Watermelon is a significant source of pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and it’s higher in vitamins B1 and B6 than other common garden plants. It’s a good source of other nutrients too, such as vitamins C and A, magnesium, potassium, and fibre. But who cares how good it is for you when it’s so delicious and refreshing. 🙂
Ideal growing conditions
Watermelon loves hot, long summers, and warm, well-drained, sandy soil. Having said that, their leaves may get scorched if they are exposed to the hot sun all day, so they may benefit from the partial shade provided by corn or a similar plant.
If you live in a climate with four real seasons (like much of Canada), you will need to choose a smaller variety that has a shorter growing season, and start it indoors. Typically, watermelon varieties take 75 to 110 days to mature.
After the threat of frost has passed, and the soil has warmed, transplant your seedlings outside. Ensure to plant them about 6 feet apart so they have room to grow without crowding each other. Try planting them in mounds, where the soil will be warmer. If watermelons are exposed to cold, they may not produce fruit.
Keep the plants well watered; the fruits are, after all, 90% water. Each plant will produce both male and female blossoms. The male blossoms precede the females; they often fall off. The females develop the bulbs at the base that turn into fruits.
As the fruit ripens, you may wish to place straw under it to keep it away from the soil, where it could rot.
- Giant watermelons with striped green rind are referred to as picnic watermelons (because they’ll feed a large gathering). They need a long growing season, and are not well-suited to Canadian backyard gardeners.
- Smaller watermelons with dark green rind are called icebox watermelons, because they are more easily stored in the fridge. These have a shorter growing season, so they’re well-suited to backyard growing. Try the sugar baby or mickey lee variety (pictured above).
- Watermelons are not always red; they also come in yellow and orange!
Harvesting, using, and preserving
In the store, to test ripeness, people commonly tap watermelons to see if they sound hollow. But what to do in your garden?
- If the tendril nearest to the fruit is dead or nearly dead, the fruit is ripe.
- Carefully lift the watermelon and look at its underside. If it is ripe, it will be cream or yellow rather than white.
Cut the stem about an inch from the fruit. You can store it inside for a few weeks at around 7 degrees Celsius.
Watermelon can be eaten fresh or used to make juices, smoothies, preserves, or even salsas!
- Watermelon rind is edible and it’s actually better for you in some ways than the flesh. It contains more of the amino acid citrulline, which your kidneys convert to arginine. Arginine is vital to your heart and immune system health.
- Originally, watermelons were neither sweet nor red: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/08/150821-watermelon-fruit-history-agriculture/