Love watermelon and would like to grow it, but lack the garden space? No problem, try growing watermelon on a trellis. Watermelon trellis growing is easy and this article can help get you started with your watermelon vine support.
How to Grow Watermelons on Trellises
Space is at a premium and getting more so. Population density has more of us living in townhouses or condominiums with little to no garden space. For many, lack of space isn’t a deterrent but a challenge when creating a garden and that’s where vertical gardening comes into play. Quite an array of veggies can be grown vertically, but one of the most surprising is watermelon trellis growing.
The surprise, of course, is due to the heft of the melon; it boggles the mind that such a heavy fruit can be hung! However, commercial growers have been growing the melon vertically for some time. In greenhouses, supporting watermelon plants is accomplished by a system of vertical strings held aloft by overhead wires.
Growing watermelon on a trellis saves floor space and efficiently utilizes the available vertical area. This method of watermelon vine support also brings the plant closer to the light source.
Of course, commercial growers cultivate all varieties of watermelon using a vertical trellising system, but for the home gardener, the small varieties of watermelon are probably the best choice.
How to Make a Watermelon Trellis
In the commercial greenhouse, the overhead wire is about 6 ½ feet (2 m.) above the walkway so workers can reach the trellis without standing on a ladder. When creating a vertical trellis at home, keep in mind that the vine gets quite long, so you’ll need about that much space there as well.
Use stout wires screwed into the garden wall, a purchased trellis or use your imagination and re-purpose an ornamental architectural element such as an old, iron gate or fence. The trellis shouldn’t be a lightweight support that is just pushed into a pot. It is going to be supporting a lot of weight, so it needs to be secured to the ground or anchored in a container of concrete.
If you use a container for growing watermelon, use one that is wide enough to provide a broad, stable base.
Watermelon Vine Supports
Once you have figured out your trellis, you need to figure out what type of material you will use for a watermelon vine support. It needs to be sturdy enough to support the fruit and able to dry out quickly so it doesn’t rot the melon. Old nylons or T-shirts, cheesecloth, and netted fabric are all good choices; a fabric that breathes and stretches to accommodate the growing melon is best.
To create an individual melon support, simply cut a square of the fabric and draw the four corners together — with the fruit inside — and tie together onto the trellis support to create a sling.
Watermelon trellis growing is a space saving option and makes harvesting simple. It has the additional bonus of allowing the frustrated farmer in a condo,his or her dream of growing their own edible crop.
Top 10 Watermelon Companion Plants
Last Updated on March 11, 2021 by Matt Gardener
If you must grow watermelon with other plants, the first step is to know all the watermelon companion plants so you don’t end up inhibiting its growth. That is what this article is about!
In the plant kingdom, watermelons, also known as Citrullus vulgaris, are friendly to almost all the plants and vegetables that abound. But you shouldn’t let their friendliness with other plants and veggies come in the way of them receiving their needed sunlight.
To ensure this, do not grow watermelon alongside any plant that would tower over it and shadow it from optimum sunlight, or you grow the watermelons on A-frame or a trellis.
Hot to Make a Watermelon Trellis
You just need three things:
- Vertical supports – this can be almost anything: a rose trellis, a piece of old fencing propped up on a t-post, a chain link fence, chicken run fencing, three slender logs stood on end and tied in a teepee, etc. Whatever you choose, make sure it can support the weight of 2-3 watermelons per plant (sugar baby watermelons work great for this method and eliminate issues trying to support enormous melons)
- Soft ties – You’ll need to manually tie new vine growth to the trellis about once a week (unless you are growing over the top of the chicken coop, once the vine reaches the horizontal roof panel, the watermelon can grow unaided.
- Watermelon Hammocks – There are lots of ways to support your growing watermelons. In the past, I’ve used burlap quickly ran through a sewing machine to make actual hammock type slings for my trellised watermelons, but I’ve seen other gardeners succeed using pantyhose and even fabric shopping bags to support the growing weight of their watermelons.
Supporting Watermelon Plants - How To Grow Watermelons On Trellises - garden
Summertime celebrations would be incomplete without watermelons. Children of all ages love the sweet, juicy fruit of these hot-weather African natives. As is the case with other summer melons, watermelons need a long, hot season to develop.
• More detailed information can be found in The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Book by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing
Watermelons are vine crops closely related to cucumbers, squashes, and pumpkins, and like most vine crops, watermelons can take a lot of room. If you are reluctant to plant them because your garden has restricted space, you can plant smaller-fruited kinds, often called icebox watermelons. These can be grown on trellises if there is adequate support for the fruits so they do not pull down the vines.
Do not plant watermelons too early because they cannot stand a frost. They need warm soil to develop and may rot off if weather is cool and wet. Sow seeds indoors under lights about 1 month before the latest date of last frost. Set out started plants or sow seed directly in the garden after any danger of frost has passed.
Plant watermelons somewhere with lots of room (they need about 25 to 30 square feet per hill), full sun (8 to 10 hours will suffice), and well-drained soil. If space is restricted, grow bush types in beds or containers, or train the vining types on a trellis, making sure that the structure is strong enough to support the plants. Icebox-type melons can weigh 6 to 12 pounds each, and several may develop on a vine. Standard and seedless melons at 25 pounds or more may be too heavy to grow on a support.
Apply a complete garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, at a rate of 11/2 pounds per 100 square feet of garden. Spade or rototill the soil. (See “Soil Preparation” on page 68.) Because vine crops do not tolerate root injuries common to transplanting, indoors under lights sow seeds in peat pots that can be planted without disturbing the tiny roots. Keep the lights on for 18 out of every 24 hours, and maintain the temperatures during the light period around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. After danger of frost has passed, carefully set 2 or 3 transplant seedlings in hills about 36 inches apart. In beds, space the plants 36 inches apart down the middles of the beds. In containers, plant bush types. Set the plants at the same depth they were growing. Black plastic mulch can get watermelons off to a good start since it traps the sun, warming the soil. Cut holes in the plastic with a small can from which you have cut off the rim. Be careful it will be sharp. You could use a knife or scissors, but a can cuts the right-sized hole with a single effort. Then plant the seedlings in the holes.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
From the minute watermelon seedlings are planted, cucumber beetles will threaten them. These pests will damage the leaves and scar the stems. Apply an approved garden insecticide to eliminate the beetles, or cover the plants with floating row covers, being sure to tuck in the edges and ends, to keep the beetles out. When the plants begin to vine, remove the covers, and stop the spraying. In cooler areas, use floating row covers to warm the plants. When flowers appear, remove the covers so that bees may pollinate them. Watermelons, like all vine crops, have both male and female flowers. The male flowers usually appear first and are smaller than the females. Many times new gardeners are dismayed that the flowers fall off without any melons. Usually, that happens because the flowers are all males. Female flowers have tiny melons below the flowers themselves male flowers have only slender stems. The flowers are pollinated by bees that feed on the male flowers and then on the females, carrying the pollen from one to the other. Without bees, there will be no melons. If the weather is unfavorable for bees (that is, cold, wet, or dark), pollinate the melons by hand. Clip a male flower and dust the pollen from it on the pistils of the female flowers. Protect the foliage from diseases by applying a garden fungicide. Rotate vine crops to a different part of the garden each year to reduce dangers of diseases.
In a garden with restricted space, grow melons vertically on a trellis or on a fence. Make sure the supports are sturdy enough to bear the weight of the plants with fruits on them. The heavy fruits will need additional support to keep from pulling the vines down. Use a little net or cloth parachute under each melon, tied securely to the support. Harvest watermelons when they are ripe. That sounds logical, doesn’t it? But determining just when watermelons are ready to pick can be an art. Many gardeners rely on thumping. They are listening for a dull thud, but some melons make that sound when they are overripe. The most reliable way is to check the color of the bottom where the melon is lying on the ground. It should be a good yellow color, and the little curlicue where the melon attaches to the stem dries up as the melon ripens. The skin becomes dull looking, rough, and hardened sufficiently that you cannot cut into it with your fingernail. Melons do not continue to ripen once they are picked. They will become softer, but not sweeter.
Watermelons vary in size from the small, 6-pound icebox types to giants of 100 pounds or more. For most gardeners, the smaller, early types offer the greatest chance of success they mature in 70 to 75 days. Bush types are especially well suited to home gardens. Standard varieties take more room and produce fewer fruits in smaller gardens, and the season may be too short in the more northern parts of the area. Standard varieties mature in 85 to 90 days. You must plant seedless varieties with normal-seeded types for pollination. Mark these plants in the garden so the ones with seeds can be separated from the ones that are seedless. Seedless melons mature in 85 days. Most watermelons are red, but types with yellow flesh are gaining popularity.
Bush Sugar Baby
6 to 8 pounds
6 to 10 pounds
Red flesh, but skin turns yellow as melon ripens.
6 to 8 pounds
Red flesh. Favorite icebox type.
6 to 10 pounds
Yellow flesh, the first of the popular yellow varieties.
6 to 10 pounds
Yellow flesh, hybrid.
Red flesh, large, seedless.
Yellow flesh, convenient size.
Jack of Hearts
Red flesh, similar to King and Queen, but the smallest of the group.
King of Hearts
Red flesh, largest of the Hearts.
Queen of Hearts
Red flesh, mid-sized Heart.
Red flesh, popular with commercial growers
Red flesh, for larger gardens.
Red flesh, smaller and sweeter.
Bright red flesh
Rich scarlet flesh, crisp and sweet
Growing Melons Vertically on a Trellis
Do you live in an apartment or don’t have space in the yard for having a melon garden? Don’t despair because you can still grow homegrown, tasty melons by growing them vertically and using a trellis-like structure to suspend them upon. Provided you select appropriate varieties, grow the plants in their preferred conditions, and have a bit of patience, you’ll be harvesting your melons before you know it. We tell you all about trellising melons.
- Selecting the Best Variety
- Cantaloupe (Muskmelon)
Selecting the Best Variety
The first step in growing vertical melons is selecting an appropriate variety that works well growing on a trellis-like structure. Some varieties of melon fruits, especially watermelons, can grow quite large and heavy, making them not a good choice for suspension.
When selecting a variety to grow choose a dwarf cultivar that generally has shorter vines and smaller fruits that won’t topple the structure holding them or break their holders.
- ‘Golden Midget’ produces 3-pound fruits, with golden yellow skin and pink inner flesh. Matures in around 70 days.
- ‘Sugar Baby’ produces 9-pound fruits, with green skin and red flesh. Matures in about 75 days.
- ‘Snack Pack’ produces 3- to 4-pound fruits, with dark green skin and red flesh. Matures in around 75 days.
- ‘Serenade’ produces 1.5- to 2-pounds fruit with greenish-white skin and thick orange flesh. Matures in about 78 days.
- ‘Tasty Bites’ produces 1.75- to 2.5-pound fruit with an pale orange skin and thick orange flesh. Matures in around 80 days.
- ‘Sugar Cube’ produces 2- to 4-pound fruit with heavily netted skin and thick orange flesh. Matures in about 80 days.
Container & Site Selection
Whether you are growing your melons vertically planted in containers or directly in the ground, it’s important to meet the plant’s needs to get them off to a good start. When the melon plant’s cultural needs are met, you can expect vigorous vines producing flowers and fruits.
Container requirements include:
- Large container, such as a 5-gallon per plant, with bottom drainage.
- Use a rich potting mix that drains well.
- Loose, fertile soil that’s been amended with well-rotted manure or compost.
Select a location where the melon plants get sun for the majority of the day. Too much shade negatively affects flowering and fruiting.
Selecting & Using a Vertical Structure
The most important thing when selecting and using a vertical structure is that it is sturdy. There’s a lot of choices in suitable materials for the melon vines to climb upon and gardeners can create a permanent structure like an arbor, or even use a temporary structure using strings and wire.
Strong and sturdy is important because even dwarf cultivars of melons have some weight to them. If you have three or four developing fruits putting stress on the structure, the last thing you want is for it to collapse. Then you end up with damaged melons on the ground. Therefore, installing a trellis directly in the melon container isn’t advised.
Already Installed Fencing
If you have a privacy fence or even a chain-link fence that’s located in a sunny space, you can easily let your melon plants climb upon them. This alleviates the needs to create a structure.
If growing the melon plants directly in the ground by the fence, simply remove any weeds or grasses from an area around 3 feet by 3 feet per plant, and prepare the soil with organic matter. Once completed, plant your melon seeds and water well.
For those growing in containers and utilizing the fence, simply place the container next to the fence and plant as usual. To prevent pest and disease problems, situated the container on a weed- and grass-free area.
Wooden lattice panels are relatively inexpensive and easy to use in making a quick and sturdy vertical trellis system. You can attach the corners to a garden wall, or create a freestanding system by attaching sturdy poles to the sides. Be sure the outer poles are long enough that you can bury them several feet into the ground. You want to make sure it’s sturdy and the lattice doesn’t fall over with weight.
Arbor or Trellis
If you already have an arbor or sturdy trellis in place, you can simply move the container or plant directly by it for the vines to scramble up. If you are installing one for the melon vines, once again, it’s important you have the bottom portion buried deep enough in the ground or installed in buckets of concrete so it stays upright.
Helping Vines & Fruit
Whatever type of vertical structure you decide to grow your melon vines up, you are going to need to give them assistance, since they aren’t expert climbers. Once the vines get long enough and without undue stress, carefully direct the vines onto the bottom portion of the trellis system.
Since melon’s are grow quickly, expect to check your plants daily and help direct the newly developing side shoots to open areas of the trellis.
Supporting the Fruit
Once your melons reach the size of a golf ball or tennis ball, it’s time to support them. For smaller melons, any type of pantyhose works well, but if you are growing melons with a bit of size to them, you’re going to need a stronger material. Anything like heavy-duty pantyhose, tee shirt, onion sacks, or any mesh-type material works well.
Create a sling to hold the developing fruit and tie the ends directly to the trellis, lifting the fruit a bit higher than it was originally hanging on the vine, if using pantyhose. As the fruit develops and becomes heavier, it will cause the pantyhose to sag. Once the melons reach the ripe stage, simply cut the sling from the trellis and remove the melon to enjoy.
Watermelon Spacing — Give Them Room to Grow!
If watermelon plants had a theme song it would probably be, “Don’t Fence Me In,” as some watermelon vines can grow over 10 feet long and sometimes reach 20 feet in length. Therefore, it stands to reason watermelon plants need room to spread out for the best growth. Continue reading because we take the mystery out of spacing so you grow healthy, thriving watermelon plants leading to tasty, mouthwatering fruits.
Know Your Watermelon before Planting
With an almost endless selection of watermelon seed varieties at local garden centers or online seed companies, figuring out the best melon to grow might seem like a daunting task. You’ll probably notice there’s watermelons’ ranging from several pounds to over 50 pounds, seeded and seedless varieties, and choices in red, pink, yellow and orange flesh.
Despite all the selections, by taking into consideration several factors, it makes your spacing and growing task a bit easier. Even with all the considerations, you are sure to find a melon of the desired size, color and growth habit to suit your fancy. By knowing the expected size of mature watermelon plants, you’ll know the size of the growing area you will need to prepare.
Basic considerations when selecting a variety include:
- The length of your warm growing season. Sensitive to cold, and in too cold conditions, watermelon seeds fail to germinate and transplants fail to thrive.
- Expected days to harvest, as noted of the seed packet. Select a variety suitable for the length of warm weather expected in your location.
- Mature spread of plants, noted on the seed packet, allowing you to estimate required spacing and amount of plants you can grow per the size of your garden space.
- Suggested spacing, as noted on the seed packet, taking the guesswork out of preferred spacing of multiple watermelon plants.
Expert Tip: If you don’t have space in the garden, don’t despair. Watermelon varieties producing smaller fruit and vines are suitable grown in pots. Grow one plant per 5-gallon container with drain holes, and allow the vines to scramble up a sturdy trellis or fencelike structure.
The Basics on Generalized Spacing Requirements
If you have watermelon seeds you saved from the previous year, from a tasty purchased fruit, or seeds given to you by a friend, don’t let not knowing the expected growth of the particular melon make proper spacing hard to figure out.
As long as you follow some basic spacing tips for watermelon plants in general, you should grow a healthy crop of watermelons. Basic watermelon planting that allows appropriate spacing includes:
- In a sunny location, create mounds approximately 3 feet in diameter. Growing watermelons in mounds ensures greater heat retention in the soil and proper drainage.
- Space multiple mounds 3 to 5 feet apart.
- Space multiple rows approximately 8 feet apart.
- Plant about six seeds ½ inch deep per mound. Once plants reach the seedling stage, thin to the three healthiest watermelon plants.
Once you figure out how much space you can dedicate to growing watermelons, and creating mounds and rows, you’ll know how many plants you can grow without overcrowding.
Expert Tip: Watermelons thrive in fertile, well-drained soil. If your soil is too sandy, or lacks needed fertility, amend with about 6 inches of well-rotted manure or compost, and work into the area about one foot.