Imagine the most refreshing summer fruit available at your fingertips? Growing watermelon in your gardens sounds like a fun and organic way to ensure healthy refreshment. But how long does this process actually last? When should you harvest and enjoy the ripest fruit?
Overall, it takes about 120 days to grow a watermelon, from seeding to harvest. Here are the stages of watermelon growth and everything you need to know about this process.
Planting the Watermelon Seeds
Most gardeners choose to plant their seeds early in spring so they can enjoy their ripe fruits during the hottest summer months, as watermelon needs about 120 days to fully grow, from start to finish.
When to plant watermelon seeds?
Of course, the actual date varies from climate to climate (Think Australia and Austria, for instance), but one thing is sure – watermelons need a hot climate in order to produce the sugar that results in the sweetness of the fruit.
That is why it is recommended to wait after the frost date in the spring is over, when the temperature of the soil (measured at 4 inches or 10 cm) is at least 60 degrees F or 15 degrees F.
How to plant watermelon seeds
For that purpose, most choose to start the seeds indoors first and plant them in their gardens about 6 weeks after. Again, this may not be necessary where you live.
The important thing to know about watermelons is that they actually need at least 6 hours of sun a day to be able to spread their vines and grow properly.
First Stage of Watermelon Growth: Germination
Once the temperature of the soil is more than 65 degrees F or over 18 degrees C, plant your seeds. Be careful when doing so though, as the seeds need to be planted at a depth that is four times larger than their width.
When watered, your seedlings will begin the process of growth.
Right after you place the watermelon seeds in the soil, the first stage of growth called germination begins. After the plantation, the seeds will immediately send out a small stem and root.
It takes about 3 to 12 days on average for the stem to push its very first two leaves (which are called embryonic leaves) above the soil’s surface.
In short, the germination is the time needed for the seeds to sprout into seedlings. The embryonic leaves start the early process of the watermelon growth.
Second Stage of Watermelon Growth: Vining
Embryonic leaves blossom into real leaves
Five to ten days after the first two leaves of the watermelon has come above the surface of the soil, the second stage of the watermelon growth begins. During this stage, the embryonic leaves blossom into real leaves, and more leaves also emerge from the watermelon’s stem.
When I say real leaves I mean leaves that are ready to participate in the process of photosynthesis and convert water and carbon dioxide into food, with the help of the sunlight. This is when the real growth begins.
This stage of growth is called vining because, at this point, the watermelon pushes a 1-foot long vine where large leaves (this time lobed) begin to grow. The vine will continue its growth until it is 12 feet long. The longer the vine is the more surface for the lobed leaves to grow from.
New vine after 1 month
After the first vine grows, it takes about 1 month, on average, for new ones to emerge from the ground. Obviously, new vine means a lot more leaves.
After new vines have grown, it is recommended that you add about half a cup of bone meal and gently ‘massage’ it into the soil. When doing this, be careful. The watermelon is still in the early stages of its growth so be gentle and make sure not to damage its fragile roots.
At this stage, the seedlings need about 2 inches of water a week.
Third Stage of Watermelon Growth: Flowering
One week after a couple of vines have grown, the plant will produce its first flowers. They will be both male and female.
The first flowers will, obviously, be the male ones, as they need to provide the pollen for the creation of the fruit. Keep in mind that fruit will not be created at this stage.
Shortly after the male flowers have grown, the female ones will also emerge. What’s fascinating about these flowers is that they actually last only one day. That being said, it is of utmost importance for the pollination to be adequate, otherwise, your plant will most likely die.
Bees are great pollinators, however, if you live in an area that does not have many bees (or other pollinators), you may need to do the pollination by hand.
This may seem like an overwhelming process but it is really simple. All you have to do is simply take out the petals from the male flowers and then brush the pollen from the anther into the center of the female flowers. This will pollinate the watermelon. Isn’t nature truly fascinating?
Fourth Stage of Watermelon Growth: Fruiting
Fertilizing the plant well
After they have been pollinated, the female flowers will begin the fruit production. Beneath the flower blossom, the first tiny watermelon fruits will appear. At this point, you will need to fertilize the plant well.
The best way to do it is with a 5-10-10 fertilizer. When it comes to watering, your watermelon will now need about 1 inch of water per week until it becomes ripe to be harvested.
About 1 month for the fruit to get fully ripe
No one can say exactly how long will it take for these tiny fruits to be at their ripest as that depends on many factors – the watermelon variety is just one of the many –however, on average, it takes about 1 month for the fruit to be fully ripe after the production of the first fruits.
How I can tell that my watermelon is ripe?
There are a lot of signs that can give you a pretty good hint that your watermelon is ready to be harvested. The tendrils of the vine will change from green to brown, the bottom side where the watermelon lays changes from white to yellow, the sound is hollow when you thump the fruit, etc.
Here is a great video that will help you determine whether your melon is at its ripest
Growing watermelons is no rocket science. All you need is to plant it at the right time, a good climate, and a proper care. That’s all it takes for you enjoy your own refreshing watermelons all summer long.
Now I have a question for you. Do you want to check out my other food tips? If yes, find out how to thaw a turkey properly or get the answer for the question of how many calories there is in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Please let me know your thoughts if any. Love to hear from you. Cheers!