If you’re looking for a fun project to try over the Aussie summer, then I want to share an idea I’ve been experimenting with… and I’ve got to say, I’ve been busting to tell you about it, because it’s absolutely brilliant. I’m trialling a special method for growing watermelons in small spaces. If you’ve ever grown them before, you know that watermelon vines need a fair bit of ground space to wander and ramble about…space that I just don’t have in my garden. So I’ve decided to build a frame on which to train the vines up off the ground and keep them contained.
I had a couple of galvanized steel mesh panels laying about – you could also use fence panels or old aluminium screen doors – and I’ve set them up to create a simple ‘A’ frame in one of my veggie beds. The top has been tied together with twine and the bases have been secured to the ground using tent pegs. I’ve planted two watermelon seedlings at the bases at each end, which I’ve lovingly trained over the frame as they’ve grown over the past 2 months. Having them up off the ground like this offers a few benefits… it keeps good air flow around the vines, so there’s very little problem with fungal disease… and it’s really easy to keep an eye on the male and female flowers as they appear… so you can hand-pollinate the flowers and ensure a maximum return.
So what about the fruit you ask? How are the vines going to cope with the weight of these giant fruit as they hang from the frame? Well, I decided to grow the little champagne variety… which grow to about the size of a rockmelon… but they could still do damage to the vine… so to support their weight, I have threaded a couple of lengths of bamboo through the frame to create a kind of shelf. I’ve got quite a few of these shelves in place now and they’re working brilliantly. The bamboo I’ve used has been harvested from a clump I’ve planted in my garden. It’s the ‘weavers bamboo’ variety, and it’s very handy for making all sorts of frames in the garden… it makes an excellent fast growing screen too… I can highly recommend it if you are into ‘dual purpose’ plants.
If you don’t have access to free lengths of bamboo, you could use old tomato stakes.
What do you think about this watermelon frame idea? It is brilliant isn’t it? But as they say, that’s not all. There’s more!
Beneath the frame, I’ve been growing a range of fast growing leafy greens like lettuce, bok choy and rocket along with my beloved radishes… a range of things that have definitely appreciated the filtered light provided by the frame on a stinking hot summers day. They’ve all been harvested, and just recently I replaced them with a crop of leeks, not the right season for the subtropics where I live, but I’m confident they will perform well through the summer beneath the solid canopy of watermelon foliage… and I’ll be enjoying an early harvest of leeks this coming autumn All this in a tiny space that’s only 1.5 × 3m. I’m loving the results so far… but most of all, I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the first of my sweet, juicy garden fresh watermelon this summer!
Now you can watch my watermelon frame video too!