Watermelon

(Citrullus lanatus) Watermelons originated in the Kalahari Desert region of Africa, where its ability to take up water and store it in the developing fruit made it an invaluable “living canteen.” But those watermelons were bitter, and tasted nothing like the sweet summer treat we know today. They were domesticated thousands of years ago in south-central Africa, depicted in Egyptian tomb paintings, and may have been grown in India since about 1000 A.D. The crop reached America much later, carried by enslaved people from Africa. Appreciated by Native Americans, the seeds became popular for trading and spread quickly. Watermelons come in all sizes and a diverse range of flesh color, from the familiar pink-red to yellow and even white. Watermelon loves heat; in most climates it can be direct sown into the garden once soil is warm. Direct sowing is highly suggested as transplanting often stunts the plants badly. Direct sow well after chance of frost has passed and soil has reliably warmed. Ideal germination temperature is 70-95F. Sow seeds 1/2 to 1 inch deep. The rule of thumb is to plant 3 seeds together and carefully thin to the strongest single seedling. Space the plants 3 feet apart in rows 6-8 feet apart and be sure to mulch the rows just after planting or before the vines take off. Too many gardeners accidentally destroy their growing watermelon fruit as they stumble through the vines trying to pick weeds. By laying mulch you can keep the weeds at bay until the vines eventually cover the soil up and suppress the weeds themselves. Mulch also helps to keep the soil temperature warmer and more even, which the plants wil appreciate. The soil should be rich and well amended with compost or manure. Grow in full sun, preferably where no other melons, squashes or cucumbers have grown in the last three years.

COOK IT! Watermelon Recipes HERE

GROW IT! Watermelon Growing Tips HERE

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