Watermelons in a container- it is possible!
How do you cool off on a hot summer day when the mercury is soaring? Don't you long for something that can cool your body instantly? Honestly, I find nothing more rejuvenating than a bowl of freshly cut watermelons or a chilled watermelon smoothie. However, the store brought fruit is often a letdown. This got me wondering if I could grow these delicious, sweet, and juicy watermelons on my own.
The thought of growing these big melons in confined spaces like my balcony baffled me. However, thanks to the wealth of information available online and fruitful discussions with my friends who have been successfully growing fruits and vegetables in containers, I found that the task was indeed achievable with the help of container gardening.
Container gardening has made it possible for several gardening enthusiasts like me to experience the joy of watching tiny seeds spring from the earth and mature into nourishing food for our loved ones. Nevertheless, growing watermelon in a container has its own set of challenges. So I have put together 6 tips for you to follow and learn how to grow watermelons in container?
Materials Required to Grow Watermelons in A Container
1. Seeds - Well, this is pretty obvious. You need good quality watermelon seeds for starting the process.
2. Containers - Watermelons are soil and water-hungry. It is, therefore, necessary to use large-sized containers that can hold at least 5 gallons of soil. The containers must have holes for draining the excess water. If your container does not have holes, you must drill a few holes at its bottom.
3. Soil - Watermelons thrive on well-aerated, rich, and mildly acidic soil with a PH level of 6- 6.8. Clayey and compact soils must not be used. Loamy and sandy soil is more suitable for growing watermelons. You can also use a soilless potting mix.
4. Temperature - This fruit requires a warm climate to grow. The ideal temperature is around 80°F or 27°C. It is not advisable to grow watermelons when the temperature is below 20°C. Using a dark-colored container or a black plastic sheet over the container helps to heat the soil and facilitate growth.
5. Sunlight - When growing watermelons in your balcony or terrace, you must ensure that the containers are placed such that it receives plenty of sunlight. However, it is essential to protect it from high winds.
6. Trellis - The vines of the watermelon require support. Use a trellis or support it using a wire. You will also need old pantyhose or mesh bags to cradle the fruit.
7. Fertilizers - It is ideal to use liquid fertilizers when you are growing any fruits or vegetables in containers.
8. Pesticides - Watermelons are often infected by pests such as cucumber beetles and aphids. Therefore use organic pesticides to protect your plant.
7 Tips to Follow for Growing Watermelons in A Container
1. Sowing the watermelon seeds
There are over 500 varieties of melons. However, not all are suitable for growing in containers. Sugar pot watermelons have vines that are compact and are generally more ideal for growing in confined spaces. Other varieties such as Golden Midget, Early Moonbeam, Moon and Stars watermelon can also be grown in containers.
Begin by filling a cup or a small pot with the soilless mix. Make a 1/2 inch pit, place 2-3 seeds, and cover it up. Place the pots on a tray. This facilitates easy watering at the bottom of the pot. Keep the tray in a warm place and let the seeds germinate. This usually takes 7 days. After the seedlings acquire their 1st set of true leaves, pinch out the weaker plants from each pot and keep only the healthiest plant.
2. Transplanting the watermelon seedlings
Watermelons have large taproots. Hence it requires space to stretch out. I would advise using a container that has a capacity of at least 5 gallons. The containers must have a sufficient number of drainage holes. Fill the container with the potting soil or soilless mix. Also, add compost at this stage. When the vine begins to grow, use nitrogen-based fertilizers. You must also use pesticides to protect it from diseases such as powdery mildew.
Dig a hole using a small trowel and place the seedling in it. If using a biodegradable starter pot, ensure that the hole is big enough to accommodate both. It is essential to be extremely careful while transplanting the seedling and not cause any stress to the roots. As watermelons require space to grow, I would recommend planting one plant in one container to get the best results.
3. Watering the watermelon plant
Watermelons require plenty of water to grow. For this reason, you must water it regularly. If the temperature at where you are staying in below 80°F or 27°C, watering the plant once is sufficient. If it gets hotter than that, you must water it twice a day.
Nobody likes to be waterlogged. Not even the plants. So make sure that the soil is moist but not wet. Using a drip irrigation system for the containers is highly recommended. The excess water must drain out of the pots. Do note that you must reduce watering the plant when the fruit begins to swell and mature. Overwatering or underwatering the plant will affect the sweetness of the watermelon.
4. Pollinating the female watermelon flowers
As the plant grows, you will see the flowers bloom. Two types of flowers appear- male and female. In most cases, it is the male flower that sprouts first, followed by the female. Identifying them is very easy. The female flower has a tiny immature fruit under it, and the male flower does not have it.
Pollinators such as bees and butterflies are responsible for pollinating the flowers. However, it is often difficult to attract such pollinators on high rise balconies. Consequently, pollinating the flowers by hand becomes the only option. Pollination can occur only when both the flowers are open. So you will have to be vigilant as the flowers open only for a day.
To pollinate, remove the male flower carefully from the plant. Place the flower directly on the female flower and tap it such that the pollens on the stamen fall directly on the stigma. If more pollens are present, you can use the same male flower to pollinate other female flowers.
Pollination can also be done using a paintbrush. Take the brush and swirl it around the stamen of the male flower. Once you notice that the pollens have been transferred on the brush, gently tap it on the stigma of the female flower.
5. Supporting the watermelon fruit
While growing watermelons in a container, it is important to use a trellis as it saves the floor space and brings the plant closer to the source of light. It will also prevent the vines from taking over your balcony.
You can either buy a trellis or nail stout wires on the garden wall or even refurbish an old fence. Whichever option you choose, make sure that it is not lightweight. It must be able to support the plant and must be firmly secured.
After getting the trellis in place, you will need to come up with ways to support the fruit. I found my old T-shirts and pantyhose to do the job correctly. You can also use any netted fabric, nylon potato/onion mesh bags, cheesecloth, etc. Tie the material to the primary support and create a hammock that will support the fruit.
6. Harvesting the watermelons
It usually takes 80-85 days after the seeds are sown or 30-50 days after pollinating, for the fruit to mature. Picking up a ripe fruit can be tricky as there are no visible indicators, such as a change in color or fruity smell.
Despite this, if you notice the curly tendrils turning brown and become a bit crisp, that is an indication that the fruit is ripe. The skin will also turn hard, and it won't be easy to penetrate your nails into it. Another way knowing is by checking the surface where the fruit rests on the support. If it is yellow, then it's probably ripe. Use a sharp knife or a pruner to cut the fruit from the vine.
In the end, I would like to reiterate the importance of watering the plant to maintain its moisture. Inadequate water, sunshine, and nutrients can cause plant deficiency, thereby destroying the yield.
I hope the tutorial has given you enough information to get you started. Having tried these tips myself, I am quite upbeat that they will work for you too. Do try these tips and grow juicy watermelons in containers at your home. You can also see this video for more tips.
If you have any other fantastic tip about growing watermelons in a container, do share it with us. We would love to hear from you! Good luck, and don't forget to pass along these handy tips to your friends and family.