Watermelon is one of the most popular summer fruits. It has watery, sweet, and soft flesh, which is sure to be refreshing during the hot months. While you can easily buy them in supermarkets, nothing beats the joy of planting them at home and harvesting the fruit once it is ripe. It will be a rewarding experience to see the plant bear fruit, which will literally be your fruit of labor.
Because watermelon is a vine, however, even if you can start planting it indoors, at one point, you will need to have it transferred outdoors. The good news is that you do not need to have a spacious garden. Even the patio or the balcony will be more than enough. You just need to provide stakes or trellis to support the growth of the plant.
Watermelon is a vine with a flowering plant that belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, the same as cucumbers, pumpkin, and squash. Its large and edible fruit commonly grows in countries with tropical and sub-tropical climate. It is a native to Africa, with the first harvest recorded in Egypt about 5,000 years ago. They can bear fruit with a weight that is anywhere from two to 70 pounds. The vine, meanwhile, can reach six to eight feet in just one month. With proper care, the first fruit will be apparent within about two months.
The key to growing watermelon successfully in containers is picking the right variety to plant. One variety that you might want to consider is Moon and Stars Watermelon, which has a dark green rind and bright red flesh. Other varieties that will thrive well in small spaces include Sugar Baby Watermelon, Golden Midget Watermelon, and Jade Star Watermelon, among others.
Planting and Growing Conditions
If you have the patience, you can consider planting watermelon from seeds. Purchase seeds from a reputable grower to be sure that they are healthy. On the other hand, you might also want to consider transplanting seedlings. This is a better option since the plant has already surpassed its initial growth stage.
Regardless if you plant seeds or seedlings, one of the first things that you need to consider is the right choice of container. See to it that it is large enough to accommodate the watermelon that you will plant. A five-gallon capacity should be the minimum. The container should be bigger if you will plant a seedling. Also, as the plant grows, take note that you will need to re-pot.
Once the pot is ready, the next thing that you have to do is to choose the right potting mix. Loamy and sandy soil is your best choice. Avoid compact soil as they will not offer aeration. Meanwhile, when it comes to pH level, the best would be anywhere from 6 to 6.8. To improve the nutrients in the soil, it will also be best to add organic matter, including cow and horse manure.
After planting the watermelon, look for an ideal location. You need to find the sunniest spot at home. It will be good to plant it near an open window so that it can receive bright light. It will be good to have it on the patio or roof deck as well.
Lastly, you need to build a trellis if you intend to grow watermelons from containers. The height of the trellis will depend on the maximum height of the variety that you will plant. This will provide the plant with a place to crawl and will make it more compact compared to those that are outdoors.
The watery flesh of watermelon is not only juicy and delicious, but can also deliver an abundance of health benefits, which include the following:
- Provides Hydration: Watermelon fruit has 92% water, which is exactly why it can be effective in hydrating. To add, it is also full of fiber, which will make you feel fuller longer. This is perfect food if you are into weight loss.
- Prevents Cancer: Watermelon contains lycopene, which can interfere with the development of cancer cells. To be specific, it can be effective in the prevention of breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer.
- Improves Heart Health: One of the ways by which it makes the heart healthier is through regulating the level of bad cholesterol in the body. This will make you less prone to a number of cardiovascular diseases.
- Prevents Vision Problems: Macular degeneration is one of the most common consequences of aging. It has compounds that will prevent oxidative stress and inflammation. It also helps eye problems from worsening.
- Improves Skin and Hair Health: It has Vitamin C, which plays an important role in the production of collagen. This will help to retain the youthful glow of the skin and the strength of the hair. It also offers protection from sunburn.
- Improves Digestion: The water and fiber in the fruit are some of the reasons for its digestive benefits. It will be effective in bulking up the stool. It cleanses the digestive tract and makes the stool smoother.
Pests and Diseases
Some of the most common diseases that affect watermelons include Fusarium wilt, bacterial fruit blotch, powdery mildew, and root-knot nematodes. Meanwhile, the common causes of pest infestation include slugs, rodents, thrips, flea beetles, leafminers, and cucumber beetles, among others.
Care and Maintenance
Here are some of the useful tips that will make it easy to ensure the healthy growth of watermelons in containers:
- Regular watering is one of the most important for the health of your watermelon. The soil must be moist, but water should not be left on the surface for a long time. This makes it important for the pot to have drainage walls. During the initial stages, water the plant often. Reduce watering once the fruit starts to appear.
- Aside from watering, fertilizing is also important to feed the plant with the necessary nutrients. A liquid fertilizer will be a good start. Use fertilizers with less nitrogen when the fruit and flowers start to bloom. Liquid seaweed will make a good choice for fertilizer.
- Because you are planting in a container and indoors, you will surely have space limitations. With this, pruning is necessary. Only the main vine should grow. If there are branches on the side, take it off to keep the plant compact.
- Aside from the trellis, you also need to provide support from the fruit. In this case, you can use a t-shirt, panty hose, or any material made from flexible fabric. Use this to wrap the fruit to create a hammock and connect it to the trellis. This will protect the fruit from falling off. Because the material is flexible, it will still protect the fruit as it enlarges.
Although watermelon is a common outdoor fruit, you can also enjoy success in planting it indoors. The key here is to choose the right variety. Focus on miniature watermelons so that they can thrive well in pots. At one point, you will also have to move them indoors. To add, provide support to accommodate the growth of the vine.