Step 9: Addendum: How to grow a watermelon
Watermelons come in about 1,200 varieties worldwide, divided according to season and seed production. China is by far the worlds largest grower of watermelon. Growing time is from 70 to 85 days for all varieties and growing season begins when all danger of frost has past. Watermelons can be grown indoors anytime of year but require extra amounts of space and constant temperature between 80 and 85 deg. F.
Seeds for seedlings to be transplanted outdoors may be started indoors 3 weeks before transplanting outdoors. Seeds are planted one inch deep in groups of 3 and seedlings thinned to the best 1 or 2 for planting. You can use this method with peat or potting soil to start seeds indoors. Seedless varieties must be planted alongside seed producing varieties in order to pollinate and set the fruit.
Hills for single transplants are spaced 2 to 3 feet apart while double transplants are spaced 4 to 5 feet apart. Rows are spaced 7 to 10 feet apart.
How to tell when your watermelon is ripe
Use black plastic to cover the hills and rows and plant through the plastic. Drip irrigation is sometimes used sparingly in cooler climates.
Use a combination of the following indicators to determine when your watermelons are ripe:
1. light green, curly tendrils on the stem near the point of attachment of the melon usually turn brown and dry;
2. the surface color of the fruit turns dull;
3. the skin becomes resistant to penetration by the thumbnail and is rough to the touch; and
4. the bottom of the melon (where it lies on the soil) turns from light green to a yellowish color.
Many watermelons do not emit the proverbial "dull thud"when ripe. For these, the dull thud may indicate an over-ripe, mushy melon. The above indicators for choosing a ripe watermelon are therefore much more reliable than "thumping" the melon with a knuckle.
Source: University of Illinois Extension Service