For me, thinning out any young seedling is painful, but I know it has to be done. Thinning out fruit is also a common practice and is done to engender larger, healthier fruit by reducing competition for light, water and nutrients. If you want enormous watermelons, for example, then thinning the watermelon fruit is necessary, but the question is how to thin out watermelon plants? How many watermelons per plant should be left? Keep reading to find out all about pruning watermelons.
Healthy watermelon vines produce 2-4 fruits per plant. The vines produce both male and female flowers. Both are needed to set fruit and there are fewer female flowers compared to male, about one female for every seven males.
Watermelons can weigh as much as 200 pounds (90.5 kg.), but to get one that size, thinning watermelon fruit is a necessity. The vine simply does not have enough nutrients to foster more than one fruit of that size. This is where pruning watermelons comes into the picture, but removing melon fruit may have some downsides as well.
There are a few considerations before going off willy-nilly pruning a watermelon vine. Pruning promotes healthier vines and increased fruit size but if cutting the vines back too early, you may reduce the number of female blossoms. With no female blooms to pollinate, there will be no fruit. Pruning will also reduce the size of the vines, which can grow to over 3 feet (0.3 m.) in length.
Also, cutting back the plants may cause the vine to send out additional runners, which will then delay fruit set, as the plant is now focusing on growing vines instead of developing melons.
As the vine begins to fruit, at first it may seem that you have a bumper crop awaiting you. Don’t thin or prune the vine just yet! Many of the young melons will shrivel and die off, leaving only the strongest melons to ripen. If that is your end goal, then there’s no longer any reason to prune the vine back.
Whether you want to rein in the size of the vine or you’re trying for a blue ribbon melon, thinning watermelons is an easy procedure. Using sharp gardening shears, first remove any diseased, dead, yellowing or otherwise infested leaves and shoots at the joint, where they connect to the main stem.
At this time, also remove any secondary vines, those that are not blooming or look sickly. Leave one or two fruits on the vine if you want the largest melons or up to 4 for healthy, average sized watermelon fruit.
Because watermelons are prone to diseases and parasites, don’t cut the vines when they are wet.
Binomial Name: Citrullus lanatus
Watermelon Varieties: Black Diamond, Jubilee, Sugar Baby
Jubilee watermelons are crisp and flavorful, and often require around 90 days to reach maturity. The melons are oblong, with alternating dark green and pale green stripes. Jubilees can often weigh roughly 40 lbs at the end of their growth cycle.
As they require a long growing season, watermelons are best started indoors approximately 3-4 weeks prior to the last frost of the season. Sow seeds 1/4" deep in flats or small pots, sowing 3 seeds per pot. Keep medium moist while awaiting germination. Additionally, watermelon seeds will show better germination rates with heat. Keep the soil between 80-90 degrees, using a heat mat if necessary. Seed should begin to germinate within 3-10 days.
Once seeds start to germinate, lower soil temp slightly to the mid 70s, for 1-2 weeks, also decreasing water. Thin to one plant per cell or pot. Once the first set of true leaves has developed, reduce waterings once more, but do not allow plant to become desiccated.
Harden plant by gradually exposing to outdoor conditions. Transplant to permanent site in late spring after the last frost has passed. If possible, transplant on an overcast day to minimize wilting and create a more amenable environment for your young plant.
If you have long, hot growing seasons, melons can direct-seed into garden. To ensure ripening in areas with shorter growing seasons and cooler weather, choose fast-maturing varieties, start plants inside, use black or IRT plastic mulch to warm soil and use fabric row covers to protect plants.
Direct-seed 1 to 2 weeks after average last frost when soil is 70 F or warmer. Plant 1 inch deep, 6 seeds per hill, hills 4 to 6 feet apart or 1 foot apart in rows 5 feet apart. Can plant at closer spacings if trellised. Thin to 2 to 3 plants per hill.
Choosing a Site
Prefers warm, well-drained, soil, high in organic matter with pH 6.5 to 7.5. Consistent, plentiful moisture needed until fruit is about the size of a tennis ball. Soil temperatures below 50 F slow growth. Consider using black plastic and fabric row covers to speed soil warming. Sandy or light-textured soils that warm quickly in spring are best.
In many areas, successful crops require starting plants indoors, using plastic mulch to warm soil, and fabric row covers to protect young transplants.
For transplanting, sow seeds indoors ¼ inch deep in peat pots (2-inch square or bigger), 2 to 4 weeks before setting out. Plants should have one or two true leaves when transplanted.
Transplant at same spacings as direct-seeded crops - 2 to 3 plants per hill in hills spaced 4 to 6 feet apart, or 1 to 2 feet apart in rows 5 feet apart. Transplants are delicate and roots are sensitive to disturbance. If you need to thin, use scissors. Keep soil intact around plant when transplanting.
Mulch plants after soil has warmed to help maintain consistent moisture and suppress weeds.
If using fabric row covers, remove at flowering to allow pollination by bees. Good pollination is critical to fruit set.
Plants require consistent moisture until pollination. Once fruits are about the size of a tennis ball, only water if soil is dry and leaves show signs of wilting.
To prevent insect damage to developing fruits, place melons on pots or pieces of wood.
If growing melons on a trellis, support fruit with slings made from netting, fabric, or pantyhose. Trellising improves air circulation around plants and can help reduce foliar disease problems. Choose small-fruited varieties and reduce plant spacing.
For large plantings, leave a strip of rye cover crop every second or third row perpendicular to prevailing winds to protect plants from damaging wind.
To reduce insect and disease problems, avoid planting cucumber family crops (melons, squash, pumpkins) in the same spot two years in a row.
Do not let your melon plants get dried out during the growing season. They are not tolerant of drought. Additionally, be cautious not to over-water plants as this can negatively impact the taste and flavor later on. Keep soil moist but not soggy.
Harveting watermelons is not as straight forward as many other vegetables when it comes to deciding exactly when to harvest. One of the reasons is that they do not slip off the vine like cantaloupes when ripe. This makes it is necessary to look for other indicators. Rolling the melon over and looking at the ground spot where the melon was laying is probably the best method. If that portion of the watermelon is a pale yellow color, the melon should be ripe. You can also look at the tendrils (short, curly, stem-like vine) next to the melon. The tendrils are close to the area where a leaf is attached to the main vine. When the first tendril next to the fruit looks dead and dried up, the melon closest to that tendril should be ripe. Watermelons will store longer than other melons and should be refrigerated, especially after cut.
Scoop out the seeds from a ripe melon and put them into a wire mesh sieve, then with running water over the seeds rub them gently against the mesh, using it to loosen and remove the stringy fibers. Next place the cleaned seeds in a bowl of water, stir it a few times. Some seeds will float to the top. these are immature or sterile melon seeds, they are hollow and/or light-weight and will float to the top of the water. Skim away these bad seeds and discard them. Stir a few more times and repeat the process until no more sterile seeds float to the the top. Drain the water from the remaining seeds.
Afterwards, line a heavy plate or baking pan with waxed paper, spread the seeds out in a single layer onto the waxed paper and place it in sunny spot to air-dry.
Stir the seeds occasionally during the next few hours to make sure all sides are exposed to fresh air, this facilitates even drying. After a day in the sun bring the seeds into the house where they continue to dry for another week or two, stir them daily so they dry evenly. If you've got rainy weather the increased humidity can prolong the drying process another week or so.
Melons have thick seeds so be sure they are thoroughly dry before packing them for storage.
Everyone seems to love juicy watermelon in the summertime. Native to Africa, melons need warm temperatures (up to 80°F during the day) and a long growing season. Here’s how to plant and grow watermelons in your garden!
Gardeners in colder climates can still have success in growing watermelon vines by starting seeds indoors and choosing short-season varieties. Days to maturity range from 70 to 90, depending on the variety.
Flowering and Fruiting
General Care Tips
Cantaloupes are a delicious, heat-loving melon with a relatively long growing season, making them especially well-suited for southern gardeners. Here’s how to grow cantaloupes in your garden!
Cantaloupes are a type of melon with a tan-green rind. Typically, the rind is covered in a spiderweb-like pattern, though some varieties may also be striped. Inside, the flesh is bright orange and sweet. Their growing requirements are similar to that of other popular melons, such as watermelons and honeydew melons.
Cantaloupes vs. Muskmelons
Oddly enough, the melon that is commonly referred to as a “cantaloupe” in North America is not actually a true cantaloupe, which are more common in Europe. In fact, our “cantaloupes” are a type of muskmelon. (True cantaloupe has a rough, warty rind and is not widely grown or commercially available in the US and Canada.)
In North America, the names “muskmelon” and “cantaloupe” are used interchangeably, but we will refer to this fruit simply as “cantaloupe” on this page to avoid confusion!
More space per plant will lead to plants producing more watermelons per plant that are bigger in size. Tighter spacing leads to smaller watermelons and less fruits per plant. In general, total watermelon yield by weight will be higher with tighter spacing.
Corn is an extremely important crop in the US and globally. Lots of studies have been done to increase corn yields.
Corn planted in the field will generally have one ear of corn per plant. But, corn plants on the edges of fields will often have multiple ears on them. This is because of increased access to sunlight, water, and nutrients.
More space makes for a corn plant with more ears of corn on one plant. Farmers have found out that tighter spacing with more plants will lead to greater overall yields. It’s the same for watermelons.
Watermelons are a summertime treat enjoyed by young and old alike. There is nothing quite as refreshing as a cool slice of watermelon in the hot summer days of July and August. In addition to tasting great, watermelons are a leading source of lycopene (commonly found in tomatoes), in addition to being a very good source of vitamin A and C.
Because watermelons require a long, warm growing season, their best production in the United States occurs in the South and Southwest regions, where there is ample growing time and warm weather. Home gardeners in cooler regions can usually do fairly well with watermelons if they start seed indoors a month or more ahead of planting outdoors, but the vines need consistently warm days and nights to thrive. Watermelons need at least 80-100 consecutive days of very warm summer temperatures, at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Watermelons also prefer warm nights, above 70 degrees Fahrenheit is preferred. Watermelons are a warm-season crop, very tender to frost and light freezes. Plan an average of 2-6 plants per person. Watermelons generally take up enormous space, and should not be considered for the small vegetable garden. There are compact varieties that produce tasty and prolific fruits.
The newer refrigerator-size small hybrid watermelons are more satisfactory for the average home garden, especially in the Northeast, where the growing season is shorter. Sugar Baby New Hampshire Midget and Lollipop.
A sandy, light loam deeply enriched with manure and compost is ideal. The soil should be slightly acidic, pH 6. Since the vines are generally planted in hills, better yields can be realized by working in a spade full of well-rotted manure and fertilizer such as bone meal into each hill before planting. A well-finished compost would also be a good substitute. In the past, we have layered both green and brown garden wastes into a small mound and covered that with dirt to make a miniature compost mound. After one year, this mound makes an ideal place to plant your watermelons. As a side note: melon rinds are excellent compost material and would make a good base for such a mound.
|Germination||75 - 95 F|
|For growth||65 - 75 F|
|Soil and Water|
|Fertilizer||Heavy feeder. Before planting, work in compost or rotted manure|
|Side-dressing||Apply balanced fertilizer or compost when vines are 12-18" long and again when fruits form.|
|pH||6.0 - 6.5|
|Seed Planting Depth||1/2"|
|Root Depth||shallow in general , some up to 4'|
|Width||up to 30 - 40 square feet.|
|Space between plants|
|In Rows||4 - 8'|
|Space Between Rows||5 - 7'|
|Average plants per person||2 - 6|
|Determining when a watermelon is ripe is more of an art than a science. Look for dark appearance overall and a golden yellow spot where the rind was resting on the ground for the most reliable indication of ripeness.|
|First Seed Starting Date:||18 days before last frost date|
|Last Seed Starting Date:||112 - 151 Days before first frost date|
|Companions||Pumpkins, radish, squash|
To get a head start on the long growing season, start plants indoors 4 to 5 weeks before outdoor planting time. The soil must be warm and the weather settled with warm days and nights, as the plants are sensitive to cooler weather. If nights are cool, use hot caps to protect the plants. Melons can be sown directly outside, but some gardeners report better germination with pre-sprouted seeds.
Seedless watermelon seeds are notoriously difficult to germinate, which is the primary reason for their high cost. Direct seeding of seedless watermelon seeds will suffer a very low germination rate, they will almost certainly need to be transplanted. A soil thermometer is critical, and likely a thermostatically controlled heating mat necessary to maintain the soil temperature at the required 85 to 95 degrees F seeds will germinate quicker at the higher temperature range. The most common reason for failure is too much water in the soil. Water should not be able to be squeezed out of a hand full of soil (too much water), and it should not fall apart in your hands (too little water). Rather, the soil should retain its shape in your hand after squeezing if the proper amount of moisture is present. This is critical for the first 48 hours. Once germinated, temperatures should be returned to temperatures that are representative of their growing environment. Expect seedlings to be less vigorous than standard seeded varieties, and slightly more susceptible to disease. Seedless watermelons will also require cross germination with a seeded watermelon variety in order to produce seedless watermelon fruit. A couple of germination seeds are often included in seedless watermelon packets. Any seeded variety can be used, the ones included are typically just for convenience.
If you start melons indoors, use individual cells or peat pots, not flats, as the roots are too succulent to divide. When you direct sow, plant 2-3 seeds in a hill and then thin the appropriate spacing, depending on whether you train them on a trellis or let them spread on the ground. 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.
Watermelons grow extensively broad, ground-hugging vines with soft, attractive foliage. The flowers appear quite suddenly, and it is interesting to watch the tiny melons start to develop after the flower petals drop. Watermelons have separate male and female flowers and are not wind-pollinated. They typically rely on insects for pollination (most likely bees) and will need your help if insect pollinators are insufficient.
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.
|Store fruits in a cool area.|
|35 - 55 F||80 - 90%||1 month|
Knowing when to harvest watermelons is the most difficult part of growing them. They should be harvested at the peak of freshness for the 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 its 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.
Sow three to four seeds 1cm deep in the soil and leave to grow for a couple of weeks, once they start to grow pick the strongest plant. Water your vines every couple of days and fertilise each fortnight.
Around two weeks after planting your vines should begin to flower. The smaller male flowers will grow first followed by the female flowers. Bees should be able to pollinate your flowers for you, but if you don’t have any bees around you can give them a helping hand. Watch this video.