Watermelon Growing Stages: From Vine to Table

The watermelon growing stages are a remarkable and transformative process that the watermelon plant goes through. These specific stages serve as milestones in the development of this plant’s growth. Understanding this process is important because it will provide you with valuable knowledge that will allow you to address any challenges that may arise.

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What are the Watermelon Growing Stages?

The watermelon growing stages are germination, seedling, vegetative, flowering, fruiting, and harvesting. The watermelon plant goes through a series of distinct stages that bring their own unique developments. Each and every one of these stages is essential for successful cultivation of watermelons.

Germination Stage

The germination stage is a very exciting point in the watermelon growing stages, as it marks the beginning of the plant’s life. Though, the majority of this stage will take place under the soil, hidden from view. The optimal temperature for watermelon seeds to germinate is 65 to 85°F. In this stage, the seed that was planted softens from the moisture surrounding it. The seed will open up as roots begin to emerge to anchor the plant into the soil as it begins it’s growth. A thin stem and two small leaves will make their way up to the soil’s surface. The plant has begun to lay the foundations for future growth. This stage normally lasts for a week or two until it makes its way into the seedling stage.

Many people start their watermelon plants indoors 6 weeks before the last frost to make the most use of the growing season. To start your watermelon seeds indoors, make sure that you have an indoor seed starting setup that will allow for optimal growth at the beginning of the plant’s life.

Seedling Stage

Watermelon Growing Stages- Seedling

The seedling stage marks the point of the plant’s growth that will be visible to your eyes. This part of the watermelon growing stages is crucial because this is when the plant is in it’s weakest and most fragile state, as it has just emerged. It’s imperative to tend to the seedling’s needs to allow it to grow as strong and sturdy as possible. To do this, you must provide the new growth with ample sunlight of at least 8 hours a day. If you are starting these seedlings indoors, provide them with as much grow light time as possible, optimally roughly 16 hours a day.

The plant will initially start off with two small leaves but will soon develop more. The next set that you see growing will be the first set of true leaves for the plant. These leaves will look much more like the typical watermelon foliage that you’re used to seeing.

Vegetative Stage

Watermelon Growing Stages- Vegetative

During the vegetative stage, the watermelon will put a lot of energy into growing the foliage of the plant. At this part of the watermelon growth stages, the plant will go through vigorous and rapid development. You will see a lot leaves develop, as they are essential for the plant to get plenty of energy from the sun. This phase is important for the plant to build a strong foundation for the upcoming stages during fruit growth. You will start to see your plant make a lot vines in this stage while it prepares itself for fruit production.

Flowering Stage

Watermelon Growing Stages- Flowering

During the flowering stage, you will start to see many flowers appear between the vines and the leaves. These flowers will be the location where the fruits begin to grow. Pollination during this stage is crucial between the male and the female flowers. For a fruit to being to grow, successful fertilization needs to occur. Watermelons will not self pollinate, so they rely on nature to help out via the wind and insects. Some of the most important insects for pollination of watermelons are bees and butterflies, who will come to the flowers to collect pollen. They will transfer pollen from flower to flower as they travel around. The fruit will begin to form from the female flower after pollination. You can tell which flowers are female by the bulge or small watermelon they tend to have underneath the flower.

Watermelon plants can also be manually pollinated by doing the pollinators job yourself. You will need to transfer pollen from male flowers to a female flower. To do this, simply take a cotton swab and rub it along the male flower’s petals inwards and around the center part of the flower. Repeat this on multiple male flowers to make sure that you have successfully gathered plenty of pollen. You will see be able to see ample yellow pollen on your cotton swab. Then find a female flower, take the cotton swab with pollen and rub the pollen onto the female flower, focusing on the center of the flower.

Fruiting Stage

Watermelon Growing Stages- Fruiting

The fruiting stage is where the excitement really begins, as you can begin to see the formation of your fruit. This is the point in the watermelon growing stages where you begin to see the potential of the plant. After fertilization, the flower will dry up and a watermelon will begin to form. During this part of the growth stages, you may want to place your growing watermelons on top of a bed of straw or mulch to allow drainage and stop any rotting from occurring.

You will want to give your plant one to two inches of water per week for proper growth of the fruit. This is a time in the growth where providing adequate water is essential to maximize the growth of the melon. The watermelon risks being stunted, not growing to its full size, or cracking if you do not water it enough. Providing too much water near maturity of the watermelon fruit growth can cause splitting.

Harvesting Stage

Watermelon Growing Stages- Harvesting

The final watermelon growing stage is harvesting. In this stage, you will finally get to pick your home grown watermelons and taste them for the first time! Depending on the variety of the watermelon, they will typically be ready for picking about a month after the onset of the fruit growth.

Knowing when to harvest your watermelons is an important part of this step, as it can be pretty difficult for beginners. Many people swear by the thump test, which is when the watermelon will produce a hollow sound when knocked on when it’s ready. However, this is hard to go by for even the most seasoned gardener. There a few important things to look out for when trying to determine if your watermelon is ready to be picked.

These can varied based on the type of watermelon. Typically, if the melon has stopped growing it will be ready to be picked soon. You can look for if the spot on the bottom side of the melon turns from a white color to a yellow color as well. You may also notice that the color of the whole melon has begun to get duller. Additionally, you might see the stem near the fruit start to turn a brown color.

When you deem the watermelon suitable for harvest, get shears and slice the stem above the fruit. You don’t need to leave much stem on the melon. Your watermelon is now able to be sliced and eaten! Once you cut the fruit, be sure to store it in the fridge to keep it fresh for longer.

Article Sources:

How to Grow Melons. Michigan State Extension