Nothing says summer quite like a red, juicy watermelon – I can taste it now! If you are growing in a small space, like a patio or deck, you might think that you can’t grow a large plant such as watermelon. Not so – grow it in a container! With a few quick and simple tips on caring for your container watermelon, you’ll be harvesting and eating you own sweet juicy watermelon in no time!
Compact varieties of watermelon work best for containers. I’m growing Black Tail Mountain and Sugar Baby watermelon in 20 gallon Smart Pots containers. The Smart Pots containers work beautifully for a large plant like watermelon because they are made from a durable, aerated fabric. When the roots hit the aerated sides of the pot, they “air prune”. Instead of encircling the bottom of the pot, and becoming rot bound, they form a fibrous root ball that is able to take up water and nutrients effectively, feeding the plant and helping it be productive.
See my previous blog post, “Growing Large Veggies in Containers” for more info on container and soil to grow in.
Once you have your watermelon planted and it is established in your container, follow these three tips that to help it thrive.
Tip #1 : Trellis your watermelon
Most of us are growing in a container because we are short on space. Providing your watermelon plant with a strong support, or trellis so it can grow up, not out, is key. I like to use my DIY tomato cages and train the vine to grow up the cage by weaving it in and out of the wire mesh. Use plastic stretchy tie up tape to attach any wayward vines to your trellis. Watermelon vines grow quickly, and are space hogs, so check your vine daily so it doesn’t get out of control
As the fruit develops, provide support for it as it grows by making a sling out of stretchy material, such as a t-shirt or pair of panty hose. Tie each end of the material to the trellis to support the fruit.
Tip #2 – Hand pollinate if necessary
As your watermelon plant grows, you should start to see flowers bloom that are attached to tiny immature watermelon. If the fruit does not continue to grow, this is a clue that you do not have enough pollinators around your garden and need to hand pollinate the flowers. Don’t let this scare you – it’s so easy!
To hand pollinate, your will need both male flowers and female flowers. The male flower will be attached to a stem. The flower stem will have a fuzzy stalk in the center (the fuzz is the pollen) called a stamen. Often male flowers appear first on your plant.
A female flower sits on top of a small, immature fruit, the fuzzy center is called the stigma. Once your male and female flowers are open, pollinate within a day to increase your chance of success. Hand pollination can be done in two ways, with the male flower itself, and with a paintbrush.
Hand pollination with a male flower
Remove the male flower from the plant, put the stamen of the male flower on the stigma of the female flower and tap it several times to transfer the pollen. You can use the male flower to pollinate other female flowers as long as there is still pollen on the stamen. Do this several days in a row to ensure successful pollination. Over the next few days, watch the immature fruit that is attached to the female flower to see if it begins to grow. If it does, this means that your hand pollination was successful and your watermelon is on it’s way to your table! If it does not continue growing, try hand pollinating again until you are successful!
Hand Pollination with Paintbrush
Dab a small paintbrush (I like to use an old makeup brush) on the stamen of the male flower. Then dab the paintbrush on the stigma of the female flower to transfer the pollen. Additional female flowers can be pollinated with the male flower, providing there is still pollen on the stamen, but you will need to dab the paintbrush each time on the stamen to pick up more pollen.
Tip #3 – Water and Fertilize Regularly
Container plants dry out quicker than in-ground plants. Check your container melons daily to see if they need water. I have my container plants on a separate drip irrigation system than the rest of my garden, due to the different watering needs they have. If you do not have a drip irritation system, check your containers daily by sticking your finger into the soil. If the soil feels dry, you will need to water. In high temperatures (over 90 degrees) you may need to water your plants twice a day. Water with your hose or watering can until water runs out the bottom.
Watermelon is a heavy feeder – meaning it requires a lot of nutrients produce those tasty, juicy melons. Fertilize your container watermelon once a week with a liquid water soluble fertilizer. A water soluble fertilizer will provide nutrients that will be immediately available to the plant to help it grow. My go to liquid fertilizer is Verimisterra worm tea, made from worm castings. We all know how wonderful worms are for our garden – worm tea contains beneficial bacteria and microbes and feeds your plants just what they need. (Available at the above link for a 10% discount with the promo code “calikim”.)
Watch the video from my YouTube channel, “Growing Watermelon in Containers – 3 Tips for Success” so you can see exactly what to do to be successful at growing watermelon in your container garden!
Comment below – let me know if you are growing watermelon in containers in your garden!
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