Nothing completes a summer picnic like a juicy watermelon. Biting into a slice on a hot afternoon is pure and simple refreshment– especially when it’s homegrown. As Mark Twain once said, “When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”
The origins of watermelon are mysterious. For some time it was believed to come from southern Italy. Yet many others claim its roots are in Africa. While the history of the watermelon is disputed, it doesn’t take much to understand why its popularity spread so quickly around the world. If you live in a warm climate, watermelon is the best way to beat the heat, stay hydrated and soak up some nutrition. It’s the perfect healthy summertime snack.
Planting your own watermelon isn’t as complicated as you might think. Proper care and timing make all the difference. If you decide to plant from seed, the soil temperature needs to reach at least 70 degrees. Otherwise, grow seeds indoors first, about four weeks before you intend to plant them outside; Then transplant at least two weeks after the last frost date. Watermelon thrive in the heat! They’re at their best when the temperature is between 75-95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here are some more tips for successfully growing watermelon:
1. Prep your soil by amending it with aged manure before you plant (or transplant). Keep in mind when you choose the site where your watermelons will grow: well-drained soil and direct sun are crucial.
2. Encourage good drainage and maximum heat by planting vines in “hills.” In a 5-foot wide hill, space plants about 2 feet apart from each other.
3. Cover plants with row covers to deter pests. Once male and female flowers appear, you can remove them.
4. Mulch! Try using black plastic. It keeps fruit clean, warms the soil and keep weeds under control.
5. Water regularly. Initially, 1-2 inches a week is ideal. Once fruit is growing, you can cut back a bit on hydration. The sweetest melons develop in dry wether!
6. Pick when they’re ripe! Some clues that your watermelon is ready:
- Knocking on the fruit produces a hollow sound
- Watermelon stripes show less contrast
- The bottom of the watermelon is cream or yellow in color, rather than white
7. Make delicious recipes! Watermelon is fabulous when it’s eaten on its own, but you can also mix it up as an ingredient in refreshing summer meals. Try making a watermelon smoothie or a refreshing strawberry watermelon soup.