Watermelon care

slowpoke_gardenerJuly 24, 2012

I have tried to grow watermelons and cantaloupe one time in the past, which was a big flop. With the help from some of you, my cantaloupe plant had done well. Now I have another question. I planted some watermelon seeds on June 1 in my experimental spot(which is a small bed) and they are doing very well, I think.

When I tried to grow melons in the past it seemed that they would never get ripe. I think I was over watering for one thing. My main question is how do I know when to water my melons? The watermelons are growing very well and have small melons on them, will they have time to mature? They are Crimson sweet.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Water your melons when the soil is dry 4" down beneath the soil surface. Water deeply once a week in average weather giving them at least an inch or water, but about twice a week, with at least an inch of water each time. Watermelons are pretty heat-tolerant and drought-tolerant in general but they do like consistent moisture levels.

You do have to be careful to avoid overwatering. Too much water is worse than too little, and so is too much fertilizer. If you give your melons too much water they will have bland flavor and if you give them too much fertilizer (namely nitrogen), you'll end up with melons that have white heart--white to very light pink (or red, yellow or orange depending on melon's mature color) flesh with poor flavor to no flavor and a coarse texture. Excess water in the last couple of weeks as the melon is reaching maturity can make them split open. Ideally you give your plants enough water that the soil is moist six to eight inches beneath the ground's surface, and then not water again until it is dry at least 4 inches down.

Normally, I'd say an inch a week is plenty of moisture for them, but in extreme heat it is likely they need twice that much. A lot depends on how well your soil holds moisture and how well it lets the moisture soak down deeply.

Growing watermelons is an art and it takes time to learn-by-doing to understand exactly how much moisture they need in your soil and your specific growing conditions. This year it is likely melons will need more water than they'd need in a more normal rainfall year.

Fruit maturity will vary depending on the watermelon variety, but in general you ought to have ripe melons about 45 days after the flower that the melon formed from was pollinated. Obviously we gardeners are not standing out in our garden every day jotting down the day and time we believe each flower was pollinated, but at least this gives you a ballpark guess. Ideally, late-forming melons will ripen before temperature are dropping below 70 degrees because their flavor is poor when they ripen in cool conditions.

It is important (and difficult to do sometimes) to give the melons just the right amount of moisture. Too much moisture not only causes bland flavor and cracking fruit, but can stress the plants so much they won't set fruit. Too little moisture can result in blossom end rot or in watermelons that have odd gourd-like shapes.

Hope this helps,


    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 2:53PM
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Dawn, thanks,

First, I have very poor soil for melons, but I followed your advice on my cantaloupe plant and it has produced well. I hope to do better next year. The watermelons were sort of an after thought. I needed to test some hay
for herbicide and melons and okra where the choices I made because I had no tomato plants to put into the ground.

I have much better soil over at the old home place, but I also have a much larger critter control problem.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 3:26PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Larry, You're welcome. I hope you get good melons. It is a great watermelon year here. Our plants are producing a lot, and I've been trying really hard to give them enough water but not too much, which is really difficult in clay soil. The folks down at Thackerville that have very deep sugar sand raise some of the best melons I've ever tasted---both cantaloupes and watermelons. The only melons I've tasted that compare to those are the ones that grow in sandy soil in desert-like conditions in Pecos, TX. When I was a kid, the local grocery store in our community always sold only Pecos cantaloupes and they were incredibly good. The ones in stores nowadays do not even compare to those.

Because melons are one of the last veggies to go into the ground, I always find myself putting them in odd nooks and crannies, but they don't seem to mind. I have them growing under okra, but they've escaped from those beds and run wild and are even climbing the fence where I have cucumber and winter squash plants. The watermelons also are climbing the okra plants and running amok through flowers and rows of winter squash, summer squash and the late tomatoes. I'm just letting them do as they please.

Normally we have a lot of trouble with melons because of cucumber beetles, but they are AWOL this year and the melons and cukes are performing incredibly well in their absence.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 10:38PM
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