Growing Watermelon Plants
in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens
( Citrullus lanatus )
Watermelons are fun to grow in Northeast Florida gardens. If you have plenty of room for these fast growing sprawling vine, they can produce a rewarding harvest just in time to cool you off during the heat of the Northeast Florida summer!
Foliage, Origins, of the Watermelon Plant for Northeast Florida vegetable gardens:
Watermelons are thought to have originated in Africa where they can be found growing wild.
The watermelon plant is a sprawling ground cover that quickly covers a large area.
Planting Season for Watermelon Plants in Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida and the surrounding areas:
Watermelons have two growing seasons for Northeast Florida. They can be planted when the weather warms in spring and again in late summer.
Start your Watermelon plants in March and April or from July to August in the Northeast Florida, Jacksonville and St. Augustine areas.
Plant your S & J Nursery transplants into the garden in mounds with 4-6 plants each per mound spaced 7-9 ft apart. Or plant your watermelon plants in rows with each s & J Nursery transplant placed 2-3 ft apart and space the rows 7-9 ft away from each other.
Sun Exposure for growing Watermelons in Northeast Florida Vegetable Gardens:
Plant your Watermelon plants in a full sun or afternoon sun location for the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area vegetable garden.
Soil Preferences for Watermelon in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Florida areas:
Watermelon will grow and thrive in pretty much any Northeast Florida soils. They can be planted into sandy well draining soils but I still like to plant mine in soils that have been generously amended with compost to help maintain plant health and soil moisture levels.Keep soils moist but not wet.
Care of Watermelon in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Watering Your Watermelon Plants:
Newly planted watermelon transplants will require watering daily for the first few days to a week after being planted from seed or transplanted from an S & J Nursery container.
Once the watermelon plants are established and growing be sure to irrigate mounds or rows once to twice per week taking care to not wet the leaves but the soil mounds or planting areas only.
Mulching your Watermelon Plants:
Watermelon plants will benefit greatly from mulched or covered areas. Weeds tend to become problematic for gardeners due to the vast amount of space the watermelon plant will cover when large. Use a ground cover cloth with holes cut out for planting areas or mulch area generously with pine straw after planting.
Fertilizing Your Watermelon Plants:
Watermelons are fast growers and should be fertilized every 10 days with a slow release fertilizer or 6-6-6. For organic gardening use Milorganite® or try fertilizing with a mixture of fish emulsions and seaweed (kelp) at one ounce each per gallon of water. Apply semi weekly as a foliar spray.
If your vegetable plants look like they could use a boost, give them a good watering with homemade compost tea as soon as the top few inches of soil around your plant is dry to the touch!
Harvesting Your Watermelon Plants in the Northeast Florida Vegetable Garden:
Perhaps the trickiest portion of growing watermelons is learning when to harvest the fruits. Mark your calendar for harvest dates and check melons daily for these clues…
– check vine for a dried tendril just at the vines connection to the melon. When the tendril has dried up, its time to pick!
– watermelons when ripe will make a dull sound when thumped. This technique requires lots of practice to perfect but can in time be a valuable asset to the home gardener.
– look at the side of the watermelon resting on the soil, gently roll it over to see the base of the melon. When ripe the melon will have changed from a white to a creamy yellow. Note this needs checked daily as melons ripen fast!
– Ripe melons will have a sweet smell at the end where it is joined to the vine.
Tip: cut off watering a week before harvest to allow the sugars to concentrate in the melons!