For many, watermelon is a summer must-have snack—why not grow your own? Watermelons can be grown nearly anywhere within the contiguous United States, making this a viable reality for many. They’re super tasty, and you can make fun things like this watermelon smoothie, or these artistic displays of the fruit.
The most important requirement is space and a lot of it. Watermelons are greedy when it comes to their portion of the garden plot—precious real estate for many gardeners—making it a small sacrifice to plant watermelons, although many say they’re worth it. If you don’t have the space for this tasty fruit, here are some other ideas for gardening in small spaces.
When planting watermelons, there are numerous varieties to choose from. Some varieties will do better in certain climates, while others vary in shape and size. If you’re committed to growing watermelons, there is a variety for you.
Although there are dozens of types of watermelon you can grow, these are ten of the best kinds of watermelon to grow for good yields and tasty fruits.
10 Varieties Of Watermelon To Grow
When choosing a watermelon type to grow, first consider the space you have because some watermelon plants will take up more space than others. Depending on your available space, you may be able to narrow down your list—unless you have a large garden space, in which case personal preference may be your only factor to consider.
1. Sugar Baby
If you’re short on space, the sugar baby watermelon may be a good option for you as they use approximately half the space that a traditional watermelon plant does—about three and a half to four feet in any direction. These watermelons are also much smaller than the normal-sized watermelons you would usually get from the store. Most sugar baby watermelons will grow somewhere between eight to ten pounds once fully matured. Get seeds here.
2. Sweet Beauty
On average, sweet beauty watermelons are even smaller than sugar baby watermelons, reaching between five to seven pounds in weight and six to eleven inches in diameter. Although the fruit sizes are smaller, this variety does require a fairly large section of your garden, spreading eight to ten feet in any direction. These larger plants will produce more fruit than the smaller sugar baby plants, making this a good option for a gardener who wants a large amount of smaller watermelons.
The allsweet variety has the classic watermelon look that most people imagine when they think of watermelons. These melons can grow to be between 25 and 30 pounds and form an oblong shape. This variety of watermelon is particularly disease-resistant, especially to fusarium wilt and anthracnose. The disease resistance of the allsweet watermelon variety makes it a good candidate for growers with long growing seasons where such diseases can generally cut a season short.
4. Crimson Sweet
The crimson sweet watermelon is a popular choice among many growers for its high sugar content, making it one of the sweetest varieties available. This variety also has an exceptionally high lycopene content which is what makes the watermelon’s insides red—hence the name crimson. These melons are generally between 25 to 30 pounds once mature and grow in a round shape. If you want a watermelon that truly tastes as good as it looks, the crimson sweet may be a good option for you.
5. Georgia Rattlesnake
Georgia rattlesnake watermelons are uniquely long, growing in an oblong shape that can reach up to two feet in length. These melons generally weigh an average of 30 pounds once fully grown, putting them at the larger end of the scale when it comes to watermelon weights.
A unique aspect of the Georgia rattlesnake is its thin rind, making it easier to cut into and leaving more space for internal growth. Although the rind is thinner than on most varieties, it is plenty tough for protection against the elements.
6. Sweet Princess
The sweet princess variety is a classic watermelon size—between 20 to 30 pounds—but without the dark green stripes on the rind that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on a watermelon. The outside of these watermelons is a light green color, which may occasionally have light stripes present. The inside of these watermelons—the part we eat!—is a lighter red that almost presents as a pink color. Regardless of the colors, the fruit is very sweet and crisp, making it a popular choice for watermelon enthusiasts.
7. Mini Love
Mini love watermelons are classified as personal melons due to their small size—averaging five to seven pounds each. The rinds on these varieties have a classic light green color with thick dark green stripes on top, and the inside is a bright red.
The rinds are fairly thick which helps to provide a better field-holding ability, meaning they are less likely to be damaged prior to harvest and may be able to be left outside longer than some other varieties. These watermelons also mature earlier than many other varieties, making them ideal for those with short growing seasons.
8. Golden Midget
Golden midget watermelons are another personal watermelon that only grows to around three pounds each. These watermelons are unique in how their rinds stay a golden-yellow color and never turn green like most other varieties. The inside, however, has that classic watermelon-red color that we are used to seeing in our fruit.
For those who live in cooler climates and have shorter growing seasons, the golden midget may be a good choice as they can grow to maturity in a fairly short amount of time—approximately 70 days. If you can get past the odd yellow color of the rind, growing these melons can be a neat and rewarding experience.
9. Florida Giant
Although these watermelons are not Florida exclusive, they are giant, reaching upwards of 50 pounds when fully matured—that’s a team-lift weight! These melons do take a decent amount of time to grow, requiring up to 90 full days, meaning that if you don’t live in a growing zone with enough summer days, you may need to start your seeds inside to give your plants a head start once summer days do come.
You would expect such large fruit to require the maximum amount of garden space, but the Florida giant plants only need to be spaced 36 to 48 inches apart and require less space than some varieties that produce smaller fruits. Get seeds here.
10. Triple Crown
The triple crown watermelon is a seedless variety—so no pesky seeds in your way while you’re enjoying your favorite summer snack! Seedless watermelons are notoriously difficult to grow, but they’re growing in popularity as a melon type you can grow at home.
The triple crown looks very similar to a traditional watermelon and falls in the 18- to 20- pound weight range. Besides the fact that there are no black seeds inside, this watermelon variety does not have any other characteristics that make it stand out among the rest.
Watermelons are a summer crop that can be grown in almost any growing zone—specifically, zones three through eleven. As mentioned previously, growing watermelons will take up a decent amount of space in your garden plot, and they have other requirements as well.
Some consider watermelons to be a tricky plant to grow, but with the proper care, space, and attention, they can be grown by new and experienced gardeners alike.
For any watermelon plant, frequent and consistent watering is crucial to the growth of the fruit. From the time the seeds are planted, the soil should be kept moist at all times—but make sure to not saturate the soil with water as this can lead to disease.
Keeping the soil moist equates to roughly one to two inches of water per week. It is a good idea to monitor rainfall weekly to make sure you do not overwater and to make sure you are watering enough to compensate for less rain.
Once the fruit starts to form, your plants will generally need a slight increase in water intake. Adding an extra watering every week should be enough to account for the extra water needed at this point in the growing cycle. Once the fruit has formed and is in a growing phase, you can cut back a little bit on watering, as the plant won’t have as high of demand anymore.
Watermelons grow best in soil with high fertility levels and prefer organic materials as added nutrients. If the nutrient content of the soil is not very high, certain organic materials such as compost and other fertilizers can be added to increase the levels.
Soil that drains well is also important to the growth of watermelon plants. There are certain diseases that your plants will be more likely to develop if well-draining soil is not provided due to water pooling around the roots. To increase drainage in soil that does not naturally drain well, you can dig and turn the soil prior to planting, add materials that improve draining such as perlite and add mulch to the topsoil.
All watermelon varieties require a full-sun location to grow well and produce their maximum potential number of fruits. These plants are used to growing in warm to hot environments, so providing shade in the brutal heat of summer is not usually necessary.
If planted too close to one another, watermelon plants may shade over each other, causing problems with both sun requirements and nutrient availability. Pay close attention to the distance requirements of each variety to ensure they have plenty of room to grow and absorb the sunlight that they need.
Being a summer crop, watermelons require warm temperatures to germinate, grow, and produce fruit. Watermelon seeds should not be planted in the ground until temperatures are reliably between 60 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. In growing zones with shorter summer days, seeds should be started inside within ideal temperatures and planted outside as soon as these temperatures are reliable.
Throughout the growing season, temperatures should stay in the ideal 60 to 95-degree range, but towards the end of the watermelon growing cycle, you can allow them to stay outside while temperatures drop a little if necessary. However, a watermelon plant will not survive even a light frost, and frost can damage any fruit left outside.
As previously discussed, watermelons require high levels of nutrients to grow and thrive, and adding fertilizers can help you achieve the ideal soil nutrient value. Organic fertilizers are ideal, but slow-release liquid fertilizers can also be used as needed.
While the plant is growing, providing extra nitrogen is beneficial to the growth of the leaves and vines. Once the plant is focusing its energy on growing fruit, however, you will want a fertilizer that consists more of phosphorus and potassium. These fertilizer types can be purchased in nearly any store with a gardening section and are fairly easy to obtain.
Growing Watermelons Vertically
Another option for growing watermelons when you are limited in available space is to grow your watermelons vertically on a trellis or other support system. Watermelon plants can be easily trained to vine upwards as opposed to sprawling outwards as they naturally do. Any support system with rungs or areas for the plant to grab onto should be sufficient, provided the structure is strong enough to hold the plant. You could try one of these DIY trellis ideas to help.
When choosing a support structure, it is important to make sure it is strong enough to hold the weight of the large plant along with any fruit it may bear. These supports will also need to be firmly placed in the ground and may benefit from added attachments such as staples or stakes that keep them grounded.
Ideally, only smaller varieties of watermelons should be grown in this manner because the fruits will need to hang from the plant; most larger varieties of watermelon fruits would break off the vines prematurely if suspended above the ground. An option for those who want to grow larger watermelon varieties on a trellis is to use additional supports for each fruit such as a burlap sack around the fruit that is tied to the trellis, acting as a sling to take the pressure off the vine.
In addition to saving your horizontal space, growing your watermelon plants vertically can help provide better sun exposure to the leaves, resulting in a healthier plant. However you decide to grow your watermelons, proper set-up and care are essential to the plant’s health and fruit-bearing outcome.