Watermelons are refreshing and delicious fruits many enjoy during the hot summer months. But have you ever wondered about the fascinating journey a watermelon goes through from seed to harvest?
Keep reading as we explore the various watermelon growth stages and provide valuable insights for successful cultivation.
What Are the 8 Watermelon Growth Stages?
The eight watermelon growing stages are:
- Stage 1: Planting
- Stage 2: Germination & Sprouting
- Stage 3: Vegetative Growth
- Stage 4: Vining
- Stage 5: Flower Production & Pollination
- Stage 6: Setting Fruit
- Stage 7: Maturation & Harvesting
- Stage 8: Drying (optional preservation stage)
Stage 1: Planting
The journey of a watermelon begins with the planting of seeds. Choose a suitable location for planting watermelon seeds.
Ideally, the site should have well-drained soil and receive ample sunlight throughout the day. Watermelons thrive in warm climates, so ensure the location offers the necessary heat for optimal growth.
Prepare the soil before planting the seeds. Watermelons prefer loamy soil that is rich in organic matter. Clear any weeds or debris from the planting area, and loosen the soil to a depth of about 12 inches. This helps create a favorable environment for root development.
Make small holes in the soil, approximately 1 inch deep, and place the seeds inside. Space the seeds at a suitable distance, typically 2-3 feet apart, to allow ample room for the plants to spread as they grow.
Watermelons require consistent moisture for successful germination. After planting the seeds, water the soil gently but thoroughly. Mulching can help retain moisture and prevent weed growth.
During the planting stage, monitor the soil moisture and protect the seeds from extreme weather conditions, such as frost or excessive heat.
Stage 2: Germination & Sprouting
Once the seeds are in the soil, they absorb moisture from the surrounding environment. The moisture softens the seed coat and activates enzymes inside the seed, preparing it for growth.
Germination requires the proper environmental conditions, including warmth and humidity. The optimal temperature range for watermelon seed germination is typically between 75°F (24°C) and 85°F (29°C).
Warmer temperatures promote faster germination. Maintaining a consistent level of humidity around the seeds helps to prevent them from drying out and aids in the germination process.
Enzymes within the watermelon seed are activated after moisture absorption. These enzymes break down stored nutrients, such as starches and proteins, into smaller components that provide energy for the seedling’s initial growth.
Once the enzymes are activated, the seed begins to swell and split. A small root, called the radicle, emerges and grows downward into the soil. Simultaneously, a shoot (hypocotyl) emerges from the seed and grows upward towards the surface.
As the shoot emerges from the seed, it carries the cotyledons (embryonic leaves). The cotyledons provide essential nutrients to the developing seedling until it can establish its photosynthetic capacity.
On average, watermelon seeds take around 7-14 days to germinate. The duration might be longer in cooler climates.
Stage 3: Vegetative Growth
During vegetative growth, watermelon plants establish a robust root system. The roots continue to grow and spread in the soil, allowing the plants to absorb water and essential nutrients from the surrounding environment. A healthy root system supplies water and nutrients to support the plant’s overall growth.
Watermelon plants also focus on developing abundant foliage. The leaves increase in size and number, capturing sunlight and conducting photosynthesis.
Watermelon plants require an adequate water supply to support their rapid growth and prevent dehydration.
Proper nutrition is crucial for healthy vegetative growth. Watermelon plants benefit from a balanced supply of essential nutrients, including nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).
Nitrogen supports foliage development, phosphorus promotes root growth, and potassium enhances plant vigor.
Weed competition can hinder the growth of watermelon plants during the vegetative stage. Weeds compete for nutrients, water, and sunlight, potentially reducing the growth and yield of the watermelon crop. Regular weeding or the use of mulch can help suppress weed growth and minimize competition, allowing the watermelon plants to thrive.
A watermelon plant’s vegetative growth stage lasts about 30 to 40 days. The duration may vary depending on environmental factors, watermelon variety, and growing conditions.
Stage 4: Vining
Vining is among the most vital watermelon growth stages. During the vining stage, watermelon plants develop long, trailing vines that serve as their lifeline for absorbing nutrients and water from the soil.
Watermelon plants produce long, vine-like structures that sprawl along the ground or climb on trellises, depending on the cultivation method.
These vines are the plant’s main nutrient uptake and water absorption source. They extend horizontally and can spread quite extensively.
The vines play a vital role in the watermelon plant’s survival by absorbing nutrients and water from the soil. Through a network of fine roots located along the length of the vines, the plant takes in essential minerals and moisture necessary for growth and development.
These nutrients and water are then transported to other parts of the plant, supporting its overall health.
Providing sufficient spacing between watermelon plants during the vining stage is essential. Vines require room to spread comfortably without overcrowding or tangling with neighboring plants.
Ample spacing allows for better air circulation, reduces disease risk, and promotes optimal growth.
Watermelon vines can either trail along the ground or be trained to climb on trellises or other supporting structures.
Ground-trailing vines can cover a significant area, which requires ample garden space. Climbing vines provide an advantage in effectively utilizing vertical space and can help conserve ground space.
If you train your watermelon vines to climb, providing support structures such as trellises, stakes, or fences is necessary.
These structures help keep the vines off the ground, prevent them from sprawling, and make it easier to manage the plants.
Supporting the vines also reduces the risk of fruit rot or damage caused by contact with the soil. A watermelon plant’s vining stage typically lasts about 30 to 45 days.
Stage 5: Flower Production & Pollination
Watermelons develop male and female flowers on separate plants. The male flowers appear first, followed by the female flowers. The flowers are usually large, bright yellow, and have a distinct shape.
Watermelon plants require pollination for successful fruit formation. Bees and other pollinators facilitate this process. Planting bee-friendly flowers nearby can help attract bees and other beneficial insects.
If pollinators are scarce or absent, hand pollination can be done manually. This involves transferring pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers using a small brush or cotton swab. Hand pollination ensures female flowers receive the necessary pollen for fruit development.
Female watermelon flowers are distinguished by the presence of a small, immature fruit structure at the base of the flower, often referred to as the ovary.
Once the female flowers are successfully pollinated, the fertilized ovary develops into a watermelon fruit.
Male watermelon flowers do not produce fruit but are essential for pollen production. Their primary purpose is to provide the pollen that pollinators transfer to the female flowers. The male flowers outnumber the female flowers on the plant.
Stage 6: Setting Fruit
Among the vital watermelon growth stages is fruit development. After successful pollination, tiny green spheres begin forming on the plant, eventually becoming watermelon fruits. These tiny fruits are called “fruit set” or “setting fruit.”
Once the fruits are set, they undergo rapid growth. The size of the fruits increases significantly during this stage.
Consistent and adequate irrigation is crucial during the setting fruit stage. Watermelon plants have high water requirements, especially as the fruits develop and mature. Providing regular watering helps ensure proper fruit growth and prevents issues like cracking or splitting.
Monitor the watermelon plants for signs of pests or diseases during this critical stage. Common pests that affect watermelons include aphids, cucumber beetles, and squash bugs. Powdery mildew and fusarium wilt can also impact the plant’s health and fruit development.
Sometimes, thinning the fruits may be necessary to promote healthy development. Thinning involves removing excess or misshapen fruits from the plant.
Doing so ensures the remaining fruits receive better airflow, light, and nutrients, resulting in larger and healthier watermelons. Thinning also helps prevent overcrowding, which can lead to competition for resources among the fruits.
Stage 7: Maturation & Harvesting
During the maturation and harvesting stage, the watermelon reaches its full size, undergoes color changes, and becomes ready for harvest. The fruits become larger and heavier, depending on the variety.
The exact time it takes for watermelons to mature can vary based on the specific variety and growing conditions. On average, it takes about three months for watermelons to mature fully.
As the watermelon matures, its color undergoes noticeable changes. The skin of the watermelon deepens in color, often becoming darker and richer. The exact color will depend on the specific variety, but it generally transitions from lighter to darker shades.
Along with color changes, the skin of the watermelon also transforms. It becomes harder, protecting the inner fruit. The tough skin helps prevent damage during transportation and storage.
One of the key indicators of watermelon ripeness is the color of the underside or the spot where the watermelon rests on the ground. As the watermelon matures, this underside area turns creamy yellow. This color change is a vital sign that the watermelon fruit is ripe and ready for harvest.
Harvesting watermelons at the right time ensures optimal flavor and sweetness. To determine if a watermelon is ready for harvest, you can use a few methods:
- Gently tap the watermelon: A ripe watermelon will produce a hollow sound when tapped, indicating that it is filled with juice and has developed a proper internal structure.
- Check the underside color: As mentioned earlier, the creamy yellow underside indicates ripeness.
- Evaluate the tendril near the stem: On some watermelon varieties, the tendril nearest to the stem may dry up when the fruit is ripe. If the tendril is still green, the watermelon may need more time to mature.
- Look for uniform shape and size: Ripe watermelons are often symmetrical and consistent.
When harvesting, use a sharp knife or shear to cut the watermelon from the vine, leaving a small stem attached. Handle the watermelons with care to avoid bruising or damaging the fruit.
Stage 8: Drying
In some cases, watermelons may undergo a drying stage for preservation purposes.
Removing a significant amount of moisture from the fruit inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms. Drying also helps concentrate the watermelon flavors, resulting in a different taste profile than fresh watermelon.
During the drying process, the moisture content of the watermelon is significantly reduced. This is typically achieved by exposing the fruit to controlled drying conditions, such as low humidity and warm air circulation.
The drying conditions can vary depending on the method used, including sun drying, air drying, or specialized drying equipment like dehydrators.
Properly dried watermelons should be stored in airtight containers or packaging to maintain quality.
Witnessing the watermelon growth stages is truly a rewarding experience. From planting the seeds to enjoying a juicy watermelon, each step holds significance and requires specific care. So, grab some seeds, and embark on the journey of growing your watermelons.