable fertilizer will do nicely.  A lot of potash gives you nice large melons.  We load our hills with cow manure and compost.  In this area seeds are planted mid-February to mid March.  The melons need to do their growing before the June rains come.

When your melons have grown for the days indicated by the variety (57-130) you should be ready for harvest time.  To pick a ripe watermelon the hollowing conditions should be present:

  • melon belly color has turned to white/yellow
  • when rapped, an echo should sound with a dull thud
  • the string like tendril on the vine nearest the melon turns brown
  • melons lose their slick appearance and become dull colored

If all these conditions are met, then harvest your melons and enjoy!