A juicy, sweet treat in summer, watermelon is also nutritious and a good source of vitamin C. For breakfast, lunch or as a snack, this fruit is a favorite and will feed a crowd with just one fruit. Perfect for parties, growing watermelon in the backyard garden is straightforward and simple. Watermelons are grown in a similar way to other melon varieties, including cantaloupe and musk melon. You’ll need a fair sized garden to have a large crop, but this plant will store well and is great for sharing with the neighbors and even selling at the local market. Best Soil for Growing Watermelon Watermelons like a sandy soil mixed with lots of organics. Compost and composted manure are essential additives for your watermelon patch and placing them in a sunny spot is ideal. Aim for a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Your watermelon will be sweeter and tastier when the temperature is warm, so make sure the garden is placed in a hot spot of your yard. When to Plant Watermelon It’s best to start watermelon seeds in the greenhouse about 4 weeks before the last frost date. This will give your plants a leg up and allow you to enjoy a better, earlier crop of fruit. Transplant out in the garden once all risk of frost has gone. For direct sowing, wait until the air and soil are warm (above 65 degrees Fahrenheit) and cover with black mulch to speed up the normally three month growing process. How to Plant Watermelon When you’re starting the seeds inside, plant 2 to 4 watermelon seeds ½” deep into seed pots. Keep the pots evenly moist while they are sprouting and move outside after all threat of frost has disappeared. Watermelons thrive when planted in mounds, which is a fun and simple way to garden. Create mounds about 1 foot tall and 2 feet around spaced at 4 to 6 feet apart. Plant a group of watermelon seeds into each hill and thin out to 2 plants once you can spot the strongest ones. Proper Care of Watermelon Watermelons aren’t especially fussy, but they will need some attention throughout the growing season. Even watering to ensure the plants don’t dry out is important. Regular feeding is also essential. Prepare a compost tea to feed the melon patch at least once a month or apply a decent liquid fertilizer to the soil. This will help to keep the fruit large and healthy. Do your best to keep the watermelon plants warm. Provide a sunny spot sheltered from cooler winds and lay down dark colored mulch to attract heat, deter weeds and retain moisture. When to Harvest Watermelon The fruit of watermelons can be harvested after about 3 months of growing. Watermelons will give you two distinct signs that the fruit is ready. Once the tendril that grows between the stem of the fruit and the main stem dries out completely, check the bottom of the watermelon. If it is yellow, you can begin harvesting. Count on these two natural signs from your watermelon plant. You can leave the fruit on the vine until you’re ready to harvest and eat, but if a few watermelons are ready at once, store excess fruit in a cool, dry place. How to Harvest Watermelon Be careful when harvesting watermelon. You’ll need to cut the fruit off the vine with a sharp knife or pruners, slicing the stem just above the crown of the fruit. Lift the watermelon with two hands and place in a wheelbarrow for carrying. They can grow to be fairly heavy and will be of little use to you if they drop and crack open. Don’t throw or roll the watermelon if you can help it. The skin is thick and offers good protection, but the best watermelons are those without any bruises, nicks or cracks. Common Watermelon Pests and Diseases The cucumber beetle can often be seen in and around your watermelon plant possibly causing havoc. Use an organic insecticidal soap once every few days to keep this beetle away. The soap won’t harm the foliage as long as you don’t overspray. Too much soap can clog the pores of the leaves, effecting photosynthesis and stunting the growth of the plant. Leaf spots and mildew are also common diseases that can be found in watermelon patches. The best ways to avoid their appearance is by practicing good watering methods – always water in the morning before 11am and keep the spray or drip close to the soil. Maintaining good air flow around the plant is also important, so don’t crowd in too many plants per mound. Thinning out is actually a healthy process for any plant, but vegetables especially. Gardening Tips and Tricks for Growing Watermelon Growing watermelon is easy. Using mound plantings to make an orderly, productive garden and watering regularly will result in a decent crop. Warmer weather will help the fruit to be much sweeter and grow more abundantly. Do what you can to keep the soil warm (mulch, location, etc.) Enjoy the nutritious and satisfying treat that watermelon delivers. Picnicking in the yard or at the park with a homegrown watermelon in your basket should be an essential part of everyone’s summer.