From Seed to Slice: 8 Watermelon Growing Stages
Growing watermelons in your garden is not that difficult if you have the right conditions and enough warm weather for the fruits to grow and mature. Unlike many other fruits that grow on trees, watermelons grown on a vine can spread up to around 18 feet (5.4 meters).
This means that you’ll have to set aside a large plot if you want to grow a substantial number of watermelons in your home garden. These vines do prefer sandy soil that is well-drained and growing temperatures of around 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 30 degrees Celsius).
So, what are the various growing stages of a watermelon vine?
Watermelon Growing Stages
1. Seed Stage
All watermelon vines start out as small black seeds. This is the same seed that you would spit out when you’re eating a watermelon. You might find that many watermelons contain a mixture of hard black seeds and soft white seeds.
The black seeds are mature and should produce a new plant, while the white seeds are still immature and not yet ready for germination.
Watermelon seeds should be planted in raised mounds or hills in order to give the plant drainage. They should be buried around four times the width of the seed and spaced around 6 feet apart.
However, unless you’re on a farm, you might not want to grow more than one or two plants because these vines will take over so much garden space.
2. Seed Germination Stage
After you’ve planted the seed, you’ll have to wait for around 3 to 12 days before you’ll see any activity. At the germination stage, you’ll see two oval-shaped leaves emerge from where you planted the seed.
The leaves are not like regular watermelon leaves. They are embryonic leaves or cotyledons, as they’re known in the horticultural world. They contain the energy from the seed and emerge so that they can start to utilize the energy from the sun to facilitate more growth.
3. Vining Stage
In another 5 to 10 days, you should start to see the first true watermelon seeds emerge from the stem of the plant. These leaves will get quite large as they begin to develop and are similar to cucumber or pumpkin plant leaves.
Once the true leaves start to emerge, you’ll also notice that a vine will start to grow. Along this vine, more leaves will start to form. This particular vine will continue to grow until it reaches at least 12 feet (3.6 meters) in length.
Around a month after the first vine appears, the plant will start to send out more vines directly from the main vine. These vines will also continue to grow and produce large leaves along their length.
While all of this growth is going on, you should ensure that you give your plants around 1 to 2 inches of water every week. As the vines start to grow, it’s also a good idea to give your plant a drop dressing with bone meal to provide it with plenty of nutrients.
Fork this bone meal into the soil lightly but be careful not to damage the vines or the shallow roots in the process.
4. Flowering Stage
The next thing that you’ll see is the appearance of bright yellow flowers. These should start to appear around 2 weeks after the additional vines start growing, starting with the male flowers.
Like similar plants, watermelons have both male and female flowers. The male flowers will appear first, and then the female flowers will follow. You can easily tell them apart because the female flowers will have a swollen base. It’s this swelling that will eventually produce the fruit.
But, in order for the female flowers to become fertilized and grow into fruits, they first need to be pollinated.
5. Pollination Stage
Pollination occurs when pollen from a male flower is deposited onto a female flower. Generally, this pollination is carried out by bees in the garden. You see, bees will visit the flowers in order to collect the nectar that they use to produce honey.
As a byproduct of this nectar gathering, the bee that visits a male flower will invariably pick up some of the sticky yellow pollen on its legs. If that same bee visits a female flower next, the pollen will rub off onto the flower, and fertilization will occur.
However, if you find that there’s a lack of bees in your garden, you might have to pollinate your female watermelon flowers manually. You can do this easily using a small soft paintbrush or even a cotton swab.
Identify a male flower and gather some of the pollen from the anther of the flower onto the paintbrush. Then, move onto a female flower and rub the pollen onto the center or stigma of the flower. If your pollination efforts are successful, a fruit will start to grow.
You might also want to work on attracting more bees to your garden so that they can do the work for you. You can do this by planting a variety of different flowering herbs such as rosemary, thyme, lavender, and even nasturtiums.
6. Fruiting Stage
Once the female flowers have been pollinated, the tiny green swelling at the base of the flower will start to swell and grow. As this starts to happen, give your watermelon plant feed with a fertilizer that’s high in potassium. This will help the growing fruit to develop.
During the fruiting stage, you also want to ensure that your plant gets ample water. You should give your watermelon plant around 1 inch of water every week from now until harvest time.
7. Fruit Growth Stage
The fruit growth stage requires a degree of patience. This is because it can take up to a month before the fruit is fully mature. During this time, you’ll see the fruit slowly increase in size.
8. Harvesting Stage
It’s not always easy to tell when the fruit is mature to harvest, but there are a few telltale signs:
- The fine green curling tendrils on the vine will start to turn brown.
- The part of the watermelon that’s resting on the ground will turn from white to yellow.
- If you tap the watermelon with your knuckles, you should hear a hollow sound.
If you notice all of the above, then your fruit is fully mature and ready to be harvested. You can now look forward to lovely juicy red watermelon slices from fruits that you’ve grown yourself.
How Long Does It Take From Seed To Harvest?
In general, it will take around 3 months to grow watermelon from seed to harvest. However, the length of time that it takes can vary a little depending on the variety that you’re growing. There are smaller varieties that take less time to mature, and these will be ready to harvest a little sooner.
How Many Mature Watermelons Can One Plant Produce?
This is another variable that is unique to each individual plant. It will depend entirely on how many vines the plants actually produce. This is because each one vine can produce around 2 to 4 fruits.
For this reason, you want to give your watermelon plenty of room to spread and grow if you want to be rewarded with a bumper harvest of delicious watermelon fruits.
Can You Prune Watermelon Vines?
It is possible to prune watermelon vines to help contain the plants in a smaller area. However, you might not get as many fruits if you restrict the length of each vine.
But, you will find that the fruits that you do get will be nice and large because the plant has put all of its energy into producing these fewer fruits.
Can You Grow Watermelon Vines Vertically?
To conserve space and still have plenty of watermelons to harvest, watermelon vines can actually be grown vertically. You just have to follow a few basic rules.
In fact, there are many benefits to growing watermelon vines vertically apart from saving some space in your garden. A huge vine grown on a sturdy trellis can easily provide shade for plants that are grown in the soil below.
It also increases airflow around the watermelon leaves, which reduces the risk of fungal diseases. Plus, less water will end up on the leaves, so there’s less chance of powdery mildew affecting your plants.
Here’s what you need to do to grow your watermelon vines vertically:
- Use a strong trellis as a support system. Your trellis needs to be able to support the weight of the growing watermelons.
- As the vine starts to grow, you’ll need to tie the vine to the trellis as the tendrils aren’t strong enough to grip onto the support. You can use garden twine for this. Or why not recycle old stockings or socks by cutting them into thin strips?
- The most important part of growing watermelons vertically is to create a hammock for each fruit as a support. You can use almost any soft material for this, such as old stockings, fabric shopping bags, or even slings made from burlap. The hammock just needs to support the weight of the fruit while it grows and matures.