Most watermelon plants require a lot of space and quickly take over a small garden. Some varieties are described as having short vines. Those described as having bush-type plants may be disappointing.
Varieties are available that produce large or small, round or oblong, solid or striped fruit with red or yellow flesh, with seeds or seedless.
Plant when the soil is warm and all danger of frost has passed. Watermelon transplants in peat cups or plastic trays can be used, but they must be small (not yet vining) to avoid plant injury. Use transplants with seedless melons because the seed is small, expensive, and slow to germinate. For seedless melon transplants, plant the seeds with the rounded end down and the pointed end up.
Hot kaps, black plastic mulch, floating row covers, and plastic tunnels are ways to obtain earliness. Black plastic also controls weeds. You can use transplants or seeds in combination with black plastic mulch. With normal vining melons, plant several seeds in groups spaced about 6 feet apart. Thin seedlings to two plants in each group. With seedless melons, it is necessary to plant some standard melons close by to provide pollination. All watermelons are pollinated by bees and require about 45 days from pollination to maturity.
Disease problems are anthracnose, fusarium wilt, gummy stem blight, and bacterial wilt. Insect problems are striped and spotted cucumber beetles.
Bush Charleston Gray—bush-type plant; 10- to 13-pound melons; red flesh.
Bush Jubilee—bush-type plant; 10- to 13-pound oblong fruit; red flesh.
Charleston Gray—30 pounds; oblong; light green; bright red flesh and dark seeds; some disease resistance.
Crimson Sweet—23 to 30 pounds; semi-round; distinct striping; thick, hard rind; sweet, red flesh; some disease resistance.
Jubilee—25 to 40 pounds; long; light green with dark stripes; red flesh with black seeds; some disease resistance.
Jubilee II—22 to 30 pounds; oblong; light green with dark green stripes; open-pollinated; firm, red flesh; sweet; some disease resistance.
Royal Jubilee—hybrid Jubilee type; elongated; 25 to 30 pounds; bright red flesh; resistant to fusarium and anthracnose.
Royal Sweet—20 to 25 pounds; hybrid; oblong; medium-green stripes; bright red flesh and small dark seeds; some disease resistance.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Watermelons need ample water to grow, but rains also contribute to disease pressure, and cloudy skies reduce the melons’ sweet taste.
David Nagel, a horticulturist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said dry conditions hurt the size of melons that were not irrigated, but their flavor should be excellent.
LUCEDALE, Miss. -- Mississippi watermelon growers battled frequent rains to get their crops planted and ready in time for the Fourth of July and other summer celebrations.
David Nagel, horticulture specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said most of the crop is smaller and later than normal.
“If the sun doesn’t shine, the leaves don’t make sugar, plants don’t grow and we have smaller watermelons,” Nagel said. “Recent sunny days are allowing some of the crop to catch up. Melons may still be small, but they will be sweet and firm, or crisp.”
JACKSON – Party planners may have a hard time finding Mississippi-grown watermelons and blueberries for July 4th celebrations this year.
Unfavorable weather slowed maturity and increased disease pressure for both crops. Much of the state’s blueberry crop is grown in south Mississippi, and most of its watermelons are grown in the southeast quarter of the state. Acreage for both crops remains steady. Blueberry producers grow about 2,700 acres, and watermelon growers have about 2,400 acres.
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Mississippians love Fourth of July watermelons, and the 2013 melon crop should be worth the wait after weather delays.
David Nagel, horticulturist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said the biggest challenge has been the slow growth rate that caused some concern that the first melons might miss the holiday celebrations. The good news is that clear, sunny days with plenty of rain along the way have combined to produce large, tasty melons.