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The watermelon plant is grown worldwide in areas where heat determines the climate. This is due to the origin of Citrullus lanatus, which is located in Africa and has continuously higher temperatures there. But with the right care instructions and professional tips, sowing watermelons can also be successful in cooler Central Europe.
Although watermelons usually require little attention, they do have a few conditions in terms of location that should be met for healthy growth and a bounty harvest. These are as follows:
- Light conditions: sunny - at least six hours of sunlight a day
- Sheltered from the wind - avoid cool drafts
- A place in front of a south wall or in a greenhouse is ideal
- Sufficient space on all sides for undisturbed propagation (between 1.2 and 2 square meters)
- Sandy, humic soil
- Loose and permeable
- pH: between 6.0 and 7.0
Early young plants
Anyone who buys an early young plant in the trade must take into account that frost would mean the end for them. For this reason, it must never be placed outside before the ice saints. A point in time is ideal between late May and early June. The temperatures should no longer fall below 12 °C, as the plant can already react sensitively to this.
Seeds germinate from an ambient temperature of 21 °C. If they are planted in the bed and they get cold, there is a great risk that the seed will be destroyed. For this reason, the best time to sow outdoors is usually late in June at the earliest given. Then the time from germination to harvest is usually not enough. For this reason, you should avoid sowing seeds in the bed and only plant early plants.
This is how it is done:
- Bring forward: mid-April
- Fill the growing pot or other suitable container with growing soil
- Use one seed per pot
- Press this in the middle 1 to 2 centimeters into the ground
- Cover lightly with soil
- Spray the soil with low-lime water (soil must be well moist, but not soaked)
- Stretch translucent plastic film over the seed pot (leave on until pricking out)
- Air the foil every two days and moisten the soil moderately
- Optimum ambient temperature: 21 °C (not below 18 °C or above 24 °C)
- Location: sunny, avoid dry heating air, a south-facing window sill is ideal
- Alternatively: light-flooded, heated greenhouse
- Germination: 6 to 10 days
- Prick out: after the first leaf has formed
- The young plant can be placed outside from the end of May
Earlier, young plants can be planted in a greenhouse. From the end of April is the best time here, as long as the nights are no longer freezing. As soon as the temperatures are continuously above 12 °C, there is nothing to be said against transplanting them outdoors.
Into the bed
Planting young plants is quite easy:
- Dig a planting hole into which the roots fit well and are not kinked
- Lay out a layer of gravel or quartz sand on the planting soil (drainage minimizes the risk of waterlogging)
- Mix the excavated soil generously with compost (plant needs a lot of nutrients)
- Use watermelon and fill roots with soil
- Water moderately
- Planting distance: about 1 meter
- Set up climbing aids if necessary
tip: If there is not enough space in the bed, compact watermelon varieties are suitable, which require significantly less space to grow.
Alternatively, watermelons can be planted in a pot/tub, so that even those who have a balcony instead of a garden do not have to do without self-cultivation. The basic requirement is that a pot/bucket with large scale is chosen so that the plant can spread sufficiently. Compact varieties allow the use of smaller pots/tubs.
When planting, the procedure is almost the same as for bed planting. Instead of conventional garden soil, you should use a nutrient-rich substrate use that is enriched with one part sand and/or clay. A compost-based substrate is also ideal.
tip: Potted plants should not be placed in full sun, as they tend to dry out quickly and this can ruin a harvest.
Planting in a greenhouse is done in the same way as described under "in the bed" and "pot planting". Here, however, you should make sure to open doors and/or windows for a few hours every day during the flowering phase. If they remain closed, insects will not find their way in, pollination will not occur and fruit formation will not occur.
watermelon plants needmuch water. The soil must never dry out completely, because usually it cannot be repaired and the Citrullus lanatus dies. Watering twice may be necessary, especially on hot summer days. The plant also has a particularly high water requirement when it is in the fruiting phase. You should then water at least once a day.
In addition, you should consider the following tips:
- Do not use cold water
- Use stagnant irrigation water or rainwater
- Do not wet leaves - increases risk of powdery mildew
- Avoid waterlogging
Watermelons have one high nutrient requirements. However, the soil can usually only provide this to a limited extent. For this reason, fertilizing is advisable so that the plant can grow magnificently and produce fruit. When fertilizing, you should adhere to the following advice:
- Mix soil with compost when planting
- Wait about four weeks after potting/planting young plants
- Fertilizer rhythm: every two weeks
- Exception: fertilize once a week before fruiting
- Recommended fertilizer: organic liquid fertilizer for vegetables
- Alternative: horse manure
Branching is essential for flowers to form, as they only flower on it and can be pollinated accordingly for fruiting. Therefore, you should regularly trim the tips of young plants as soon as the first five leaves appear.
When the first fruits have formed, they will continuously gain weight and sooner or later will sag and lie on the ground. Since the watermelon has a high water requirement and the soil has to be kept evenly moist, the fruit then lies on the moist soil. The lower area can rot quickly in this way and make the fruit unfit for consumption. It is therefore advisable styrofoam panels or something similar under the fruit to prevent direct contact with the moist soil.
Harvesting at the right time is important to ensure that watermelons reach their ripeness and full, sweet aroma. As a rule, the harvest time of this type of pumpkin is between August and the beginning of autumn. The size alone does not determine the ripening time, because depending on the given weather, care and site conditions and of course the variety, they can reach a size between 20 centimeters and 50 centimeters and a weight of 20 kilograms or more. If a watermelon shows the following characteristics, it has reached its optimal state of ripeness:
- Skin is dark green with yellowish spots
- A dull tone sounds when you "knock on".
- Latest ripening time in autumn when the leaves wither
When the perfect ripening time has come, you can separate the watermelon from the plant with a sharp knife. The cut must be made in such a way that the stalk of the Citrullus lanatus remains. The stem keeps it closed and keeps it longer.