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Melon magic

Weeding, watering keys to successful cultivation of fruit

“Grandma, I love watermelon!” This request was made as I was planning a new garden. Herbs, grapes, potatoes, raspberries and flowers were planned. With one row left, I decided to plant half pumpkins and half watermelons.

First, a soil test was performed, and the soil amended with grass clippings, compost and fertilizer as suggested. Watermelons like warm soil over 50 degrees when danger of frost is past. For earlier planting, it is suggested that black plastic be used over the soil and transplants be used. But, I started my plants indoors and transplanted them in row 3 feet apart.

Watermelon seedlings need weed control. They are far apart and lots of room for weeds to grow. I weeded weekly. Urgh.

To cut back on this chore, I mulched with compost and put shredded newspapers around plants to help retain moisture and cut back on pesky weeds.

It is suggested that watermelons be watered an inch of water per week at the beginning and unless prolonged dry spells, stop watering when fruit begins to ripen. This makes for the best plants and the biggest fruit. Since our garden is out in the field, I basically let Mother Nature handle the watering.

As things go in gardening, other projects took precedence like canning and picking ripe crops. When it was time to weed the watermelon patch, I was totally surprised. The flowering vines were everywhere. They covered the whole garden, through the grape fence, even over the trellis. The vines covered the ground so I didn’t need to weed anymore.

When our great-grandson came over, he could not believe it. We played a game trying to find all the watermelons hiding behind the big leaves. Bunnies even made the vines their home. What a great thing for us to experience together.

Here are some interesting facts about watermelons. Watermelons are nutritious and have health benefits. They are low in calories, high in lycopene (a powerful antioxidant), high in Vitamins A and C, and have potassium.

There are more than 100 different varieties of watermelons. The flesh may be red, pink, orange or yellow. There are seedless varieties and super sweet ones that fit nicely into the refrigerator.

Watermelons are 90 percent water. When picking one, look for melons that are heavy and have a hard rind. The underside should be yellow or cream colored.

The National Watermelon Promotion Board suggest washing whole watermelons with clean water before slicing to remove potential bacteria. Uncut watermelons can be stored up to two weeks at room temperature and once cut, refrigerate and use within two to three days.

Growing watermelons has been fun. When we slice into a nice juicy watermelon, someone is going to say that is the best part.

To make plans to grow watermelons in your garden next season, go to http://go.osu.edu/water melons.

Kacenski is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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