In the spring is when you start to find garden fresh watermelon for sale in grocery stores. Watermelon is a sweet tasting melon with bright red flesh. Depending on the variety, this fruit weighs around 14 pounds. We love eating watermelon and it is so good for you. Watermelon has healthy things like antioxidants, vitamins A, B C, potassium, electrolytes sodium, thiamin, amino acid, and magnesium.
Fordhook is a hybrid watermelon. Not only does it have a wonderful flavor, it also adapts to many different growing conditions. They are an early producing variety of watermelon that takes 74 days to maturity. They grow best when the temperatures remain between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in the northern United States, it is a good idea to start the seed indoors. This will give you a two to three-week head start on the growing season.
Prepare the Garden
Warm the soil by laying a sheet of black plastic over the garden area. Watermelons grow best in warm soil and the black plastic enables you to plant them in the garden earlier. Around the outside perimeter of the plastic, place some rocks, bricks, lengths of iron or anything else that is heavy. You don’t want the wind to blow the plastic away or tear it. You can lay the plastic down early in the spring, or late in the fall for a jumpstart on the season.
Start the Seeds
Three weeks before the last expected frost date in your area, start the seeds indoors. Fill cell packs with well-draining potting soil. You can use your own soil mix or buy it at most garden supply stores.
Place one watermelon seed in each cell section. Some gardeners plant two seeds to insure that they have one living plant per cell, but I hate to pull out plants once they grow. With your finger, push the seed into the soil so it is ½ inch below the soil’s surface.
Water the soil thoroughly. Allow the cell packs to drain the excess water away, and then place them in a tray for easier carrying. Cover the cell packs with a sheet of clear plastic. This holds in humidity, encouraging the seeds to germinate.
Place the tray in a bright south or west-facing window, but keep out of direct sunlight. With the plastic covering, it would be too hot for the seeds to germinate. In addition, the soil needs to stay around 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so place the tray on a heat mat, during the nighttime hours.
Check the soil for moisture as it should remain constantly moist, but not soggy. Water when needed. If mold starts to form on the soil, lift the plastic away for several hours.
Remove the plastic when the seeds germinate. Continue to care for the seedlings by maintaining soil warmth, and water. When all danger of frost is past, it is time to plant them outdoors in the garden.
Planting in the Garden
Using a spade or shovel, dig a 3-foot diameter hole through the black plastic. The depth of the hole should be 1 1/2 feet. Space each hole 3 or 4 feet apart, in rows that are spaced 8 feet apart.
In the soil removed from the holes, mix in equal amounts of compost, and leaves along with a shovel of well-rotted manure. This helps to lighten the soil up and improves drainage. If your soil is heavy, add some sand to help with drainage. Fill the hole with the amended soil.
In each hill, plant two or three watermelon plants. Bury them 1/2 to 1 inch deeper than they were growing in their container. Gently tamp the soil down around the plant with your hands. Thin the plants one week later so there are only two plants per hill.
Draw up soil to form a ring around the hole. The soil should be at least 2-inches high. When you water, fill the ring full so the water remains at the root area.
Water thoroughly. Keep the watermelon plants well watered to maintain an evenly moist soil. After the flowers bloom, water every three days or sooner if the soil is dry. Add a thick layer of organic mulch to help keep the weeds from growing and to maintain a moist soil. When vines start to ramble, mix one tablespoon 1 tbsp. of household borax with 1 gallon of water. Put this mix into a sprayer and spray the foliage and base of the plants.
Harvest the Fordhook hybrid watermelon when the tendrils are dry. Thump the watermelon with your knuckle. If you hear a hollow sound, that is a good indication that the watermelon is ripe. Look at the outside of the watermelon to see if it is a dull green color. Carefully turn the watermelon over. The underside should be light green or yellow. Watermelon that show these signs usually mean that they are ripe and ready to be picked.
Burpee: All About Watermelons
Planet Natural: Growing Watermelon
Farmer’s Almanac: Planting Watermelon