I was amazed that watermelon grew so easily in containers! The fruit weighed about three pounds which is quite a bit smaller than the same fruit of the plant grown in the ground (eight to ten pounds). I did absolutely nothing to it after planting other than water.
Icebox watermelons are smaller than traditional watermelons and were named as such because they easily fit in a refrigerator. I didn't try the large watermelons in containers, only these small ones.
The watermelons formed at the top of the plant and grew down the sides before resting on the patio. It looked like they would be too heavy for the stem and break off before hitting the ground, but that didn’t happen.
One major problem arose, however. I picked the five melons too late, and they were mushy on the inside. Knowing when watermelons are ready to pick can be difficult. One trick is to hold your ear to the fruit and tap it with your finger. It should sound hollow, not solid.
Light: Full sun, at least six hours per day.
Season: Watermelon needs warmth. Be sure to wait at least two weeks after your area’s last frost date. They do best in temperatures ranging from 70 to 85 degrees, but grow in temperatures ranging from 65 to 95 degrees.
Lifespan: About two to three months in this container. The fruit requires two to three months of heat to mature. Once the fruit is ripe, the plant starts dying.
Care: Like most vegetables, watermelons are heavy feeders. Fertilize on planting day with a slow-release mix. Repeat, if the leaves look yellowish or washed out, although the fertilizer should last from six to nine months.
Water: Watermelons like quite a bit of water and are quite sensitive right after planting. I watered this one every day.
Troubleshooting: No problems at all. Be sure to let the watermelons fall to the ground instead of resting them on the potting mix in the container. They can rot if left on top of damp soil or potting mix.
Some watermelon plants develop fungal diseases, although ours didn’t. If you see yellow or pale green spots on the leaves and think they are serious, take one to your local garden center and ask them for the least toxic treatment. Watermelons, at times, also attract aphids.
Planting Plan: Easy. Simply plant five watermelon plants around the edge of a large pot. Be sure to plant in good-quality potting mix, not garden soil, topsoil, or potting soil, which can kill your plants.
Container: This container measures 19 inches high with an inner diameter of 12 inches. The fruit probably would have grown larger in a bigger pot. Don’t try it in any smaller sizes than this one.
Pamela Crawford, author of 12 gardening books, is considered one of the most accomplished container gardening experts in the country. In addition to designing gardens for over 1500 residences, her work has been featured on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens publications as well as in Southern Living, HGTV Magazine, Fine Gardening, Country Gardens, and in over 300 newspapers. As an expert in her field, she has appeared on the Fine Living Network, GardenSMART, gardenloverstv.com and numerous local tv shows.
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By Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries
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