Many the home gardener will pass up growing watermelon for one or more of the following reasons:
1. They take up too much space.
2. They are too hard to grow.
3. They cannot be preserved for the winter.
4. They are cheap to buy all summer, so what’s the point?
So let’s look at each of these concerns.
1. Watermelon can take up a lot of room. Vines from these delightful fruits can spread over 6 feet in any direction. But every problem has a solution—in this case in the form of hybrids developed to produce smaller, more compact fruit. Some of the "baby" line of watermelon weigh only 2 to 4 lbs. when fully ripe, and can even be trellised so they use very little room at all. 'Sugar Baby' is our favorite, coming in at about 8 lbs. and providing enough eating pleasure for 4 at a time.
2. Give a melon heat and good fertilizer, and they will be happy to grow for you. Using some black plastic on the soil around where they are growing will help keep their toes warm and cut down on weeding at the same time. Side-dress them with some good compost when their flowers arrive, and pinch off excess flower buds when you have a few fruit set. There, now that was easy after all.
3. Have you ever tried watermelon rind pickles? Imagine a delightful watermelon sorbet, enjoyed by the fireside on a snowy winter evening. Still think the flavor of summer, in this case watermelon, cannot be preserved?
4. The last point has some merit, of course. Grocery stores do sell huge watermelons at low prices all summer. They also sell tomatoes, and if you have ever grown your own, you understand the difference in taste homegrown makes. That same difference holds true for watermelon. One bite and you will never question growing your own again. Try 'Moon and Stars' (shown), a flavorful heirloom variety introduced in 1926.
Oh and why do they call it "water" melon anyway? Grow them and you'll find out the answer to that, too.
Gardening Jones is a master gardener in Pennsylvania. Learn more atgardeningjones.com/blog.
Get advice for growing fruit, including how to trellis melons and how to grow melons using plastic mulch, in the download "Melons & Berries."
Get a collection of great articles on a wide range of edible plants, plus articles on beneficial insects, in the "Guide to Growing Edibles" download.
Learn space-saving techniques in How to Grow More Vegetables...on Less Land Than You Can Imagine, a trustworthy classic now in its 8th edition.