Container watermelons not lookin' so good

edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)July 9, 2011

The bad news is that my container watermelons could be looking a lot more lush. The vines seem short and the leaves seem small. I've grown them before, in the ground, and I know how big the plants can get. I've seen pictures of others container watermelons and they look better than mine. Not sure what I'm doing wrong. I've got 2 plants along with 2 muskmelon plants all in a 30 gallon container, in 511. Ironically the muskmelons are growing better, even thought the medium is acidic, and the watermelons are the ones that are supposed to like it more acidic. They have plenty of sun, water, and food. I didn't thnk that space was a problem as I've grown them crowded together before with good results. The good news is that I do have 4 watermelons set. One is about the size of a softball, and the others are smaller. I could post a photo if necessary.

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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Don't be discouraged. I think a huge plant, like a watermelon or a pumpkin, probably needs more room for its roots to roam than you can provide, even in a 30-gallon container. In a confined space, they may grow more slowly and have smaller leaves than they would in the ground. But if you have a long enough time before the first frost, you could still get a decent yield.

If I remember correctly from your other posts, the watermelon type you're growing is a giant (20 punds or so?). I grew four bush sugar babies in a 30 gallon whiskey barrel last year, and I'm growing five tiger babies in the same container with 511 mix this year. Tiger babies are also small (5-10 pounds), but the vines grow longer (6 feet or so).

Last year I only got one melon per plant, but my growing conditions weren't ideal. (Poor drainage, primarily.) I added several additional drainage holes to the whiskey barrel and switched to 511 mix. I didnt put the seedlings outside until June 1, because I noticed last year that they didnt start growing until the weather was hot. In southwest Ohio (at the edge of zone 5 and 6, we had a lot of rain in June, which slowed everything in my container garden down. My experience from many years of container gardening is that it may take longer, but in the end you get a comparable yield to the average in ground garden.

Once the weather improved, the vines started growing an inch or more a day. Now they are 4-5 feet long. There are several flowers, but no fruit yet. I'm confident that they will start producing soon.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 6:36PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Hi, thanks for the encouraging response. I'm not growing giants. Grover Delancy are maybe 10 pounds at the most. I guess the muskmelons don't need as much space because they are almost growing normal. The last time I grew watermelons in the ground, the vines were huge and you couldn't even see the watermelons due to the thick foliage. When I grew them in the ground, it wasn't a tilled field. I just dug 12" holes in the hard ground and put 3 plants in each and filled them with Miracle Grow garden soil. Oh well, go figure. I'm also having a hard time keeping my containers moist. They drain so well, I feel like I could soak them every day without a problem. The weather has been hot and sunny and dry. After 2 days I stick a bamboo skewer into the soil and it comes up dry down to about 10". I have one SWC made of two 5 gal buckets, and it's doing great, and that plant sits in moisture all day long drinking to it's hearts content. Anyway, I'm basically on the 'water every 2 days program.' I could probably wait for 3, but I would be too uncomfortable. I just harvested some potatoes that I had growing in wooden container, and I dug down about 5" with my hands to grab a few potatoes, and my hand came up totally dry. So in the case of my potatoes I had apparently been underwatering.

Maybe try hand pollinating your watermelons with a small paint brush. I did it with mine and all 3 watermelons that I hand pollinated set fruit. The muskmelons are more stubborn on the hand pollinating thing, but I've got about 4 of them that have set fruit also.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 7:47PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Had a few minutes to post a couple photos:

Muskmelons on left growing well....watermelons on right, not so much.

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Bigger watermelon currently softball sized

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    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 11:31AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Could the heat from the gravel be affecting them?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 12:48PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Could be, but melons love heat and the gravel is not that dark in color to absorb tons of heat, although it does get fairly hot. The muskmelons are really taking off, so I don't think it's the gravel. In the past I grew them on black landscape fabric to get as much heat as possible, and they grew like weeds.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 10:33AM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Update on my melons FWIW................one watermelon aborted, so now I'm down to 3 with no more on the way. My biggest watermelon is over 2 pounds now. At least it's still getting larger. The exciting part is that the muskmelons are growing like crazy. I can easily count 15 melons, so there will probably be at least 20, final size yet to be determined. Next year the watermelons will be planted in the ground.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 12:13PM
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btbarbara(7b/8a)

I'm jealous! It seems to be the opposite here. I have (at last count) 10 large watermelons and who knows how many more babies hiding under all the vines but only one little canteloupe. The cantaloupe plant looks gorgeous...just no fruit.

Jubilee watermelon in 31-gal tub with two cayenne peppers. You can see a couple of crimson sweet in (get this!) 14" pots coming around from behind the corn. Every one of them has at least one fruit coming along nicely and most have a couple:

Cantaloupe is beautiful but precious few female flowers and the ones that are there only seem to open for about 30 seconds. I did notice a bunch of female flowers this afternoon that were closed up so maybe some of them pollinated. The bees are crazy around this plant for all the good it's done so far.

We already picked one small cantaloupe a little early and there's this....

I'll trade you some watermelon for some cantaloupe!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 1:25PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

Watermelons from a 14" pot? Well, at least I know that a bigger pot won't help me. It has to be my soil, or the type of watermelon I'm growing. Have you tried to hand pollinate your cantelopes?

Here's a couple pics of my muskmelons.

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    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 2:53PM
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btbarbara(7b/8a)

Yeah, the watermelons in the teeny-tiny pots were kind of an accident. I am TOTALLY new to this and had started the seeds in those thinking I'd move them to bigger containers when I got my next paycheck and got some bigger containers. Then it kind of didn't happen and they were growing so I wound up just thinning down to 1/pot and kept putting off deciding what to do with them. When the one in the big box set 4 fruit, I kind of wrote off the others and figured when they died, I could sneak them out of the way without the kids getting too upset...but they just keep hanging on. They're much smaller and less...everything...than the big one but there are three of those (Crimson sweet) and they have 2 fruits each. The biggest is 8 pounds and still growing. I think that's pretty respectable all things considered! I just hope they taste decent. You can see the red pot in the pic above.

I've been watching the cantaloupe to try hand-pollinating but I NEVER seem to catch the female flowers open. I tried to do one a week or so ago and it looked like it worked but when the fruit got a little bigger than a golfball it kind of exploded. Don't really know how to describe it. It just split open. I tried to hand pollinate two more earlier this week but we'll have to see what happens with them. This morning I noticed four or five of the little babies that look like they might be growing so I'm keeping an eye on them. I guess we'll see.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 8:04PM
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