Watermelon is pretty much synonymous with summertime and is likely found at nearly every summer celebration from the Fourth of July, Labor Day, or Memorial Day BBQ to the company picnic. With such popularity, many people try to grow their own, and in so doing, encounter difficulties such as a watermelon plant that is not producing. The question then is how to get watermelon to fruit?
Help! Why is My Watermelon Plant Not Producing?
There may be a couple of reasons for no fruit set on watermelons. First of all, it’s a good idea to go over how to plant watermelon to eliminate any mistakes.
You’ll want to choose the variety of watermelon to plant. They come in all different sizes, from 3 pounds to over 70 (1.5-30 kg.) and with red to yellow flesh. A couple of the big boys are Jubilee, Charleston Grey, and Congo while smaller, globe shaped melons include Sugar Baby and Ice Box. Consult a watermelon production guide in a nursery catalog or online for other varieties.
Hopefully, you realize that melons in general adore sun and need to germinate at temps over 70 degrees F. (21 C.), with an optimal growing temperature of between 80 and 90 degrees F. (26-32 C.) in an area with eight hours or more of full sun. If your temps don’t get warm enough, black plastic can aid in warming the soil and you may need to go as far as building a greenhouse over the plants.
Either sow or transplant watermelon in soil that is loamy, fertile, and well draining; till some compost into the soil. The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.8. Plant the watermelon in mounds spaced 2-6 feet (0.5-2 m.) apart. Keep the soil moist during germination, which takes between seven and 10 days. The plants should be mulched around the base once they are 4 inches (10 cm.) tall. This will aid in moisture retention, slow weeds, and keep the soil from overheating while the roots are young and tender.
If you’ve followed the above instructions for proper planting and still end up with no fruit set on watermelons, you probably have an issue with pollination.
How to Get Watermelon to Fruit
Since improper planting technique has been ruled out, the culprit for a watermelon plant with no fruit is likely incomplete pollination. Poor pollination is common among the cucurbit family, which includes:
Many cucurbits have both male and female flowers. The pollen from the male flower needs to be moved, usually by bees, to the female bloom. If there is insufficient bee activity, not enough pollen will be delivered to properly fertilize the female flowers. The result will be either no fruit or malformed fruit. The flowers can be pollinated by hand in the absence of bees. First, you must distinguish between the male and female flowers, which are both yellow. Female flowers are attached to the plant by what appears as an immature watermelon, while males are attached by only a thin greenish stem.
Once you have ascertained which bloom is which, using a small paint brush or even a cotton swab, gently remove the pollen from the male plant and transfer to the female. Place the pollen on the stigma, which is a raised area in the center of the open female flower. This is best done in the morning right after the flowers have opened.
Additionally, when initiating a watermelon or any cucurbit planting, it is a good idea to plant companion plants that attract bees nearby to even the odds for pollination.
In some instances, too much nitrogen fertilizer may be to blame. This results in abundant foliage growth with little to no flowering, which means no watermelon fruit. Adding a high phosphorus fertilizer or bone meal around your plants can help offset this.
How to Grow Watermelon for a Sweet Summer Treat
All you need is a seed, well-drained soil, water, and sun, and you'll be on your way to raising delicious watermelons. Use these tips to ensure you end up with the juiciest, sweetest fruits possible.
Biting into a juicy slice of fresh watermelon is an essential part of summer. You can hardly have a barbecue or picnic without including a platter because it's just so refreshing on a hot day. But if you've always picked your watermelons from the supermarket, you're seriously missing out on flavor. Growing your own and letting them ripen in the sun is a must for any true watermelon fan they'll have better flavor, and you can take one straight from your garden to your table. All you need to get started is a sunny spot in your yard and a few seeds.
The first step in growing juicy and delicious watermelons is to choose what type you want to grow. There are three main kinds: Early season, main season, and seedless watermelons. Within those categories, you can choose flesh that's red, pink, yellow, or orange. An early-season watermelon is sometimes called an icebox melon because it grows to a petite size that easily fits on a refrigerator shelf. It takes the shortest amount of time to mature, about 70 to 75 days. A main-season watermelon is larger and takes longer to ripen, usually 80 to 90 days.
Seedless watermelons are an interesting exercise in plant genetics. Plant breeders make several crosses to create seeds for watermelon plants that can't produce seeds themselves but can grow fruit when their blossoms are pollinated from regular seeded watermelons growing nearby. Seedless watermelons grow like other types of watermelons, but since they're not busy putting energy into producing seeds, seedless types are often sweeter and the vines become more vigorous throughout the summer.
In the spring, we planted watermelon from the seed program at our library. However, we didn’t read up on the variety.
Little did we know we planted yellow-meated watermelon (Tohono O’odham yellow-meated). They melons grew. In the summer, we harvested them.
What a surprise to cut them open and see yellow watermelon! It was quite the sight!
We had a really hot summer and thought it was overripe. We thought we would be tossing them into our compost tumbler.
But when we ate some, it was fantastic. It was crispy, sweet and tasted like regular watermelon.
Tohono O’odham yellow meat watermelon growing in a pot.
Growing yellow watermelon
Growing watermelon is pretty much the same, no matter what type you grow. Watermelons are annuals which means you need to plant them each year.
Yellow watermelons, like traditional pink watermelon, thrives in warm weather and direct sunlight.
Choose a smaller, fast-growing variety if you are new to growing watermelons. Some yellow watermelon varieties to consider planting are:
- Yellow Petite
- Yellow Doll
The scientific name for watermelon is Citrullus lanatus. A warm weather plant, it grows best in hardiness zones 3 – 12. Some varieties do better in certain zones.
Requirements to grow yellow watermelon plants
- Full sun
- Nutrient-rich soil
- Plant only one variety or type
- Enough space
- Warm temperatures plant in the correct season
- Consistent watering until harvest time
How to Store a Watermelon
Once you have the perfect watermelon, you don’t want to chance having it spoil on you.
For grocery store melons, it can be hard to know how long ago they were picked, so the sooner you can use them, the better. Most will stay fresh for up to a week either in the fridge or on the counter. Leaving the melon on the counter will allow it time to get even sweeter, but if your house tends to get hot, move it to a cool basement or the fridge to avoid it overrippening.
Freshly picked garden or farmer’s market melons will typically be fine on the counter in a cool room for up to two weeks.
Once a watermelon is cut, use plastic wrap or, even better, a beeswax wrap to cover the pink flesh and pace the leftovers in the fridge. Leftover watermelon should keep for around three days.
We are interesting in buying Black Diamond Watermelon’s Wholesales next season for resale.
Please give some tips for growing watermelon. I live in the tropical country of Fiji.
Growing Watermelon: Watermelon originated in tropical Africa. Small, round watermelons can be successfully grown in cooler short-season regions, large oblong watermelons up to 50 pounds can be grown in tropical regions. Watermelons do best where the seaon is warm and long. Direct seed 5-6 seeds in mounded hills spaced 6-8 feet apart direct sow 4 weeks after the last frost. When the plants emerge thin to the best 2 plants in each hill. (For those growing in frost areas, sow seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before the last spring frost in 3-inch pots for transplanting out when temperatures warm to 75F.) Watermelon prefers rich, light, well-drained soil–so dig in plenty of compost before sowing or transplanting. Side-dress watermelons with dried manure or organic fertilizer when they are still upright, before they sprawl. Make sure the plants get 1 inch of water every week, but don’t overwater. If you are in a rainy region, be sure the plants are set on high well-drained hills. Be consistent in watering. Reduce water 4 weeks before harvest when melons are about two-thirds mature size. Watermelons grow best where the day temperatures are between 70F and 90F and where night temps do not fall below 60F.
Thanks for your useful comments on growing Watermelons. I was told by someone not to transplant watermelons and grow them directly in the final location.
I am in Dubai and summer temperatures are regularly 40 to 50 degrees Centigrade. I planted 10 seeds in February and I have around 5 plants. Now in Mid June – I have one fruit that was the first one (appeared in early May) and it just stopped growing. Its not growing in size though it looks green and healthy. I have another fruit that is growing very well and is like a smallish football now (Appeared at end of May).
Q1: When is the best time to pick the fruit? How do I know that it is ripe?
Q2: There are still female flowers coming on some of the plants. I am pollinating these using the male flowers. But will these grow into good fruits – now that we are in June (Full summer).
This is my first garden – just had it laid end of Dec 2010 and I am experimenting with several different plants. I did well with Tomatoes in Feb and March and I had Aubergines at the same time.
Q3: What other fruits/ veg will be suitable for Dubai weather (particularly in the HOT Summer months)?
Dear Mr Moosa
I am producing several crops in large scale in a country by the same weather condition. You can easily plant Watermelon, Abusabaein, Maize,Sweet corn, Sesame,Muskmelon, Different other crops
Just you should adjust the best time of planting for different crops.
Does watermelon grow wel together with maize
How many Black Diamond watermelons grow per plant? Some of my tiny watermelons are turning completely black. Would you happen to know why?
A watermelon can set as many fruits as there are flowers however, too many fruits will stress the plant resulting in some fruits failing. Allow the plant to set just two fruits nip away flowers that appear after you have selected the two fruits you want to mature.
Is it possible to grow Watermelons outdoors in the north of England? We get plenty of rain, but not so much sun!
I have been growing watermelons in my greenhouse, this is my first time growing them. One of the vines seems to be dying it’s leaves go yellow in spots, then brown and wilt and the stem is doing the same. Does anyone know what could cause this? The other two plants nearby are showing the same symptoms but not as badly-any chance I can save them? I prefer organic gardening if possible, but would welcome any recommendations. As these are the only three plants I have I really don’t want to destroy them all. Many thanks.
Watermelons and other melons grow best in full sun in rich, loose, warm soil, soil no cooler than 60F. Keep the soil warm by covering it with black plastic. Depending upon the cultivar, your watermelons will need 85 to 110 days of warm weather to reach harvest. Plant your watermelons in the warmest part of your garden, perhaps near a wall, fence, or building where it will receive reflected heat. Try growing a small, quick-to-harvest variety: Cole’s Early, Garden Baby, Sugar Baby, Sunshine, Yellow Baby, or Yellow Doll. Given the rainy situation, you might try growing your watermelons under plastic tunnels you will protect them from the rain and trap solar heat at the same time.
Melon leaves that turn brown and wilt may have angular leaf spot, anthracnose, or Alternaria blight. Angular leaf spot, a bacterial disease, starts with water-soaked spots on leaves and stems a bacterial ooze will follow on leaf undersides. Prune off infected leaves and stems spray with copper to slow the spread of disease. Anthracnose, a fungal disease, can start as yellow water-soaked spots on melons leaves turn brown. Spraying with sulfur can help slow the spread of this disease. Alternaria blight, a fungal disease, causes concentric rings on melon leaves, leaves yellow an die. Remove leaves from infected plants spray plants with a baking soda solution or compost tea. These diseases can be slowed by irrigating at the base of plant stems, not overhead. Allow plant foliage to dry each day. If your plants die, you will want to thoroughly clean the greenhouse or planting bed remove all crop debris to be rid of any remnants of the problem. Plant so that there is plenty of air circulation around plants. Choose disease resistant seed or starts for planting.
Vegetable gardening in hot summer regions calls for a shift of your growing season. Grow your warm-season crops so that they come to maturity before average daytime temperatures exceed 90F. This will mean planting and growing your crops earlier and later to avoid the hottest time of the year–when vegetables can not grow. You may want to choose cultivars that are quick maturing (see the Quick-growing list in the Topics Index) to get your crops in between very cool and very warm seasons. Also check the Hot Weather Garden topics index for articles on using shade, water, and mulch to grow vegetables in very hot weather. Hot region vegetable gardens can be grown in sunken beds–beds dug below the soil level these beds will be cooler, closer to ground water and more easily shaded with shade cloth set over a frame. When temperatures are above 90F, expect crops to stop growing–they will wait until temperatures decline to resume growing, provided they don’t become too stressed and die.
6 Uses For Your Watermelon Plant’s Bounty
The beginning of the summer is when you read about watermelon planting tips, but this is the time of year when you start to think: What do I do with all the fruits from my watermelon plant? If you are anything like me, you have been patiently watching your melons grow and grow these past few months and now you have finally reached the point where you have a bounty of fruit to enjoy.
When our first watermelon was ready, we chilled it, cut it up into slices and enjoyed the classic summer treat: outside on the porch, spitting seeds and making a huge mess. My family loves this tradition, but after about the 10th watermelon, it loses some of its charm. It was at this point that I decided to get creative and try to think of some new ways to enjoy our watermelon. I came up with six uses I’d like to share with you.
1. Watermelon Lemonade
This is so simple and delicious! Start by picking the seeds out of about a cup of watermelon. I usually do this by cutting it into small cubes then just breaking the cubes apart with my fingers and squeezing out the seeds. It’s tedious but also kind of relaxing. Throw your watermelon in the food processor and blend it into a puree. Divide this between two cups, fill the rest of the cup with Crystal Light lemonade, toss in a few big ice cubes, and you’re done! My stepsons love this and it gives them an easy serving of fruit. Did you know you can also brew sumac plant berries into a tart and refreshing lemonade?
2. Watermelon Popsicles
These start out the same way as the lemonade: de-seed and puree one and a half cups of watermelon. Add to the food processor: one cup plain yogurt, one tablespoon honey, and one teaspoon lime juice. Pulse to mix it up. Pour your mixture into four popsicle molds and stick in the freezer for about two hours. These are a nice, light treat. The lime accentuates the flavor of the watermelon, and the yogurt gives a bit of protein.
3. Watermelon Salad
If you are anything like us, you’ve probably been eating a lot of tomatoes in your salads. It’s also that time of year when there is a glut of that garden fruit. When you are looking for something different to serve before your meal, though, try this fresh summer salad. I start with a couple cups of de-seeded watermelon, broken into small pieces. Add about a cup of crumbled feta, several mint leaves torn up, and a splash of olive oil. You can also season it with a hint of lime juice, and salt and pepper. The sweetness of the watermelon is delightfully paired with the saltiness of the cheese.
4. Watermelon Jam
I made this with a container of watermelon that I had cut up for my family, but no one was eating. They had reached their watermelon limit! I had about four cups of fruit, which I de-seeded and broke up into small chunks. I placed this in a saucepan, to which I also added three cups of sugar and a box of powdered fruit pectin. I cooked it until it started to liquefy then used my immersion blender to break up any remaining pieces of watermelon. I continued to boil it, checking often to see when it started to roll off the back of the spoon in an even flow (vs. thin droplets). When it started to thicken, I poured it into small jam jars, wiped the rims, applied the bands and lids and processed it in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. The result was a mild jam, delicate and sweet.
5. Watermelon Rind Pickles
Now all this watermelon you’ve been eating has certainly left you with a lot of rind. Maybe you’ve added it to your compost pile, or perhaps thrown it away, but did you know you can preserve and eat it? I discovered the watermelon rind pickle earlier this year when I was looking for some use for all that waste. I admit I was skeptical at first about how they would taste, but I am a believer now! They are delicious: sweet and tangy. My husband described them in this way: “They taste almost like apple pie filling in a jar.” Here is my version of how to make them.
Cut off any remaining fruit from the rind. Use a potato peeler to remove the hard outer skin from the rind then cut it into one-inch chunks. A typical watermelon from my garden yields about 14-17 cups of rinds. Put the prepared rinds into a pot, cover with cold water and about one cup of salt. Cover it, and refrigerate overnight. On the next day, rinse your rinds in a colander. Put the rinds back into the pot and cover again with cold water. Bring them to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Drain your rinds in the colander again and leave it sit while you prepare the brine. To make the brine, combine equal parts sugar and white vinegar. I used about five cups of each. Also add three to five cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil, mixing to dissolve the sugar. Add your rind back to the pot. Cook on low until the rinds are translucent, about 45 minutes. Pack your jars with rinds and fill with brine leaving a half-inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply bands and lids and process in a hot water bath for ten minutes. My 12-pound watermelon yielded five-pint jars.
6. A Treat For Your Chickens
If you have backyard chickens, like we do, you probably wonder about the safety of feeding chickens scraps. You might have even asked: can chickens eat watermelon? The answer is a definite yes! Our girls LOVE watermelon. I took out some of my smaller fruits to the coop, cut them in half, and let the chickens feast. Now when they see me walk in with a melon in hand, they swarm to me, and when I set it on the ground, it’s a fight to get in for a bite with pieces of watermelon flying around as they eat. Not only do they eat the pink flesh, but they continue to peck at it until they’ve eaten much of the rind as well. It’s a real treat for the birds on a hot afternoon and an easy use for your watermelon when the humans in your life just can’t eat it anymore.
I hope these tips will be useful for you as you are bringing in your watermelon plant’s bounty. Tuck these tips away somewhere handy if you’ve already worked your way through this year’s harvest. That way, next summer, when you are reading again about how to plant watermelon plant at the start of the season, you’ll already have a handle on what to do with the fruits of your labor. You can turn the product of that Sugar Baby watermelon plant into all kinds of treats for your family to enjoy.
What do I do with all the fruits from my watermelon plant at the end of the season?