Growing Watermelon In The Backyard
A warm-season favorite, watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is the crowning glory of many summer backyard vegetable gardens. There are some ways to grow watermelon in your backyard. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the site to supply nutrients to the melons. Alternatively, apply 2 cups of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 25 square feet of garden bed. Turn the compost or fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil with a spade. Pull the blade of a hoe down each side of each planting row to create a 4-inch high mound down the row. Make each mound at least 2 feet long and 1 foot wide. Space the mounds 18 to 24 inches apart. Sow the watermelon seeds 1 inch deep down the center of each mound. Space the seeds 6 to 8 inches apart. Once the seeds sprout, thin the seedlings so there is only one plant every 12 to 18 inches on each mound. Water the melons once or twice per week so the top 8 to 10 inches of soil remains moist and don’t allow the soil to dry out. Watermelons require approximately 2 inches of water per week and will need less irrigation if there is rainfall.
Spread a 2-inch layer of straw mulch over the bed once the seedlings are 6 inches tall. Straw retains soil moisture and protects the developing fruits from soil-borne diseases and pests in your backyard. Water the melons with compost tea every two weeks until the watermelons reach full size. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the soil 6 inches from the base of the plants. Reduce watering once the watermelons reach full size but before they are fully mature. Harvest the watermelons when the tendrils near the vine end of the fruit turn brown and brittle and after the ground spot changes from white to yellow. Cut the watermelon from the vine with a sharp knife.
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