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6 tips you need to know if you want to grow your own watermelon

You know it’s summer when you’re biting into a sweet, juicy watermelon. And you know you’re a real gardener if that melon came from your backyard. Unlike most sweet treats that have few health benefits, watermelons are loaded with them. Nutritionists have found that watermelons contain antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and lycopene, and have plenty of vitamin C. They are also low in fat and cholesterol-free.
While there are dozens of varieties of watermelons, there are three main types:
• Seedless: Few, if any, tiny seeds.
• Picnic: Larger melons (12 to 50 pounds) that can be round or oblong.
• Icebox: Smaller melons that fit into a refrigerator.
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Here’s how to grow them:
1. Watermelons need room to grow
Not only are watermelons a large fruit, but their vines can travel up to 20 feet from the plant. If you don't have enough space in your garden, you can grow them in your yard. Just dump two 40-pound bags of composted cow manure and one 40-pound bag of topsoil, and make a hill with it. Keep your hills 3-4 feet apart and each row of hills 8 feet apart.
2. Plant multiple seeds, then thin the seedlings
It makes sense to plant around ten seeds (about 1” deep) in each hill from the start. When they begin to grow, pick the three healthiest looking seedlings, and thin out the others.
3. Keep an eye out for insects
Like most crops, watermelons have their pests--vine borers and cucumber beetles being the most common. You can use row covers to protect your plants from them, but you'll have to remove the covers when it's time for the flowers to be pollinated. So, you probably should use a chemical or natural insecticide instead.
4. Water them occasionally
Watermelon plants have long roots that extend deep into the ground, so you don’t have to water them often. Keep the soil moist but never soggy, and water the ground, not the plants, to prevent fungi from developing.
5. Weed before the vines grow
Remove weeds early in your plants' development, and prevent future weeds by using mulch. It's hard to weed after the vines have grown, and you might inadvertently cut or step on a vine in the process.
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6. Keep them off the soil
You'll need to prevent your fruits from having contact with the soil. Having a barrier of straw or cardboard between the melons and the ground will reduce the risk of disease and rot.
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