Growing Watermelons Vertically

Growing small to medium vining watermelons vertically on a lattice, trellis, or wire fence can save a significant amount of garden space. Growing watermelons vertically also helps with air circulation and increases exposure to sunlight, thus improving the overall plant health. An eight to ten-foot-tall lattice is usually sufficient. I find that reinforced wire latticeworks best if the watermelon plants are spaced similarly to a row. A lower lattice will work fine if enough horizontal space is provided for the vines to run. I must admit that I have used a link fence around my yard as just such a lattice more than once with excellent results. A word of caution, though, if the fruit of your watermelons become too large, you may need to support with a sling. The sling helps hold the additional weight of larger fruit. If you choose a wood lattice or trellis, you may need to gently tie the watermelons vines to the uprights to support them. Once watermelons reach the top of a trellis and begin to run flat, there should be no more need to tie off the vines.

Growing Watermelons vertically can save garden space and help to fight pests., Here are a few simple rules follow to grow watermelons vertically:

  • Choosing the correct seed is the best place to begin. To grow watermelons vertically, choose watermelons, which have a vining habit (sometimes called trailing) and produce small fruit; five pounds (e.g., Golden Midget {Seed Saver Exchange], Snack Pack Hybrid {Burpee}) or less are recommended. Growing large watermelons would be hard to accommodate when building the structure to be climbed and would break from the vines before mature.
  • Site and climbing structure should be properly prepared. The climbing structure should be strong enough to withstand strong winds and the weight of the watermelons as they reach maturity.
  • The soil needs to be well worked and mounded to allow for deep soil watering methods, such as basin, trench, soaker hose, or drip irrigation and provides adequate drainage.
  • The grooming method needs to be adapted to encourage the growth of many small fruits. Many gardeners recommend removing fruit and leaving only one or two on each vine; thus, encouraging a few large fruits. When growing vertically, we want to encourage the growth of numerous small fruit, which will be less likely to damage the vines down or fall off the vine. Pruning the tip of the vines from time to time as it will force the vines to branch and provide more opportunity to grow more fruit and keep the size of each fruit, on average smaller.
  • As watermelons grow larger and providing additional support for the fruit may be necessary to prevent the fruit from ripping themselves from the vine before mature or falling to earth and breaking or being bruised. Providing additional support can be done by providing a sling made of cheesecloth or a piece of old nylon stocking attached to the trellis.

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