The keys to growing mighty watermelons, or small but tasty ones, are simple: sun, space, and water. We’ll get more into the details about all of these going forward, but, here’s some information to get you started.
Watermelons can be grown from the seeds you have from last year’s watermelon! Unlike most fruit, watermelon seeds are fully mature when the melons are ripe, so you can harvest seeds as you eat, and the seeds are viable for four to five years. But remember, the small white seeds from “seedless” varieties are sterile.
You can also buy seeds from a reputable vendor. Starting from seed gives you a head start on a short growing season, as mentioned earlier.
A caveat about seeds: You can buy either open-pollinated seeds or hybrid seeds. Seeds from open-pollinated plants will reproduce true to their variety, which can be a big advantage from year to year. Seeds from hybrid plants will not. However, you may fancy a special variety of watermelon that’s a hybrid—just don’t plan on planting seeds from it next year and getting the same watermelon.
If you have access to a really impressive gardening center, you might also buy seedlings ready to go when the time is right for planting. But it’s important to note that watermelon plants don’t like to have their roots disturbed, so buy smaller ones and be sure to transplant them before they get too root-bound in their pots.
Besides your seeds, tools you might need include:
- Seed starting mix
- Peat pots
- Widger (a spatula-like tool for lifting seedlings without damaging them)
- Germination station
- Grow lights
- Heat mats
Depending on your set-up situation, you might not need all of these items, or you might be able to do-it-yourself (DIY) on some things. If you choose to grow your watermelon from seeds, take advantage of all the options to select the varieties that you really want.
Keep in mind that watermelon seeds will not germinate in soil temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit—and 80 degrees is preferable—hence the heat mat and grow light suggestions. And always use peat pots or other biodegradable pots so you can plant your seedlings without disturbing their roots.
Have you grown your watermelons from seeds or seedlings? Have you had any big successes—or failures—to share with other food gardeners? Tell us your experiences with getting your watermelon garden started.