How to Grow Watermelon

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Citrullus lanatus

What's better at a summer barbecue than a big slab of watermelon so juicy it drips down your chin? This succulent fruit is also full of lycopene, a natural plant chemical that has been proven to fight heart disease and some cancers.

Hardiness: Annual.

Planting advice: Start seeds indoors about three weeks before you set them outdoors, or plant three seeds 1 inch deep in 2-foot-high mounds of soil and compost. Place mounds 6 to 8 feet apart.

In northern climates, transplants and early-maturing varieties work better. Water liberally for three or four weeks; cut back when plants are established.

It may seem counterintuitive, but don't overwater watermelons. Too much reduces the sugar in the fruit, which decreases the sweetness.

Harvest tips: Ready to pick in 70 to 85 days, when the curly tendrils on the stem turn brown and dry, or the underside turns from light green to a creamy yellow.

Recommendations: Sugar Baby (small fruits, early harvest), Crimson Sweet, Moon and Stars (decorative rind), Queen of Hearts (seedless).

Watermelon Fun»

Source: Birds & Blooms "Grow Veggies for Less"