Skip to Content

How to Grow Watermelon in Pots Like an Expert

How to Grow Watermelon in Pots Like an Expert

Sharing is caring!

Growing watermelons might bring to mind sprawling vines across vast fields, but did you know you can also grow these juicy fruits in pots?

For those with limited space or an affinity for container gardening, this may seem like a dream come true. And I’m here to tell you, as an expert gardening blogger, it’s not only possible, but it’s also quite a rewarding endeavor!

As someone who has navigated the trials and triumphs of container gardening, I can assure you that with the right approach, you can enjoy the sweet taste of homegrown watermelons, even from the smallest of patios.

Let’s dive into the world of pot-grown watermelons and turn you into an expert in no time!

Does Watermelon Grow Well in Pots?

To the surprise of many, watermelons can indeed thrive in pots. However, it’s not without its caveats. Growing watermelons in containers requires careful selection of the right varieties, pots, and growing conditions.

The key is to understand the needs of watermelon plants. They require ample sunlight, consistent watering, and a lot of food – they’re heavy feeders! But most importantly, they need space for their roots to spread out.

While traditional garden varieties might struggle in pots due to their long vine lengths, there are specific types bred for smaller spaces. With these, you can achieve a bountiful harvest.

Remember, pot-grown watermelons need a little extra attention. Unlike in-ground plants, their roots can’t reach down into the earth to find nutrients, so it’s up to you to provide them with everything they need. But don’t let this dissuade you; consider it a part of the container gardening adventure.

Best Watermelon Varieties for Pots

When selecting a watermelon variety for your container garden, you’ll want to look for “bush” or “compact” types. These cultivars have shorter vine lengths, making them ideal for growing in confined spaces.

Here are three that have proven to be excellent contenders for pot planting:

1. Sugar Baby

‘Sugar Baby’ is a classic favorite for container gardeners. This icebox variety is known for its compact vine and small, 6-10-pound fruits. Don’t let the size fool you, though. What ‘Sugar Baby’ lacks in size, it makes up for in flavor. This melon offers a delectably sweet, red flesh that epitomizes the summer experience.

See also  8 Artichoke Growing Mistakes That You Can Avoid

One of the joys of growing ‘Sugar Baby’ is its relatively short growing time. You can expect to harvest these beauties within 75-80 days of planting. They’re perfect for gardeners who are eager to enjoy their harvest without a long wait.

2. Bush Sugar Baby

The ‘Bush Sugar Baby’ watermelon takes all the sweetness and compact size of the ‘Sugar Baby’ and pairs it with an even shorter vine, which usually doesn’t exceed 3-4 feet in length. This makes it even more manageable for a small space and one of my personal favorites for container gardening.

Their round, petite fruits are a picnic-perfect size and can be easily grown on a sunny balcony or deck. Like their namesake, these melons mature quickly, ensuring that even in regions with shorter growing seasons, you can still savor the fruits of your labor.

3. Mini Love

‘Mini Love’ is a newer variety that has quickly captured the hearts of pot gardeners. These plants produce personal-sized watermelons that weigh around 7-9 pounds each. The vines are short, robust, and ideal for containers, with a vine length that is more contained than traditional watermelons.

One of the things I appreciate most about ‘Mini Love’ is its thick rind, which not only supports the heavy fruit but also makes it resistant to splitting. The flesh is crimson and sweet with few seeds, ideal for a quick summer snack.

How to Grow and Care For Watermelon in Pots

Cultivating watermelons in pots may not be the first gardening venture you think of, but with a bit of know-how, the process is both doable and delightful.

The secret lies in understanding the particular needs of potted watermelon plants, from the soil they root into the sun that sweetens their juicy flesh.

Let’s explore the essentials of planting and care.

Planting

To start your watermelon journey, plant seeds indoors in peat pots a few weeks before the last frost date. Watermelon seeds germinate best in warm soil, so using a heat mat can enhance germination rates. When seedlings have a couple of true leaves, they’re ready to move to their permanent pot home.

If you’re opting for direct sowing, which can be best for avoiding transplant shock, wait until the outdoor temperatures consistently warm up. Plant two to three seeds per pot and later thin out to the strongest seedling. This is your future watermelon champion, so give it the space it deserves!

See also  How to Grow and Care for Cilantro Like a Pro

Pot Size

Choosing the right pot size is critical for the success of your watermelon plant. A container that’s at least 5 gallons is the minimum, but I recommend going for a 15 to 20-gallon pot for optimal growth.

The larger the pot, the more room for the roots to spread and support vigorous growth. Ensure your container has excellent drainage because watermelon roots despise sitting in water.

Light

Sunshine is the best friend of watermelon plants. They crave full sun, meaning at least 6 to 8 hours of direct, unfiltered light per day. Position your pot in the sunniest part of your patio or balcony to ensure these sun-loving vines get their fix.

Soil

A light, well-draining soil is vital for watermelon plants. You can mix potting soil with compost to provide a nutrient-rich, well-aerated foundation. A pH level of around 6.0 to 6.8 is ideal for watermelons, so consider getting a soil test kit to tailor your soil mix perfectly.

Water

Watermelons, as their name suggests, love water. However, they don’t like to be waterlogged. Provide consistent moisture, especially during fruit set and growth.

A potted watermelon will typically require more frequent watering than those in the ground due to the limited soil volume. But be cautious with overwatering; ensure the top inch of soil dries out between watering sessions.

Temperature and Humidity

Warmth is essential—watermelons thrive in temperatures between 70°F and 90°F. If you live in a cooler climate, black plastic mulch can increase soil temperature.

Humidity isn’t usually a problem, but in very humid climates, watch out for fungal diseases and mitigate by watering at the base to avoid wetting the leaves.

Fertilizer

Regular feeding is required to support the rapid growth and fruiting of your watermelon. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks.

Once the plant starts flowering and fruiting, switch to phosphorus and potassium-rich fertilizer to support fruit development.

Pruning Potted Watermelon

Pruning is an often overlooked yet essential aspect of growing potted watermelons. Unlike their ground-planted counterparts, potted watermelons have limited space to sprawl, making pruning a critical step to maintaining a healthy and productive plant.

Here’s a quick guide to pruning:

See also  How to Grow and Care for Rhubarb (The Easy Way)

Firstly, when your watermelon plant has reached about a foot in height, it’s time to do some initial thinning. Identify the strongest shoots and prune away the weaker ones. This might feel counterintuitive, but it allows the plant to focus its energy on developing fewer vines that will produce larger fruit.

As the plant grows, watch out for side shoots, or “suckers,” that grow from the leaf joints. Removing these will encourage the plant to concentrate its energy into fruiting. Prune back some of the growing tips too, which can stimulate branching and potentially more fruit. However, be cautious not to over-prune, as leaves are essential for photosynthesis and plant health.

Additionally, once fruits have been set, you might consider removing any late-blooming flowers or smaller fruits that won’t have time to mature. This ensures that all of the plant’s energy goes into growing larger, sweeter melons.

Pruning not only helps manage the size and shape of your watermelon vine but also improves air circulation, reducing the risk of disease.

Always use clean, sharp pruning shears to make clean cuts that heal quickly.

Overwintering

Overwintering watermelon plants is not a typical practice since watermelons are annuals—they complete their life cycle in one growing season. However, in climates where the growing season is short, you might want to give your plants a head start by overwintering the seedlings indoors before planting them outside in the spring.

If you decide to overwinter young watermelon plants indoors, ensure they receive plenty of light, either from a sunny window or supplemental grow lights. Keep the soil slightly moist but not wet, and maintain a temperature of about 65°F to 70°F.

Remember that overwintered plants will still need to be hardened off come spring, meaning they should be gradually acclimated to outdoor conditions before being planted outside permanently. Begin by taking the plants outside for a few hours each day, slowly increasing their time outdoors over a week or two. This will reduce transplant shock and prepare the plants for a robust growing season.

Growing watermelons in pots can be a fun and rewarding challenge. With the right care, including diligent pruning and appropriate overwintering or seedling care, you can enjoy the sweet taste of success from your very own balcony or patio garden.