Synonymous with lazy, warm summer days, sweet, juicy watermelon might be arguably one of America’s favorite fruits. Watermelon comes in a multitude of cultivars and varies in size from the humongous “enough for everyone at the family reunion BBQ” to tiny individual sized. Even the small watermelons usually get to about 5 pounds (2.3 kg.). So what happens if you are growing watermelons and see stunted watermelon growth?
Okay, let’s attack the obvious here. Do you know what type of watermelon you are growing? Are you sure it’s not one of the personal sized? I’ve been guilty of not labeling areas of the garden and forgetting not only what cultivar, but even exactly what I sowed in a certain spot!
If you’re sure your melons are not supposed to be small, you’re still left with the question “why are my watermelons small?” There are a few reasons why watermelons are not growing.
Root damage – Stunted watermelon growth might be the result of damage occurring during transplanting. You may have damaged the roots irreparably and they just can’t take sufficient nutrients up to support further growth. Cultivating around the plant can also damage roots, which can affect fruit size.
Temperature – Watermelons like it hot, between 60-70 degrees F. (15-21 C.) at night and between 80-95 degrees F. (29-35 C.) during the day, preferably higher. If the temps are lower than this, plant growth slows. If temperatures are low in your area, this may very possibly be the reason for small watermelons.
Pests and disease – If you have small, misshapen fruit, the culprit might be an aphid infestation. The aphids act as vectors introducing the mosaic virus. Additional symptoms are small, mottled leaves and short vines. The aphids will be easy to spot since they exude sticky black honeydew that is visible. Look for the insects on the underside of the leaves.
To control mosaic virus, you need to get rid of the aphids. First, remove and destroy and infected plants, detritus and weeds from around the watermelons. Use an insecticidal soap to get rid of the aphids. Mix 2 ½ to 5 tablespoons of soap per gallon of water and apply early in the morning. Take care to spray heavily under the leaves as well as on their surface. Repeat the spraying every 4-7 days until aphid free.
Location – Planting watermelons in the wrong soil can also slow their growth. They like sandy loam amended with organic matter and fine sand. Heavy soils are a disaster for growing watermelons.
Poor pollination – Pollination also plays a part with watermelons not growing. If weather conditions were unfavorable (too windy, rainy or cold for the bees to be out) at the time of pollination, you may get very few to no watermelons, and they may be excruciatingly small.
A final possibility for small watermelons…maybe you haven’t waited long enough. Watermelons grow quickly, but they need at least 70-130 days to mature.
Also, if your vines set many fruit, you may want to remove some of it. If the plant it trying to nourish lots of fruit, they will never attain any great size. That’s how giant pumpkins are grown. Only the largest fruit is left on the vine to languish and grow to gigantic proportions. Try, as painful as it may be, to remove all but a few fruit from the vine and see if they don’t begin attaining some size and heft.
Who doesn't like watermelon? Probably, such a person will not be found - he is adored not only by children, but also by adults who do not even know how to grow watermelons and where they grow. These berries belong to the pumpkin family. Translated from the Persian language, watermelon means "big cucumber."
Previously, to grow such a beloved fruit was possible only in the southern latitudes, but now it has become available in the northern latitudes - however, it will take a lot of effort.
Even in household plots located in the southern latitudes, it is difficult to create melon conditions - for this reason, watermelons do not grow as sweet and large as in the steppe zone. Growing watermelons in the middle lane is possible only with a professional approach. Summer in the north is not as long as in the south, the weather is unstable and changeable, the earth warms up not so deep. As a rule, watermelon is a freedom-loving and extremely sensitive to weather conditions.
These berries require increased attention: even minor errors will affect the harvest - the fruits may turn out to be tasteless or too small. Proper watermelon cultivation is also based on adequate watering. A small amount of water leads to small fruits and their poor quality.
Watermelons - growing in the northern latitudes
The nuances of climate influence the cultivation of this crop. In the northern strip, tying occurs in two stages. At the end of June, at the time when the white nights end, the tying of the first layer is completed. The main problem is pollination. The second layer is formed at the end of July. Successful fruit growing will depend on how long and warm the fall will be. A rainy and unstable summer with a sharp temperature difference leads to the fact that the fruits have a different taste (and not very sweet) and grow one-sided. Watermelon, the cultivation of which is hampered by the "moodiness" of the culture, does not turn out to be "sugar" if the smallest details were not observed in the courtship process. It was noted that if the growth of watermelon is suspended for at least a few days, then in the future it occurs unevenly or the fruit stops pouring.
The cultivation of watermelons largely depends on the creation of suitable conditions for the development of the root system and continuous division, up to the stage of maturation of the first layer. In the south, it happens that the roots of watermelons often reach one and a half meters, and in the north - a maximum of 50 cm, even on the highest and warmest beds.
Growing watermelons on a "warm bed" in the open ground
The primary task when growing crops in open ground in northern regions is the creation of "warm beds". Such beds need to be prepared in the fall. For this, it is necessary to dig a trench of the desired length, depth and width of 1 meter. The bottom of the trench should be covered with a drainage bed of expanded clay or sand about 10 cm thick, then you need to make a heat-insulating layer about 20 cm thick from sawdust. Then it is necessary to form a good layer of biofuel with a thickness of at least 60 cm, which may consist of a mixture of grass, leaves, food waste, straw, manure. A bed consisting of fertile soil 80 cm wide and 20 cm high should be formed on top of this trench. The bed should be planted with green manure in the fall, covered with roofing material and straw for the winter.
Growing watermelons on such a good "warm bed" allows you to not use additional shelters. However, it will be useful if you can establish shelter from the wind around your melon. Hardened seedlings can be planted in open ground only after spring return frosts. So that your plants do not suffer, they can be covered with a mini-greenhouse in the form of plastic bottles that can be removed when the seedlings get stronger and take root. But even on a “warm bed”, as a rule, growing watermelons in the northern strip will require a lot of patience and skills.
Watermelons split on the vine for several reasons, with erratic watering patterns being the No. 1 cause. Heavy rain, especially after a period of excessive heat, is another common factor. High temperatures can also cause watermelons to split, though this occurs much less frequently. Watermelons are most susceptible to splitting in the last few weeks before ripening, but you should take steps to prevent this from happening as soon as you plant the melons.
How to Grow Watermelon: Watermelon demands warm temperatures—both soil and air.
Luscious, liquid sweetness: since watermelon is nearly always eaten on its own either sliced or quartered, growing it juicy and sweet is always the objective.
Temperature. Watermelon demands warm temperatures—both soil and air. Transplant or direct seed watermelon only when the average soil and daytime air temperatures are at least 70°F (21°C). Do not grow watermelon unprotected where nighttime air temperatures fall below 60°F (16°C). If the air temperature dips, protect watermelons with floating row covers.
Soil. Grow watermelon in rich, well-drained soil. Planting watermelon on hills or mounds ensures that roots stay warm and that the soil is well drained. Amend the planting area with compost and well-rotted manure. Where you plan to sow seed or set transplants, dig a hole 1 foot (30 cm) deep and 1 foot wide fill the hole with rich aged compost and manure mixed with several handfuls of sand—the growing spot will be both moisture retentive and well-draining. Add a handful each of rock phosphate (rich in phosphorus), earthworm castings (all-round nutrient rich), and Epsom salts (rich in magnesium). Use the soil removed from the hole to build a mound on top and rake it flat. Sow seed or set a transplant there. Watermelon roots commonly grow 8 to 10 or more inches deep the hole and mound become a reservoir of moisture and nutrients. More tips: W a termelon Seed Starting Tips .
Care. Space watermelons 6 to 12 feet (1.8-3.6 m) apart don’t let plants compete for soil moisture or nutrients. (Keep weeds down until vines spread and shade the soil.) If watermelons are stressed for water or nutrients when they start to set fruit, they will be small and less flavorful. Feed watermelons with a dilute solution of fish emulsion fertilizer—1 tablespoon per gallon of water—weekly from the time the plant is a seedling until the first female flower appears. (Mark the calendar on the day the female flowers fully open—the fruit will be ready for harvest 35 days later.)
Water. Give watermelons even moisture from planting through fruit set. During the first 3 to 4 weeks of growth a watermelon develops its root system. The root system supplies the growing plant with both moisture and nutrients. An extensive and strong root system allows the watermelon to take up nearly 95 percent of its weight in water and develop its large cells which are easily seen with the naked eye—these large, water-filled cells give watermelon its crunchy, crisp, yet tender consistency. Never allow a developing watermelon to dry out completely or it may split. Water whenever the top 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm) of soil become dry simply stick your finger into the soil to test the soil moisture. Apply a heavy mulch to keep the soil moist after the sun begins to warm the garden in summer.
When to water. Do not overwater a watermelon once it has begun to set fruit or its developing natural sugars will be diluted. The leaves of a watermelon commonly wilt in the hot afternoon sun. Water immediately if the watermelon’s leaves wilt before noon or if they appeared stressed by heat or drought. Never allow the vine itself to become dry. A soaker hose or drip irrigation is the best way to deliver water to watermelon roots overhead watering may encourage the development of fungal diseases which commonly attack leaves.
No water. Stop watering a watermelon about 2 weeks before the fruits are ready to harvest. Holding back water at this point will concentrate the plant’s sugars and the fruits will become sweeter tasting. More tips:
Harvest. A watermelon is ready for harvest when the curly tendrils on the stem nearest the fruit dry up and turn brown and the spot on bottom of the fruit turns from white or green to yellow or creamy yellow and the top of the fruit turns a dull color. Mark Twain observed that a green melon says “pink” or “pank” when thumped with the knuckles. A ripe watermelon says “punk.” “Punk” is best described as a solid dull sound. More tips: How to Harvest and Store Watermelon .
Two flavorful watermelon favorites:
If your watermelon is not setting fruit on the early flowers, then this could be caused by a few reasons such as:
If you’re experiencing this issue, begin by hand pollinating the flowers with a small paintbrush. Do so by using the paintbrush to transport the pollen from the male flower to the female flower. Also, grow plants that are popular with pollinators such as bees. The combination of hand pollinating and growing pollinator plants nearby should bring in plenty of bees to do the work for you.