1 abigail A. Maynard Department of Forestry and Horticulture The connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station 123 Huntington Street, P. O. Box 1106. New Haven, CT 06504. Phone: (203) 974-8516. Fax: (203) 974-8502. Founded in 1875 Email: Putting science to work for society Website: How to grow Personal-Size Seedless Watermelons in connecticut Four classes of Watermelons are inhibits further flowering and fruit set. available in supermarkets. Traditional Because Seedless types do not put energy seeded Watermelons have been a major part into seed production, the flesh is often of the market for many years and weigh 18- sweeter than seeded types. With proper care, 35 pounds. Large Seedless Watermelons Seedless Watermelons have a longer shelf have been available since 1988 and usually life than seeded melons. This may be due to weigh 15-25 pounds.
2 Seedless icebox- size deterioration of flesh around the seeds, melons, generally weighing 7-12 pounds, which are absent in Seedless melons. have been available for about 10 years. The newest melons on the marketplace are Seedless miniature Personal-Size . Watermelons , weighing 3-7 pounds. Personal-Size Watermelons first became widely available in markets in 2003. They offer an attractive alternative for small families or consumers with limited refrigerator space. Beside their smaller size , they also have a thin rind which reduces waste. Researchers have also found that lycopene and beta-carotene contents are high in Personal-Size Watermelons . Lycopene, an antioxidant, has been linked to Although production of Seedless the possible prevention of cancer and heart Watermelons is similar to production of disease. seeded (diploid) melons, some differences exist.
3 Since triploid watermelon seed is Seedless Watermelons are triploid more difficult to germinate and become (3X), which causes them to be sterile and established in the field, transplants are Seedless . In general, early growth of triploid commonly used. Hybrid triploid watermelon plants is slower than that of diploid plants. plants do not produce sufficient viable However, triploid plant size eventually pollen to induce fruit set and development. exceeds that of standard diploid plant as Therefore, pollen from normal diploid seed development in fruit of seeded varieties seeded watermelon varieties must be transplants will ensure a full field with little provided. or no spaces where there are no plants. Personal-Size watermelon cultivars and the Cultivars. There are several fruit pollinator cultivar are both seeded in the last characteristics to consider when choosing a week of April.
4 The seed should be oriented variety. First are the color and the with the pointed end up to virtually appearance of the fruit. This is a cosmetic eliminate the problem of the seedcoat characteristic and has little effect on taste. adhering to the cotyledons. Watermelons However, harvesting is easier if the Seedless need more oxygen during germination than cultivar has a different color or appearance many other seeds so a light potting mix than the seeded pollinating variety. size is should be utilized. The planting medium another factor to consider. All cultivars should be kept moist but overwatering must tested in our trials were classified as be avoided. Our seedlings were grown in Personal-Size in the 3-7 pound range. Promix BX (Premier, Red Hill PA) in However, some produced a greater 3x3x3-inch Jiffystrips and placed in a percentage of fruit in the 3-7 pound range.
5 Greenhouse maintained at 75-90F. One or Sweetness of the fruit (Brix or total soluble two seeds are placed in each cell. After sugars), seedlessness, lycopene content, and germination, plants are thinned to one per seed germination are other factors to cell. Seedlings can also be grown under consider. Lastly, the total yield is an grow lights or in a sunny window. important consideration, especially for commercial enterprises. Fertilization. Soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer (1. Taking all factors into consideration from tbsp/gal) is added to the seedlings about ten our variety trials, it appears that Miniput, days before transplanting. The field soil is Vanessa, Mielheart, Wonder and Extazy fertilized with 10-10-10 at a rate of 1300. provide abundant marketable fruit. Of these lb/A before transplanting. The optimum pH.
6 Cultivars, Miniput is the sweetest and Extazy of the soil is about has the greatest lycopene content. The pollinator, Side Kick, provided an excellent Field transplanting. At least a week before supply of pollen throughout the growing transplanting in the field, seedlings are season and its distinctive miniature fruit transferred to an outdoor cold frame for made harvesting easier. hardening. In mid-June, seedlings are transplanted two feet apart in rows five feet Growing Transplants. Germination of apart. Seedless Watermelons are very triploid watermelon seed is inhibited at sensitive to cold injury so earlier temperatures below 80oF. In addition, transplanting is not recommended. To seedcoats of triploid Watermelons are thicker produce Seedless Watermelons , one third of than seedcoats of normal watermelon seed.
7 The field population should be planted with a The thicker seedcoats tend to adhere to the pollinator. This can be achieved in two cotyledons during emergence, damaging the ways: every third row or every third plant cotyledons or delaying their emergence. within the row. Planting pollinators in the Because of the strict temperature guard (outside) rows and then every third requirements and the emergence problems row in the plot provide optimum coverage associated with the thickened seedcoats, a and facilitates planting if mechanical uniform stand of triploid melons by direct planters are used. Harvesting is also easier, seeding is difficult to achieve. The use How to grow Personal-Size Seedless Watermelons in connecticut , abigail A. Maynard and David E. Hill 2. The connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station ( ).
8 Especially if the Seedless fruit and fruit from unamended plots. Black plastic mulch also the pollinator vary little in size and color. affords good weed control. Young watermelon plants do not have to compete Pollination. Home gardeners often notice with weeds early in the growing season and that the earliest watermelon blossoms do not this contributes to their larger size early in set fruit. The first flowers developing on the the season. The only detriment to black vines are male or pollen-bearing flowers. plastic mulch is water stress that may Only the female, or pistillate, flowers are develop if the plastic is laid when the soil is capable of developing into fruit. Honey bees dry. Plastic should be laid after a rain or are the most effective pollinators of irrigation. Holes can also be punched in the watermelon blossoms.
9 Pollen from the plastic after a rain to drain puddles on the pollenizer variety is carried to the triploid plastic and to allow water to penetrate into blossoms by the honey bees. A minimum of the soil beneath the plastic. six honey bee visits per flower is required for normal fruit development of seeded Irrigation. Watermelons should never be varieties. For triploid fruit development, this allowed to develop water stress because of many, and perhaps more, visits are required. their high water requirement. Yields will be Every effort should be made to protect the greatly reduced if they develop water stress bees during the flowering period to ensure during fruit formation. Water stress high quality fruit. In large commercial increases the incidence of blossom-end rot plantings, at least one beehive/acre is which results in poorly shaped, bottle-neck beneficial.
10 Fruit. Irrigation may be needed during stand establishment and fruit development. Mulches. Watermelons prefer warmer soil temperatures. Plastic mulches raise the soil Common Problems. Cucumber beetles temperature an average of 6-12oF, whereas attack watermelon plants. Apply a suggested organic mulches such as compost, leaves, insecticide for control. Floating row covers hay, or grass clippings lower the soil can be used to exclude early-season pests. temperature 10-18oF (Hill et al. 1982). Thus, These covers should be removed when the plastic mulches are preferable to organic plants start to bloom, to allow pollinating mulches for crops that prefer warm soil insects to reach the flowers. Other potential temperatures. Clear plastic creates a mini problems in watermelon plantings include greenhouse which favors the growth of aphids, Fusarium wilt, anthracnose, and weeds, which compete with the watermelon alternaria leaf spot.