Growing Watermelon on Trellises - Abundant Mini Gardens

Growing Watermelon on Trellises

Young watermelon fruit on trellis

If you’ve been avoiding growing watermelons because your garden is too small, wait no longer! You can grow a watermelon plant in a small 4′ x 4′ raised garden bed – if you use a trellis.

A single watermelon plant, given good growing conditions, can almost fill a 15-foot-wide circle on the ground. Yikes! There’s no avoiding that they are large, vigorous plants. But if you select the right variety, take good care of them, and train them up a trellis, you can enjoy fresh melons from your own small garden beds.

1) Make sure these plants get full sunlight – 8 hours or more.

Watermelons thrive in full sunlight.  However, a couple of years ago, I took a chance and planted a watermelon in a 50-square-foot bed (about 3′ x 16′) with two young 2-year-old espalier apple trees. It only received about 6 hours of sunlight, but I still harvested 3 large watermelons from that bed. So, sometimes you can succeed, even if you “break” the rules! Just don’t count on a good harvest with less than full sunlight of 8 hours or more.

Watermelon under espalier apple trees

This is a watermelon plant growing in a 50 square foot raised bed with two young espalier apple trees.

2) Give them the best soil, as deep as possible, in your raised bed.

Their root systems are massive. Just because they will be growing vertically up a trellis doesn’t mean that their roots will remain in a small area at the base of the trellis. These roots will go down as deep as they can, and sidewise for a long distance. I’ve found the roots growing several feet outside the small garden bed they were planted in.

This is one reason that I don’t put weed barrier under my raised garden beds. I want my plants to grow as large and vigorously as possible, to produce a big crop. Any time you restrict their root growth, the plant will become stunted and not produce as much.

Also, once their vines start taking off (maybe 3-4 feet long), I no longer grow other plants in the same bed with them. I give my watermelon plants the whole bed to themselves. But I still usually grow a spring crop before the watermelons, and a fall crop after them.

We built new garden beds last year, to make it easier for me to garden with my disability. These beds are made from concrete (cinder) blocks, and are 18 inches high, a little over 3 feet wide, and almost 16 feet long – for a total of 50 square feet each. These beds have the deepest soil I’ve ever used in my raised bed gardens, and I was frankly stunned at how large our harvests were last year.

Deep soil can have a huge difference on how well your plants grow. We planted 2 butternut squash plants and 3 watermelon plants in one of those beds. We used 4 trellises – two at each end – and grew the third watermelon plant on the soil in the middle.

We ended up harvesting 40 pounds of squash and 105 pounds of watermelon in just 50 square feet! Our friends and neighbors really loved us last year, as there was no way my sister and I could eat all that watermelon by ourselves.

Trellises supporting watermelon and squash

This 16 foot long raised bed has two watermelon trellises at the left end, two squash trellises at the right end, and a large watermelon plant growing on the bed in the middle. This one bed produced 105 pounds of watermelon and 40 pounds of squash!


3) Select a variety suited for trellising and your climate

Watermelons love hot weather and often take 90-100 days to mature. They generally don’t thrive in cool, cloudy climates or short growing seasons. However, some varieties have been bred to mature quickly or tolerate cooler weather.

I like to grow “Blacktail Mountain.” It can ripen in just 75 days, and will grow well in both cool and hot weather. It usually produces icebox melons, about 10 pounds, which is a nice size to trellis. I will be planting one  in late May and another in July, in order to extend the harvest.

But this variety really surprised us last year – one of the watermelons hanging on our trellis weighed 17 pounds! That one almost popped out of the sling we made out of nylons. I wouldn’t normally try to trellis melons that large, but we weren’t given a choice!

Watermelon hanging in a sling on a trellis

I used a nylon hose to support this trellised watermelon. Unfortunately, it didn’t know when to stop growing! This melon grew more than 50% larger than normal, and at 17 pounds, started to split open its sling. I wouldn’t normally expect to successfully trellis watermelons that large!

4) Don’t Plant Until the Soil is Warm

Wait until both the weather and the soil is warm before you plant them. Our average last spring frost is around May 15th, but I’ll often wait until late May for the best growing conditions. You can try babying your plants and starting them sooner under row cover, in a cold frame, or protected in a Wall-of-Water, but they simply don’t thrive in those conditions. After all that effort, you will usually only harvest melons a week or two earlier at most.

However, if you live in an area with an extremely short growing season, it may be the only way to grow watermelon at all. I’ve generally had better luck growing a fast maturing variety instead of trying to start them early before the weather warms up.

I prefer to plant the seeds directly in the garden bed, instead of using transplants. This is because direct-seeded plants tend to grow very large, vigorous root systems with deep taproots. Transplants often fail to develop taproots, and end up needing to be watered more frequently.

5) Build sturdy trellises!

Given deep soil and good growing conditions, I normally expect to harvest 20-30 pounds of watermelon growing on a 4 foot wide and 7 foot tall trellis. That’s a LOT of weight! Make sure your trellis is sturdy enough to hold that.

Our favorite trellis right now is made from a livestock panel cut in half and attached to two t-posts pounded into the soil. That will hold almost anything! I’ve also made trellises from wood frames and welded wire fencing, and have screwed these to the outside of small wooden garden beds.

I have learned that I can use trellises on both the north and south sides of my raised beds. The mid-summer sun is high in the sky, and will supply full sunlight to both trellises as it travels. I generally don’t put the trellises on the east and west sides, as they will partially shade each other as the sun moves across the sky.

6) Train the plants up the trellis

Watermelon plants grow fast – as much as 1-2 feet per week! They will not climb a trellis by themselves, so you need to tie the vines to the trellis as they grow. Don’t count on their tendrils to hold the plants secure – especially during wind storms or when they have heavy fruits hanging from them.

Watermelon vine on trellis

The large main vines dangling in the center need to be tied up. Watermelons will not naturally climb very far up a trellis, so we need to give them some assistance!


You can use any number of things to tie your plants to the trellis. My current favorite is surveyors tape. I like to use a loose figure-8 loop, wrapped just below a leaf joint, to hold the vines up.

Watermelon vine tied to a trellis

I like to tie up the vines at the base of a leaf axil. I use a loose figure-8 to attach them to the trellis. This photo is from a squash plant at the other end of the garden bed.


Watermelon vine are continually sending out new vines at nearly every leaf. I will keep and train most of the main vines up my trellis.  However, I will prune off some the side shoots if they start becoming overcrowded.

I used to prune my watermelon similar to my squash plants (keep just one main vine every 6″ across the width of the trellis, and prune everything else off).  But I’ve discovered that watermelons will perform better if I keep as many vines as I can comfortably fit on the trellis.  I can’t do that with squash, as those larger vines and leaves will become way too crowded.

Side shoots from a watermelon plant

These are side shoots, growing out from a leaf axil. I keep and tie up as many of those watermelon shoots as I can fit on the trellis, to maximize my harvest.  You can also see a baby watermelon growing in the corner of the cinder blocks.


7) Support your watermelon fruit with slings

Although butternut squash fruit never need to be supported, once the fruit of your watermelons start weighing more than a few pounds, they will fall off the vines and break. (Been there, done that!) You will need to support them by creating a sling attached to the trellis. You can make slings out of many different items. Some people use mesh onion bags, pieces of fabric, or even bird netting.

Last year, I used nylon stockings given to me by a friend. I cut two slings out of each leg, tied the bottoms closed and slit the top part of the nylons into two pieces so I could tie it to the trellis. You need to make sure that the sling will continue to support the watermelon as it grows. You don’t want it to stretch and sag so much that the weight of the melon ends up hanging from the vine instead of the sling.

A few of your early-pollinated melons will grow at the base of the vine, and can be supported by a brick or other object underneath them, if they don’t quite touch the ground.

8) Keep your melon plants well-watered

Vines growing on trellises are exposed to the wind, and lose more moisture than vines growing on the ground. Make sure you water your plants once or twice a week during dry weather. You want the water to soak deep into the soil. I also mulch the soil surface to slow evaporation.

This is the second reason I don’t use weed barrier under my raised beds. I want my plant roots to grow as deep as possible. This will let them reach moisture deep in the soil, and reduce how often I need to water them. If these large vines are growing in shallow 6” deep soil, you might need to water the plants every single day.

9) Harvest the melons when they become ripe, and enjoy!

Each watermelon is attached to the vine, opposite of a leaf. Next to the base of the watermelon stem will be a tendril. When that tendril turns brown and starts drying up, the watermelon will be ripe.

Now, if you only have 6 inches of topsoil in your raised garden beds, don’t worry! You can still grow watermelons on trellises. The plants just won’t grow as big, may produce a smaller harvest, and will probably need watering more often. But they’ll taste just as sweet! I’ve even grown watermelon in 20-gallon Smart Pots, and harvested 5 small watermelons from one pot.

Have fun growing your own watermelons in small garden beds, and enjoy your harvest!

~ Debra


17-pound watermelon grown on trellis

This is a 17-pound watermelon that grew on our trellis last year. It’s miracle it didn’t fall off! I normally wouldn’t try trellising watermelons this big, but it just ended up growing a LOT larger than it should have. Yum!!

  • Katie shenefelt says:

    I’m definitely trying this this summer, I’m stoked. Sugar baby watermelon and Blacktail mountain watermelon seeds from Mary’s Heirloom seeds. I can’t wait. Katie from cheyenne wyo.

  • Marion says:

    I’m exactly do you reach the top of those massively high trellises to sling the melons &/or provide general maintenance like foliar sprays and what not? I’m curious to see how that works lol beautifully vibrant and healthy plants regardless tho.

    • Debra says:

      Yes, my trellises are higher than most people can easily reach. I do stand on the sides of my concrete block raised beds, but I am only a little over 5 feet high and can only reach about 6 feet high. That’s how far I can prune vines and install slings for melons. Some people, if there is level ground next to the trellises, use a step stool to reach higher. I think I’ll eventually just cut my trellises shorter.

  • Jacqueline says:

    It is great to get much needed support for novice gardeners. 1st try at gardening and I’ve encountered rot end on zucchini and watermelons. Pruning zucchini leaves w/1 large zucchini so far. Trellis my melons. So far so good except 3 small dead. Good info to try and work with the sling using hose.

    • Marion says:

      If the melons are dying while still very small the issue is most likely lack of pollination in which case hand pollinating is required for optimal fruit set. I dont like completely removing the Male flower to this but you can if it’s easier. Just remove the Male flower(any flower that doesnt have a baby melon below is-this should be very obvious)and pull the petals back or off if need be&gently rub the stamen(center part that contains all the pollen) on the center of the female flower..the center parts on both flowers must come into contact with each other to successfully transfer the pollen allowing pollination to occur. Basically make the flowers do the dirty. Comical voice over is not required but is highly suggested lol or you can save the middle school humor as well as the male flower, by simply using a very soft small brush to rub the center of the male flower picking up the yellow pollen, and then transferring it to the center of the female flower. Key word is GENTLY. I’ve been having this issue seems like the bees only come to my yard to chase me down…that is their only desire/purpose. Lol

  • Bear says:

    This is by far the best information I’ve found online to growing trellis melons! Thank you for taking the time to share this wonderful knowledge. I have never grown trellis melons before. This will be a fun experience this year:) Happy Gardening everyone.

  • Beverly Stennett says:

    I live in Georgia. I have a trellis and my first melon when it became the size of a baseball rotted. What can I do to prevent the other melons from rotting,

    • Debra says:

      I’m sorry, but I’m not sure why your melon rotted. Perhaps it wasn’t fully pollinated and the plant aborted the infertile fruit. (Maybe some disease was involved?) I sometimes have young fruit wither and die, but it’s usually because the plant has already pollinated all the fruit it can support and it aborts the extra fruit it can’t handle.

  • Forest says:

    Hello Debra
    I’m wondering if you fertilize your watermelon plants during their growing season. If so, do you use a liquid fertilizer and what kind. I have mine in a 20 gallon SmartPot with a tomato cage trellis. I didn’t realize they grew so large either. Can you explain how you made the sling support with the pantyhose please? Thank you

    • Debra says:

      My soil has improved enough that I no longer need to add additional fertilizer during the growing season. But many soils would benefit from that practice. This article explains how to use soil testing to determine if that is needed: Why Soil Testing is Critical for Maximum Yields

      It’s common practice to regularly add additional fertilizer to container gardens, though – usually a dilute solution every 2-4 weeks. This is because heavy rains or watering the pots can leach fertilizers away. This is less of a problem with self-watering containers. The challenge with organic liquid fertilizers is that they are usually high in nitrogen, but low in other nutrients. I would recommend a more balanced product, if possible.

      One of the free sample video lessons in my vertical gardening course shows exactly how to use pantyhose to support melons. You just need to create a free account to access them. Here’s a link: When and How You Should Support Your Fruit It’s in the chapter titled: “Training and Pruning Your Plants” Best wishes!

  • Shanna says:

    I have a white southwest facing retaining wall that is about 7 ft high. Do you think i could use the cattle fencing attached to that to support watermelon vines? If so how far off the wall would you space the fence. The wall gets tons of light all day and is quite a hot area too. In fact I have a hard time keeping anything alive for about 4 feet in front of it. I’m hoping that the watermelons will tone down what reflects of the wall and allow some thing to grow in front of it lol. Thanks in advance.

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Shanna: You don’t mention what type of climate you have, which can affect your plant choices in this location. It’s true that watermelons love heat, but extreme heat can prevent them from fruiting well. If the temperature in that location exceeds 90 F for several days, the flowers are likely to drop off without pollinating. Temperatures near 100 F with bright sunlight can actually sunburn the fruit.

      As for how far off the wall to space the trellis, I’d suggest either 1) far enough away to be able to get behind the trellis, or 2) within a few inches of the wall. The watermelons will grow large enough so that if they grow behind the trellis, you won’t be able to harvest them through the spaces in the cattle panel. They won’t fit. If the panel is close to the wall, the melons will likely form in front of the panel, where you can easily harvest them. If the panel is farther away, you’ll need to be able to get behind it to harvest the melons.

  • CJ says:

    Hi – I’ve just found your site while searching DuckDuckGo for tips on growing vegetables up poles. What a creative thinker you are. The trellis system is an excellent idea, and I am going to try to set it up this week in Oxford, England where I live. We have a very short growing season, and in the past my tiny garden with big pots has given me no more than 5 squash. I have high hopes, and will let you know how I get on. Thanks for the wonderful, inspiring site.

  • James says:

    Debra & All:

    Happy Hot 2016 Good Watermelon Summer ! At least here in the N.E..

    Growing H2O-melons on a trellis has been working out very well for us. Thank you for offering your techniques, as well as a forum for all us melon growers. At what point did you place mesh supports around melons that are trellis grown? And, how much did you need to adjust mesh enclosure supports?

    I’ve installed mesh (fine mesh bags from store bought limes) around 1 1/2″ dia. melons and have left a little space (1″) below them. The mesh bags will expand to at least 6″ dia. Comments/suggestions?

    • Debra says:

      I start supporting melons when they approach the size of my fist. I have had small 4-5″ unsupported melons fall off the vine. Some of my small varieties have grown unexpectedly large, and split the mesh bag supporting them. So I would give them generous room.

      Also, if the supporting bag sags too much from the weight of the growing fruit, the fruit stem may break from the weight.

  • Sherry Kologinczak says:

    Hi there, Debra! I love your watermelon trellis idea! I have grown Cantaloupes out of cinder blocks placed at the bottom of our regular yard fence (metal hurricane fence) . I used soil, horse manure and fire place/wood ash. Wood ash made them so sweet! They grew really large! About ten pounds each. I didn’t support them with anything . Their own tendrils grew like a support system around each Cantaloupe. When they were ripe, they dropped to the ground. None of them burst and had so much juice inside them! They tasted great! Thanks for the info on my next crop. Watermelons!

  • christopher Hilburn says:

    Hey Deb,

    Thanks for the information. My son, and I grow a different group of plants every year. This year he decided on watermelons. I had constructed several raised beds out of wooden fence posts. However, I soon realized these beds would absolutely not provide enough space for the plants. Fortunately, I found your website and how to trellis. You saved the day!!! I would like to purchase your book but can only find it in digital version and I prefer hard copy, Can I buy the book in hard copy and if so , where?

    • Debra says:

      With over 90 images in the book and small demand for print versions, it hasn’t been financially feasible to create hard copies. But I could sell you a PDF version that you could print out, if you wish. Just contact me by email if you’re interested.

  • Ryan says:

    This is such a splendidly useful post! I am very new to gardening myself , however based off of your article I was able to figure out the right amount of melon plants to place in my large planter box. My plan is create a nice layer of leaves between my patio and the rest of my yard/street.

  • Rotich says:

    hi.ur guidelines r in kenya Planung to Start wm growing nxt yr.i got sm knowledge.God bloss you

  • Ken says:

    Hi Debra,
    Some updates since my last post .I checked my Sugar Baby and Honey Dew Plants at my friends house after work.I wish I has pictures . I have so far counted over 10 Sugar Baby melons and others that are growing and healthy .The Sugar Baby’s are about the size of a large softball or slightly larger then that. There are many others now smaller that are the size of of a golf ball some slightly smaller but they are growing quickly each day.
    My Honey Dew Plants are doing real well I counted over 10 plus Honey Dew and more growing.The whole melon garden really has taken off since I planted back in May 2015.
    I also redirected some of the vines going out into the grass back into the melon garden.Now my Melons I am growing on my porch I have 5 Sugar Baby’s each now the size of a golf ball or larger. They are not as big as the melons in the garden.My Honey Dew Plant is strong but has not produced any melons on the vines on the trellis.I think it’s to,late to do anything for that plant.Can’t figure out why the Sugar Baby’s are doing ok and no Honey Dew melons .I watered them the same .Any ideas ?

    • Debra says:

      I’m not sure, if they both have the same size containers, and the same soil, light, and growing conditions. It could be that the Sugar Baby is better suited to growing in containers than that variety of Honey Dew. Bush varieties do better in containers than regular vining types. And all melons and squashes prefer large containers, at least 10 gallons (preferably 20 gallons, unless they are bush types). Most of the time, melons in containers will be smaller than those on plants growing in the ground – simply due to the restricted root space. Best wishes!

  • Ken says:

    Hi Debra ,
    I am wrong there on flowers on one vine of the Honey Dew Plants .The Sugar Baby’s have the same soil that the Honey Dew have .So maybe they will still produce .There is still time .I am taking care of them daily and watching them.I will keep you updated .
    Thanks again for your input .

  • Ken says:

    Hi Debra,
    The Honey Dew on the trellis had yellow flowers now they do not .So I am concerned they will not produce melons .I have small bee’s that have been pollinating the plants and have seen white butterfly’s near the porch flying do not know if they have pollinated the flowers ,but these tiny bee’s have .Should I be concerned or will like the water melon see Honey Melons grow? thanks for the forum on this its nice to read other peoples experiences and get to help others or get help as a melon grower.

    • Debra says:

      Ken, I’m sorry, but it’s impossible for me to know why it’s not producing yet. Too much nitrogen fertilizer sometimes produces all leaves and no fruit. Too small of container can cause problems, or lack of pollinators – though you said you’ve seen bees. The butterflies don’t do much pollinating of melons. Best wishes with your gardens!

  • Ken says:

    Hi Debra
    My Honey Dew are growing and vines are now growing on the trellis vertically.No melons yet .I have them growing in. White circular container height guessing 4 ft sitting on a table on our second floor apt porch.Now the Sugar Baby Watermelons have five watermelons growing two of them are slightly bigger then a golf ball and the other three are growing daily. I just used some miracle grow to boost the energy of the Honey Dew and the Sugar Babies.Today at my friends house who has over an acre o,f land on the side of the house .In may I planted Sugar Babies And Homey Dew Plants .There I have at least 6 or 7 Honey Melons growing and more females that will produce many more Honey Dew and I was told they will not grow in Connecticut which now I know is not true.I also have three Sugar Baby Melons growing and fed them miracle grow to give them more juice to grow more Sugar Baby’s. The weather has been hot since spring on and off this week we will have hot weather and some humidity .Hopefully the weather will stay warm for the rest of the season .Now my third garden at my Inlaws garden I have one a sugar Baby and one Honey Dew .The Honey Dew has 3 Melons growing and the Sugar Baby has none at the moment .I fed it miracle grow today .So my question is this how come my Honey Dew Plant on the porch has not yet produced melons?Any ideas what I should do?

  • Ken says:

    Hi Debra ,
    I have planted on my apartment house 2nd floor outdoor porch 2 sugar baby plants in a solid white round container and in another container planted 2 Honey Dew Plants.
    My sugar baby plants are on an inexpensive trellis I picked up at at Lowes in there Garden Center for under 10 dollars .I stuck the trellis into the soil in the containers which are about maybe over 3 ft in Height .I have the bottoms holding well.
    Currently I gave 5 sugar Baby melons growing 2 are now the size of a golf ball and each day the other three are getting larger .I used some Mircle Grow the other day to give them a boost in the soil .I believe I will have a few more female plants produce a few new melons and I have watched little bee’s and butterflies pollinate the flowers.So I did not need to hand pollinate them.My Homey Dew are doing well but no melons yet any ideas what I need Tao do.I did give them some Mircle Grow swell the other day.I am in Connecticut.So this an experiment on the Apartment porch. I have another garden at a friends hous on the ground soil with 4 Sugar Babies and 4 Honey Dew .Which I will see on Friday how they are doing .This is my 2nd year going Sugar Baby Melons and Honey Dew.The trellis and plants on my apartment porch this year is my first growing vertically which I have trained the vines to do .So if you live in an apartment ,Or condo with a small outside patio you can grow melons .Just Domitian vertically with a lot of sun and a lot of love.

    • Debra says:

      Hi Ken! Congratulations on your gardens! Are your honey dews producing any female blossoms yet (ones with tiny fruit at the base)? And what size container do you have the two vines growing in?

  • falon says:

    Hi Debra, Thank you for you blog/information. I was searching to find out what to use for slings and it was very helpful here. I have a question that I can not seem to find the answer to anywhere … from pollination to harvest how long on average is this? The melons are growing at an incredibly fast rate, which its super fun to take the kids outside every morning and see how much bigger they are. We are planning a trip out of town and my neighbor is going to look after my plants and watermelons while we are away, I am just trying to find out if they will be ripe before we get back and how long can they stay on the vine after maturing? (Taking the first one off is something i want to try to do with the kids.) Thank you again for your insight!!

    • Debra says:

      It depends upon the variety that you’re growing, but for smaller 10-pound watermelons it might be between 40-50 days. For most varieties, the watermelons will be ripe when the tendril next to the melon turns brown and dries up. Good luck!

  • Casper Hank says:

    I’ve been growing a pumpkin a cucumber and a watermelon plant. But i have a question. No im not growing on trellises because i don’t have any. However do you know how to stop them from strangling themselves with their vines? Pumpkins are more flexible but the watermelon vine is so stiff i cant stop it or try unraveling it on my own but no one talks about that issue on google for some reason so i can’t even look it up.

    • Debra says:

      Hi Casper! I’m not quite sure what you are referring to. I’ve not had any problems with those plants “strangling” themselves. They all do have tendrils, though, which they use to cling to any possible supports. Sometimes those tendrils will wrap around one of their own vines, but it has never caused any problems for the plant. I’ve never worried about it, and my plants do just fine. Best wishes with your garden!

      • Casper Hank says:

        When the tendrils wrap around the leaves is what im referring to. If the tendrils are left alone there it will kill the plant since as they grow they will eventually wrap around the Main so i would prefer to keep the leaves and vines intact but to stop it i would likely have to give up one or another. i was asking for a solution to keep the tendrils from wrapping around the leaves

        • Debra says:

          Casper, I’m afraid I don’t have a suggestion for you. Sorry! I rarely see that problem in my own garden, and I haven’t heard of anyone else discussing it.

        • Falon says:

          In reply to Casper …. I am having a little of the same issue … my problem is I planted way too many too close together and I didn’t trim off anything. We tried growing melons last year and nothign took and it was sadly disappointing. So this year we did a hail mary and planted a whole pack of seeds in one large pot, I expected maybe one or two to spurt but after 8 days I had 37 plants. And because my children and I really wanted to grow melons and were just kind of going for it, I went ahead and transplanted all of them to an area way too small so the plants were only 4-6 inches apart. We right now have 5 melons growing and it is really exciting! I learned a lot from this and I hope to have tons of melons to share with our neighborhood!! but next year I will plant less and do the trimming. The most important lessen I learned is that while we may plant and water, the Lord gives growth!

        • Debra says:

          Hi Falon! Oh my! First, congratulations on finally getting plants and melons to grow. Just be aware that there is a limit to the amount of melons that can be produced in a given area – whether you have one plant or 20 plants. One plant in a 4’x4′ garden bed might produce 4 melons, but 20 plants in that same size area won’t produce 80 melons. Probably just a total of 4 again from all of those plants. I usually give each of my melon plants at least 4 square feet, if not double that. Anyway, have fun!

        • all says:

          well said

  • Jennie Brooks says:

    Thank you. I’ll work on that tonight. i hope my hosiery isn’t so old that it’s lost it’s elasticity. i haven’t worn them in MANY years.

  • Jennie Brooks says:

    I’m growing watermelon (blacktail mountain) for the first time ever and using a trellis. I fear it might not be as strong as you suggested but hoping for the best. I have one good size watermelon so far. I’m amazed how fast they grow. I’m going to get the pantyhose sling in place soon. one thing confuses me, by “tendril” do you mean the curly thing?

    • Debra says:

      Yup, the curly thing is the tendril. Don’t delay in getting the sling support in place. I’ve lost too many melons by waiting just “one more day”. Good luck!

  • Mary says:

    Thank you for this article! I have an “accidental” Sugar Baby watermelon growing in a 9″ x 44″ concrete planter (only 8″ deep). It is getting full sun and plenty of water, so the longest vine is just over 3 ft today! You’ve helped me realize that I should harvest the basil and chives from this planter in order to give the watermelon it’s best shot. (Unfortunately, the seeds that I intentionally planted elsewhere sprouted but are not thriving.)

    Here is my dilemma: I can not move this concrete planter and it is sitting on my concrete patio, so there is no means to install a trellis. However, my chainlink fence runs next to this area, parallel to the planter, only 20″ away. Do you think I could successfully train the vines up that fence? I’m seeing baby melons this morning, so I need to get a plan ASAP! Thanks!

    • Debra says:

      Hey Mary! Yes, definitely try training it up your fencing. Best wishes with your plant!

  • Shirl says:

    I’m soooo glad I read your article. I’m getting ready to plant my watermelon seeds tomorrow!

    I too have cattle panels and I was going to plant a watermelon seed for each square in my cattle panel in a four by four bed, but you’re saying only two seeds per cattle panel.

    Am I reading that right? How many watermelons does each plant yield for you?

    I have the petite yellow variety.

    • Debra says:

      Hi Shirl, I always plant extra seeds and then thin the plants down to the number I want when they have about 3-4 adult leaves. So, for 2 plants, I might sow 4-6 seeds. For a 4’x4′ garden bed, I would grow any where from 2-4 watermelon plants, if that bed had 2 trellises. One or two plants per trellis. Watermelons generally produce 1-3 melons per plant. Have fun!

  • Linda says:

    Hi Debra,
    Please advise me on how I can deal with Melon flies. I didn’t take precautions before planting so my first fruits have been affected. Is there a way I can still save the new fruits that will grow later.
    Thank you!

    • Debra says:

      Linda, I’m afraid that I’m not familiar with this pest at all. I haven’t been able to find any helpful information about it. So sorry!

  • HijabMan says:

    Thank you for this lovely resource. I just got some livestock panels split into two and t posts. In terms of spacing, how many watermelon plants would you put into 1 4×4 raised bed? How much space would you say each plant needs with the trellis. Thanks so much. -Javed

    • Debra says:

      Hi Javed! Well, it partly depends upon the depth and quality of soil, and the variety of watermelon that you grow. You should easily be able to grow 2 plants in that size bed (one up each trellis), but I’ve also had success growing 4 plants (two up each trellis). But in my climate, with the variety I grow, watermelon plants don’t grow into huge monsters. It might be different for someone else. My vertical gardening book on Amazon goes into more details about trellises, vertical garden bed layouts, and how to train and prune the plants. Good luck!

  • Stacy says:

    Hullo I live in southafrica and I’m sorry about my spelling. Thank you for your info it was a big help but Im a accidental watermelon farmer as we bout a watermelon from the shop and thruw the waist in the garden as compostish stuff hahaha and now I have a watermelon tree . its a few months old and 1 meter high now and its started making the first fruit. Thank you for letting me know what I’m getting into. How old do water melon plants live for.

    • Debra says:

      Hi Stacy! Congratulations on your volunteer watermelon plant. Most of them live around 3-5 months – though they can be killed off by frost sooner than that. Hope you have a big harvest!

  • Deb says:

    Great article on the watermelon grow how. I will be incorporating your knowledge this year with my favorite Sugar Baby melons. I do thank the one who mentioned not to pick till 7 days after tendril dries in this variety. As I found this was true with mine last year.

    • Debra says:

      Thanks for sharing, Deb. I’m glad to hear from someone else that can confirm that tidbit.

  • Don Kroschinsky says:

    What is the best way to trellis tomatoes and cucumbers?

    • Debra says:

      Hi Don! There are a variety of options for both. My vertical gardening book describes many different ways you can trellis different vegetables, and the pros and cons of each method. My favorite is using large trellises created from 1/2 of a livestock panel. They are inexpensive and easy to make. The appendix goes into step-by-step details. The photos in this article show the livestock panel trellises. Best wishes with your garden!

  • Last year I planted beans by my greenhouse with a trellis going up the side. I had watermelon close and one grew up the trellis by itself. I ended up building a sort of shelf for the melon that grew on the roof of the greenhouse. It was about 6 lbs when I harvested it, I had never seen this before but it was a great conversation piece.

  • Rachel says:

    All my blacktail mtn watermelons shrivel and die’. I have 2 that grew fine and all the rest (37 or so) shriveled and died!! I sprayed calcium and two more started to grow- but now one of them is shriveling too!
    The plants dont react to the fish fertilizer so i stopped (my marigold plants in that box sre larger than my squash plants though) Why are they dieing?
    I used good fertilizer and i early prepped with eggs shells for the calcuim and i have to water heavily ever day- its over 105

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Rachel – I’m sorry you’re having problems with your melons. What size were your melons that shriveled? Were they all pretty small (less than 2″ or so)? If so, it was probably caused by the high heat. Temps above 90-95 can kill the pollen in the blossoms, and the baby watermelons end up shriveling and dying due to lack of pollination. The two melons that survived were probably pollinated before the temps got so hot. This is just my best guess. Read my article 13 Tips for Gardening in Extreme Heat for suggestions on how to cope – though you may not be able to get any fruiting vegetables to produce at all until the temps start dropping back below 90 again. If you want to explore other possible issues, contact your nearest Cooperative Extension Office for assistance. Good luck!

  • Tony Phylactou says:

    Water melons growing on pavement

  • Sandy B says:

    I just learned something about Sugar Baby Watermelons. Apparently they march to a different drummer. On another forum there were several people complaining that their Sugar Baby’s were not ripe when they cut into them, but the tendril was brown. Another participant volunteered that the Sugar Baby melon needs to be left on the vine another 7 to 10 days after the tendril is totally brown, the only watermelon with that requirement. He swore all the others would be ripe at that point, but not the independently minded Sugar Baby!

    • Debra says:

      Hmm… I’ve never heard of that. Thanks a bunch for sharing! Good to know.

  • LaShonda says:


    I am growing sugar babies in a large barrel pot. They started off great but now after reaching the size of medium grapefruits, they seem to have stop growing. If the tendrils around them have turned brown do I still pick them and if so can they be eaten that small.

    • Debra says:

      I’ve had some of my watermelons ripen at pretty small sizes when they were grown in containers and didn’t have a lot of room for their roots. Also, unless you’re using self-watering containers, container plants should be fed liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks after they reach a few weeks old, as many nutrients are leached out of the potting soil with the frequent watering that you have to give containers. If your plants are old enough, and the tendril at the base of the fruit has turned brown – then, yes, you should be able to harvest the fruit and enjoy it!

  • Veronica says:

    Wow! THANK YOU for these instructions! As a first-time city gardener, I’ve been doing a lot of google searches, and I’m awfully grateful for your detailed and yet very easy to understand instructions on trellising.

    I found your post after stepping outside to water and thinking, “Whoa! Where did that six inches of watermelon vine come from? I swear that wasn’t there yesterday! I think I’m going to have to do something about this…” Thanks for telling me exactly what I was needing to know, and more!

    Also, great idea re: putting in early spring crops around them, but then clearing the bed out for watermelons-only when they’re really going great guns. Will try that next year!

    • Veronica says:

      Also: because I am new and have decided to adopt a “learn as I go” approach to gardening (otherwise, I was finding that my internal perfectionist basically wanted me to become a plant expert before ever putting a seed in the ground!) I realize now that I probably have too many watermelon plants too close together:

      specifically, I’ve got four Sugar Babies in a recycled kiddie pool planter about 4′ in diameter. They’re really growing fast now that things have hotted up here in Massachusetts (probably should have seen that coming, but they seemed so innocent and slow-moving back in May…)

      Anyway, now I’m wondering:
      Would you advise moving any of these plants, or is it too late once they’ve gotten started and I should simply make the best of it for this year and learn for next year?

      • Debra says:

        Hi, Veronica! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad you’re finding my articles helpful. You are smart to decide to learn gardening by actually doing gardening! As much as you can learn by reading, you can only learn what works well for you in your current location by actually planting a garden. As for your current watermelon plants, I would just leave them for now and see how they do. I once planted 3 watermelon plants in a large 20-gallon Smart Pot, and harvested 5 small melons from them. So, I suspect you’ll be able to harvest something from your patch, even if they are a little crowded this year. Have fun! ~ Debra

  • Valerie says:

    Hi, I am a fairly at this. I planted Sugar Baby watermelon and Crimson Sweet watermelon. I do have other plants in my garden. Where can I find a sturdy trellis at a decent price? I realized yesterday that the vines are getting long and knew I needed a trellis.

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Valerie! Sugar Baby watermelons are a nice size to trellis, as their melons only reach 6-12 pounds. However, you may have difficulty successfully trellising your Crimson Sweet, as those melons can easily reach 25 pounds. I’m not saying it can’t be done, as I once harvested a 17-pound melon off my trellis – though I don’t usually recommend it. But the trellis and slings need to be very strong if you want to try the large melons.

      I wouldn’t use the nylon string mesh for trellising in this situation. The strongest trellis I’ve used so far are livestock panels attached to t-posts. They can support just about anything, and will last for 15 years. One panel cut in half (our local store will cut it for you) will make two 4-foot by 7-foot trellises. In my area, one panel costs around $23, and the t-posts (6-foot, if you can) about $4 each. However, there are many other trellising options out there. I’ve often made trellises out of 2″ wood frames, with welded wire fencing stapled firmly to it.

      If you want to see various photos, type “trellis” into the search box in the sidebar of my website, and it will list all the articles with trellises. Best wishes! Let me know how it goes for you this year.

  • Jake Hartner says:

    Awesome! That’s exactly what I ended up doing. I planted my watermelon starts 2 days ago and they seem to be adapting to the Trellises just fine. My Black Tail Mountain watermelon are about a foot high right now. I cant wait to see how they do! Thanks so much for taking the time to teach us how to do this.

    • Debra says:

      You’re quite welcome, Jake! Glad I could help.

  • Jake Hartner says:

    I love this. How far apart do you plant your watermelon plants and how many did you plant using the 2 Trellises? also I am planing on doing your design with my 3 foot wide beds, but I am worried about how I will harvest from between the 2 trellises, do you think I will have room to walk in between them?


    • Debra says:

      Hi, Jake! I’ve planted one or two watermelon plants per every 4 feet wide trellis (if it’s at least 6 feet high). My beds are only 3 feet wide, and I don’t have any problems fitting between the trellises. Just be sure to put down a board or something to step on, if you have to step inside the bed, so you don’t compress the soil. The 2 trellis design is easiest with a 4’x4′ garden bed size, as you never need to step on the bed to reach between the trellises. Have fun!

  • Abby says:

    Out of curiosity, what did you use to tie the panels to the T-posts?

    Also, I’m not a fan of melons, but my family is, at what point (size wise – like softball size or bigger??) did you need the slings? We are going to grow sugar baby watermelons, I think, so I suppose we don’t need as tall of a vining trellis.

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Abby! As we move our trellises around every year, I just use zip ties. You could use wire or sturdy twine, too, I suppose. The bottom of the panels rest on the ground, so the ties just keep it upright against the posts.

      Go ahead and start supporting the melons when they are about softball or fist size. And, yes, I always lost my melons if I didn’t use some kind of sling to support them. Sugar Baby is a great variety. I think its vines remain only 3-6 feet long. Have fun!

  • Thats great Debra I took a bunch of grass out of the watermelons… we have many growing now… I did cut the tendrils annd lowered a couple vines off the fence… the small canteloupes I think I am going to leave… they are very prolific by the way with the addition of castings… try the Sarahs Choice Canteloupe … P.S. Not going to add boron this year next year I will most definately test all soil and go automatic watering…

    • Debra says:

      Good for you, Toby! Best wishes for your watermelons!

      We’ve had a small worm bin in our basement for the last year or two. The worms have been multiplying like crazy, so today my sister built a LARGE worm bin (3′ x 4′) in our hoop house. We have partially rotted bedding from our outdoor chicken pen (dried leaves, weeds, and chicken manure), along with grass cuttings, and rotted kitchen scraps we collected all winter long in an outdoor garbage can. All moistened well. Now we’ll let it sit for a few days, to make sure it won’t heat up too much before we add any worms.

  • This is really neat I would like to try those cattle pannels next year and also do beds… my butternut squash is doing well yet I will never grow squash or cucumber with out a raised bed…ever again. The Florida sandy soil seems to be bad for it… Powdery mildew and all that. any way I just recently did a vid of our watermelon patch any helpful hints would be greatly appreciated… 😀

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Toby! Thanks for visiting. I’ll visit your page to make any suggestions there.

  • Nate says:

    We are interested in trying the trellis for watermelons and pumpkins. How many plants did you put per trellis? We normally put 3 plants per mound but didn’t know if this would overload the trellis. Thanks!

    • Debra says:

      Hi, Nate! I have put as many as 2 butternut squash plants on one 4 foot wide by 7 foot tall trellis, but I grew larger, better quality squash fruit when I only put one plant on that size trellis. I seemed to do OK with 2 watermelon plants per trellis, but I haven’t really tested it out with just one. I haven’t grown pumpkins at all, but I think they would be similar to squash plants – though their fruit might need support with slings if they grow to more than a few pounds in size. My butternut fruit never needed slings, but I’m not sure about large pumpkins. Best wishes with your garden!

  • C.C. says:

    Can you tell me how tall your t-posts are? I have 5ft ones and I want to make a similar set-up. Thank you!

    • Debra says:

      We’ve used 5.5 and 6-foot t-posts without a problem (about 1 foot of this is below ground). You might be OK with 5-foot posts, IF most of the weight is being carried lower down on the trellis. Most of my squash and melon fruit are growing within 4 feet of the soil, even if the rest of the vines grow much higher up the trellis than that. Livestock panels are fairly rigid, but can bend. A high wind and heavy load high up might cause the unsupported top half of the trellis to bend over. I’ve not seen it happen, but it might be possible. I think you’ll be OK.

      • C.C. says:

        Thank you so much! I was very worried. I will try to sink the panels a bit further into the ground for peace of mind.

        • Debra says:

          You’re welcome! Good luck!

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