It’s August and that means it’s watermelon festival time in Oklahoma!
First, can we please agree that the title of this post would make a fantastic expletive? “Oh, watermelons!”
Actually, watermelons are a really great starter fruit. We grew some for the first time this year…and by “grew” I mean we basically ignored them and they happened. (This post, like many, is less “how-to” and more encouragement to “just do”.)
We chose Crimson Sweets, a pretty common variety developed by the good people at Kansas State. These classic watermelons typically grow to be somewhere between 15-25 pounds and, as the name would suggest, are known for their sweet flavor.
Here are a few pointers from our rookie season for you aspiring watermelon farmers out there:
- Step 1: Identify an area of your yard or garden that you can sacrifice for a few months. Our plants took roughly 3 months from seed to harvest and they took over an entire raised bed.
- Note: We have a serious squirrel population problem, and anything not caged in our yard will be eaten by those lousy rodents. My guy constructed a pretty serious defense system for all our raised beds using lumber and chicken wire…more on that in a future post, but my point is: consider what you’re up against and plan accordingly.
- Step 2: Put down compost. I used store-bought mushroom compost which is cheap and easy to find in our part of the world.
- Step 3: Plant seeds in May-ish. Plenty of people recommend starting seeds indoors and transplanting after about 4 weeks, but a few Okies in the know told me I could plant directly outside, which I did, and the plants totally thrived. Just make mounds with your compost that are about 24″ across and plant a few seeds per mound about 1/2″ deep.
- Step 4: Maybe water, maybe don’t. Mother Nature definitely had my back this year.
- Step 5: Stand back and watch your vines run like crazy.
- Step 6: Get excited when you see the first fruits appear; chop off any that are growing in inconvenient places. (e.g. on TOP of your raised bed cage. Eye roll.)
- Step 7: When your watermelon looks big-ish start thumping it. When it sounds hollow-ish, pick it up and check the bottom. If the bottom is yellow-ish (not white) pick it.
- Step 8: Slice and serve with salt. Or vodka.
- Freshly picked watermelons will be fine for 2 weeks on your counter. After slicing, just be sure to refrigerate.
Truth talk: When people tell you that watermelons are easy to grow, believe them. ENJOY! – XO