How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

By: Carolyn J. Vance

Watermelons are a refreshing and delicious summer fruit that can be grown in a variety of climates, including West Virginia. While West Virginia’s climate can be challenging due to its unpredictable weather patterns and short growing season, with the right techniques and care, you can successfully grow watermelons in your own backyard.

Prepare the Soil: Watermelons thrive in well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Before planting, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or grass and loosening it with a garden fork or tiller. Add compost or well-rotted manure to improve the soil’s fertility and drainage. Watermelons also prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8.

Planting and Care: Watermelons need plenty of sun, so choose a planting location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Plant the watermelon seeds or seedlings in hills or mounds, spacing them about 2-3 feet apart. Provide them with a trellis or support system to keep the vines off the ground and prevent rotting. Watermelons require consistent watering, especially during dry periods, but be careful not to overwater as it can lead to root rot.

The Best Varieties for West Virginia

1. Charleston Gray

How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

Charleston Gray is a popular watermelon variety that is well-suited for West Virginia’s hot and humid summers. It has a dark green rind with sweet, juicy red flesh. This variety is known for its large size, making it perfect for sharing with family and friends during summer gatherings.

2. Crimson Sweet

How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

Crimson Sweet is another excellent watermelon variety for West Virginia. It produces medium-sized watermelons with a light green rind and sweet, crisp red flesh. This variety is known for its high sugar content and great taste, making it a favorite among watermelon lovers.

3. Sugar Baby

How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

If you’re looking for a smaller watermelon variety, Sugar Baby is a great choice. This compact variety produces small, round watermelons with a dark green rind and sweet, juicy red flesh. It is early maturing, making it ideal for gardeners who want to enjoy fresh watermelon early in the season.

These are just a few of the best watermelon varieties for West Virginia. When selecting a variety, consider factors such as taste, size, and growing requirements to ensure a successful harvest. Happy watermelon growing!

Choosing the Right Location

When it comes to growing watermelon in West Virginia, choosing the right location is crucial for the success of your crop. Watermelons thrive in full sunlight, so it is important to find a spot in your garden that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Additionally, it is important to choose a location that has well-drained soil. Watermelons do not like to have their feet wet, so avoid areas prone to pooling water or where the soil is constantly damp. If you have heavy clay soil, you may need to amend it with organic matter such as compost to improve drainage.

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Another factor to consider is the size of the growing area. Watermelon plants have sprawling vines that can take up a lot of space. It is best to allocate a dedicated area or a row in your garden for your watermelon plants, ensuring they have enough room to spread out.

Lastly, think about the proximity to other plants. Watermelons are heavy feeders and require a lot of nutrients. Therefore, it is beneficial to plant them away from other heavy feeders like tomatoes or peppers. However, they can benefit from companion planting with pollinator-attracting flowers or herbs such as marigolds or basil.

By selecting a location that provides plenty of sunlight, well-drained soil, adequate space, and proper plant companions, you are setting your watermelon plants up for success in West Virginia.

Preparing the Soil

Preparing the soil is a crucial step in growing watermelon in West Virginia. The quality of the soil directly affects the growth and productivity of the watermelon plants. Follow these steps to ensure your soil is ready for planting:

1. Test the Soil

Before planting watermelon, it’s essential to test the soil pH and nutrient levels. You can purchase a soil testing kit from a local garden center or send a sample to a soil testing lab. This will help you determine if any amendments are needed to create the ideal growing environment for watermelon.

2. Clear the Area

How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

Remove any weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting area. Watermelon plants require a clean and clear space to grow without competition from other plants or obstacles.

3. Add Organic Matter

Watermelon plants benefit from the addition of organic matter to the soil. This can improve soil structure, provide essential nutrients, and increase moisture retention. Add compost, well-rotted manure, or peat moss to the planting area and mix it thoroughly with the existing soil.

4. Improve Drainage

How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

Watermelons prefer well-draining soil to prevent waterlogged roots and rot. If your soil is heavy or clay-like, consider incorporating coarse sand or perlite to improve drainage. This will ensure that excess water can drain away easily, preventing water stress in the plants.

5. Apply Fertilizer

How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

Based on the soil test results, apply a balanced fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Follow the recommended application rates to avoid over-fertilization, which can harm the plants. Incorporate the fertilizer into the top few inches of soil before planting.

6. Till the Soil

Use a garden tiller or a hand tool, such as a garden fork or shovel, to till the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches. This will loosen the soil and create a better environment for the watermelon roots to spread and grow.

By following these steps and properly preparing the soil, you will give your watermelon plants the best chance of success in West Virginia. Remember to maintain consistent moisture and monitor the plants for any signs of pests or diseases throughout the growing season.

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Planting and Caring for Watermelon

How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

Watermelons are a popular fruit to grow in West Virginia, and with the right care, you can have a bountiful harvest. Here are some tips for planting and caring for watermelon plants:

1. Start with healthy seedlings: Choose young watermelon plants from a reputable nursery or start your own from seeds indoors. Make sure the seedlings are healthy and free from any signs of disease or pests.

2. Choose the right location: Watermelons need full sun to thrive, so choose a location in your garden that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. The soil should be well-drained and rich in organic matter.

3. Prepare the soil: Before planting, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or grass and loosening it with a garden fork or tiller. Add compost or well-rotted manure to improve the soil fertility and drainage.

4. Planting the watermelon: Watermelon plants should be spaced 3-5 feet apart in rows that are about 6-8 feet apart. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the seedling, place it in the hole, and gently cover the roots with soil. Water thoroughly after planting.

5. Watering: Watermelon plants need consistent moisture, especially during the hot summer months. Water deeply once or twice a week, providing about 1-2 inches of water each time. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to disease problems.

6. Fertilizing: Watermelons are heavy feeders and benefit from regular fertilization. Apply a balanced fertilizer according to the package instructions every 3-4 weeks throughout the growing season. Avoid using too much nitrogen, as this can result in excessive foliage growth at the expense of fruit production.

7. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of the watermelon plants to help retain moisture, suppress weed growth, and regulate soil temperature. Straw, shredded leaves, or grass clippings make excellent mulch materials.

8. Trellising: If you have limited space in your garden, you can train watermelon vines to grow on a trellis. This can help save space and improve air circulation, reducing the risk of disease. Use soft ties to secure the vines to the trellis as they grow.

9. Pest and disease control: Monitor your watermelon plants regularly for signs of pests or diseases, such as aphids, cucumber beetles, or powdery mildew. Use organic pest control methods or consult with a local extension office for appropriate treatment options.

10. Harvesting: Watermelons are ready to harvest when the fruit’s skin turns dull and the underside changes from white to yellow. Gently tap the fruit, and if it produces a hollow sound, it’s likely ripe. Cut the watermelon from the vine, leaving a short stem attached.

By following these tips, you can successfully plant and care for watermelon plants in West Virginia and enjoy a sweet and juicy harvest!

Pests and Diseases


1. Aphids: These small insects can cause damage by sucking sap from the plant’s leaves and stems. They are usually found on the undersides of leaves and can multiply rapidly. To control aphids, you can use insecticidal soaps or sprays, introduce natural predators like ladybugs, or use reflective mulch.

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3. Squash bugs: These pests are attracted to the succulent stems and leaves of watermelon plants. They can cause wilting and stunting of the plants and transmit disease organisms. To control squash bugs, you can handpick and destroy the eggs and adults, use insecticides labelled for squash bugs, or plant resistant varieties.


How to Successfully Grow Watermelon in West Virginia

1. Anthracnose: This fungal disease can cause dark, sunken lesions on the fruit and leaves of the watermelon plant. It thrives in warm and humid conditions. To control anthracnose, you can plant disease-resistant varieties, practice crop rotation, and apply fungicides as a preventative measure.

2. Fusarium wilt: This soilborne disease can cause wilting and death of watermelon plants. It is caused by a fungus that infects the plant’s vascular system. To control fusarium wilt, you can plant resistant varieties, practice crop rotation, and ensure proper soil drainage.

3. Powdery mildew: This fungal disease appears as a white powdery coating on the leaves of the watermelon plant. It can weaken the plant and reduce fruit quality. To control powdery mildew, you can practice proper plant spacing for good air circulation, remove infected leaves, and apply fungicides if necessary.

4. Root rot: This disease is caused by various fungi that infect the roots of watermelon plants. It can result in stunted growth, wilting, and eventual death of the plants. To control root rot, you can ensure proper soil drainage, practice crop rotation, and use disease-resistant varieties.

By being proactive and implementing preventative measures, you can minimize the impact of pests and diseases on your watermelon crop. Regular monitoring, proper sanitation practices, and timely interventions are key to maintaining healthy plants and maximizing yields.

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