Watermelon is one of my favorite fruits and I was curious if it’s possible to grow them in a pot. That’s why I decided to research growing one using the Sugar Baby variety.
You can grow Sugar Baby watermelons in a container or pot that is at least 18 to 24 inches in size. You’ll need to use a trellis to support the vines. You’ll need to provide frequent watering and nutrients so the Sugar Baby plant grows well.
I’ve tried to find out all you need to do to grow the Sugar Baby watermelon in a container. This post will help you start growing them from seed till the time you can harvest the watermelons.
What is Sugar Baby watermelon variety?
The Sugar Baby is a variety of watermelon that has smaller vines and fruit compared to some of the other varieties. This makes it well-suited to grow in a container without worrying about the plant not growing well or not producing fruit.
You can grow this watermelon in your container garden whether it’s outdoors or in the apartment balcony. You do need to provide support to the vines and the fruit. But this is quite feasible to do compared to some of the larger watermelon varieties.
If you have a really small space to grow the watermelons, you even have the option to pick the Sugar Baby bush variety. This plant has vines that only grow about 4-5 feet in length but produce
You can even choose the Sugar Baby bush variety that has vines that only grow about 4-5 feet in length. This will still give you a good harvest of watermelons even with the compact size.
1. Choose the best time to grow Sugar Baby
Watermelons are a warm-season plant so the best time to grow them is when the temperature is higher than 70 °F. If the temperature is too cold, the watermelon seeds won’t germinate. And if you’re using seedlings, they will not grow as expected.
If you have a long summer in your area, you can plant the Sugar Baby watermelon seeds one week after the last frost date has passed.
But if you have a short growing season, it’s best to either start the seeds indoors or buy the seedlings from a local garden center.
How long does Sugar Baby watermelon take to grow?
Watermelon takes a long time to grow from seed to harvest because of it’s large fruit. But the Sugar Baby has a decent harvest time. You can start the seeds and get the fruit after about 75 days.
It’s best to check the seed packet that will tell you exactly how many days it will take for the Sugar Baby watermelon to reach maturity for harvest.
You cannot harvest the watermelon before it’s ripe because it does not continue growing if you do that. You need to wait for the right time as shown by the fruit that it’s ready.
Once the harvest dates come close, you can check the Sugar Baby watermelon for signs that it’s ready. This could be seen by looking at the underside of the watermelon that is touching the support or ground. It will turn pale yellow in color.
You can also check the tendrils closest to the fruit as they will turn brown and dry out. The fruit also turns dark green in color with light green stripes.
2. Pick the right container to grow Sugar Baby
The container will be one of the most important choices that determine how well the Sugar Baby watermelon will grow. You need a container that is at least 5-10 gallons when growing this variety.
I would recommend using a pot that is 24 inches deep and 16 inches wide to grow the Sugar Baby watermelon plant. And grow just one plant per pot otherwise they will end up competing for nutrients and moisture.
The material of the pot does not matter and you can use plastic, terracotta, ceramic, or metal as per your liking. Just make sure the pot is strong enough that it can support the watermelon plant.
It should be durable to withstand the weight of the vines and the Sugar Baby watermelons along with the potting soil and water.
While you can use terracotta, I don’t prefer it because the material is porous and tends to lose moisture fast. And that’s not a good situation to grow a watermelon plant that needs a lot of water.
I like to use a plastic pot because it is durable and inexpensive. It does not lose moisture fast so the watermelon roots can get enough moisture and not dry out fast.
Whatever container you pick, make sure it has plenty of drainage holes at the bottom to remove the excess water. The Sugar Baby watermelon plant prefers good moisture but does not like soggy roots. If the containers don’t have such holes, you’ll need to drill some yourself.
3. Prepare the container for planting
Now that you have picked the right sized container for your Sugar Baby watermelon plant, you need to clean it up before use.
My suggestion is to soak the pot in a mixture of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for at least an hour. This will help get rid of any unwanted pests and diseases that may be present in the pot. You can then wash the container well with water and dry it out in the sunlight before use.
Check that the pot has some drainage holes at the bottom. If not, you can use a drill to make some yourself. This is crucial so the excess water can drain out and avoid rotting the roots of the plant.
You need to add potting soil to the container. So cover the bottom of the pot with a rag or newspaper. This will prevent the potting soil from washing away when you water the pot.
Always use good potting soil instead of using your garden soil. This helps prevent issues that may occur due to excess clay or sand in the garden soil. It may also contain pests, diseases, and chemicals.
The only situation where you may use garden soil is if you have created a good, fertile soil with the addition of compost in your garden.
You can make your own potting soil using 1 part compost, 1 part vermiculite, and 1 part perlite. The compost provides nutrients, microorganisms, and texture to the soil. The vermiculite and perlite make the soil permeable which helps it retain moisture while draining the excess water.
Fill the container with the potting soil till there’s a space of 2 inches left from the rim. This will prevent the soil from spilling out when watering.
4. Add support to the container
The watermelon even if it’s the Sugar Baby variety is a plant that has plenty of vines and heavy fruits. That’s why you want to add support to the container when preparing it.
The best support you can add is a trellis where you can tie the vines and the watermelons. You can make one yourself using a tomato cage and a couple of wooden stakes.
Invert the tomato cage and place it in the potting soil. Tie the top of the inverted cage so it forms the shape of a teepee. Weave the wooden stakes through the wires of the tomato cage and bury them deep inside the potting soil.
It’s best that you add such support when preparing the container rather than when the plant has grown. This will help you prevent disturbing or damaging the roots of the watermelon as you bury the wooden stakes.
Make sure to have at least 2-3 stakes on different sides of the tomato cage to give the most stable support to the watermelon plant.
5. Plant the Sugar Baby seeds in the container
You can buy the Sugar Baby watermelon seeds from an online store, a local garden center, or order it from a seed catalog. It’s inexpensive to grow watermelons from seed and you can try out different companies.
You can start the seeds indoors or you can directly sow the seeds in the pot outdoors. This depends on your preference. It also depends on the length of your growing season.
If your region has a short growing season, it’s best to start seeds indoors. You can then transplant the seedlings outdoors when the weather has warmed up enough.
If your region has a long growing season, you don’t need to worry much about the weather. As soon as the last date of frost has passed, you can consider planting the seeds outdoors.
If you want to start seeds indoors, you need to use seed starting trays. Put some seed starting mix in the tray. Then plant 2-3 Sugar Baby watermelon seeds 1/4th inch into the mix.
You can use a spray to water the potting soil and keep the seeds moist. Be careful not to dislodge the seeds from their location while watering.
You need to maintain the temperature higher than 80 °F to give the watermelon seeds a good chance of germination. You can use a heating mat underneath the trays to create such an environment.
Make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy otherwise the seeds will rot. You also need to provide plenty of light for the seedlings to germinate. You can place the tray near a windowsill that receives plenty of sunlight or use indoor lights.
The watermelon seeds will germinate after 3 to 10 days when you give them suitable conditions as mentioned above.
Once the seedlings have grown 3-4 inches tall, you can transplant them to a container. But before you do that you need to harden the seedlings.
2-3 days before transplanting the seedlings, start to move them outdoors for a few hours every day. Make sure they are not in full sunlight or wind.
Once the seedlings are hardened, you can transplant them to a pot. Gently squeeze the tray till the soil ball gets loose.
Make a hole in the center of the potting soil in the pot and place the seedling in it. Cover the roots with potting soil so they are not exposed to air.
Press the soil near the base of the plant to give it steady support. Water the soil well so that the roots get enough moisture and adapt to the transplant.
6. Plant the Sugar Baby seedlings in the pot
If you have a short growing season or just want to avoid the effort of starting seeds, you can buy seedlings from a local garden center or nursery.
You can transplant the seedlings to the pot after you have hardened them for the outdoor conditions. Start moving them outdoors for a few hours every day. After a week, your seedlings will be ready for the transplant.
Once the seedlings are hardened, you can transplant them to a container. Gently squeeze the tray till the soil ball gets loose.
Make a hole in the center of the potting soil in the container and place the seedling in it. Cover the roots with potting soil so they are not exposed to air.
Press the soil near the base of the plant to give it steady support. Water the soil well so that the roots get enough moisture and adapt to the transplant.
7. Put the pot in the right location for sunlight
Sugar Baby watermelon like other varieties needs full sunlight if they are to grow well and develop fruit.
I would suggest keeping the pot outdoors in a location that gets at least 8-10 hours of sunlight every day. As the season passes, the position of the sun will change and you may need to move the pot so the watermelon plant gets the required sunlight.
This also means that the watermelon plant and the potting soil will dry out faster and you need to give the plant plenty of water.
8. Provide the right water to the plants
The Sugar Baby watermelon may contain 96% or higher water content which means you need to provide lots of water as the fruit is growing.
You want to avoid the problem of overwatering or underwatering the plants in the containers. Underwatering will not provide sufficient moisture so the watermelon will not grow well or even die. Overwatering will drown the roots, leading to root rot and fungal diseases.
I would suggest watering the plant every day because this is a very thirsty plant. You may need to water more than once when the temperature is high.
It is good to check the soil in the pot once in the morning and once in the evening. You can stick your finger about 2-4 inches in the soil and check the moisture. If the tip of your finger is not moist, you need to water the potting soil.
Water the potting soil slowly and thoroughly so the water can reach the lower levels of the container. You can use a watering-can for watering your watermelon plants. You could even use a drip irrigation system if you have several plants in your container garden.
It’s good to put some mulch like grass clippings, hay, wood chips, or dried leaves in the pot. This will help insulate the potting soil from the heat and keep it moist for a longer time. So you won’t need to water the plant as often.
9. Thin the Sugar Baby watermelon seedlings
When we started the Sugar Baby watermelon seeds either indoors or in the pot, we planted 2-3 seeds in a single spot. This is done so that we increase the chances of at least one seed germinating.
But if more than one seeds germinate, you need to keep one and remove the unwanted seedlings. This is known as thinning the seedlings.
You can do this thinning once the seeds have germinated and at least 3-4 leaves have grown on the seedlings. They may have reached a height of 2-4 inches when you can do this.
When you buy the seedlings from a garden center or nursery, you won’t have to worry about this. You need to spend your efforts on choosing the healthiest plant you can find at the garden center.
10. Add fertilizer to the Sugar Baby plants
The seeds of Sugar Baby watermelons contain enough nutrients to feed the plant till the seedlings have germinated. So you don’t need to worry about fertilizing the potting soil for the 2 weeks of germination.
But once the seeds have germinated or you’re transplanting the seedlings to a container, it’s good to use fertilizer. Watermelon is a hungry plant that needs a lot of nutrients to grow well.
If you can get some compost, it’s best to mix it with the potting soil when preparing the pot. The compost has a rich, organic matter that provides the right nutrients to the watermelon plant.
It’s also good to add an organic fertilizer to the potting soil every few weeks to give the plant the required nutrients.
You can choose a balanced fertilizer that has an N-P-K of 5-5-5 or 10-10-10. This means it contains equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for your plants.
If you use a slow-release fertilizer, you can mix it in the potting soil when preparing the pot. And then you can add it to the soil every month. The fertilizer will release slowly into the soil when you water the plants.
Once the plants have matured to about 4 weeks, you can add an organic liquid fertilizer to the soil and foliage. You can spray this fertilizer every week to get the best growth of your Sugar Baby watermelon plants.
11. Pollinate the Sugar Baby watermelon plant
The female flowers of the Sugar Baby watermelon plant need to get pollinated so they can develop fruit. The good thing is you have both male and female flowers growing on the plant.
If the plants are planted outdoors, the pollinators like bees can work on getting the pollen from the male to the female flowers.
But if there is a lack of bees in your area or you’re growing the watermelon in an apartment balcony, you need to pollinate the flowers yourself.
Make sure the flowers are open before you can start pollinating them. Only when the flowers are open are they capable of pollination.
You can either pluck the male flower and pollinate the female flower. Or you can use a paintbrush to collect the pollen and spread them in the female flower.
Once you pluck the male flower, remove the petals so only the stamen is available. You can then brush the stamen in the stigma or opening of the female flower to pollinate them.
The other option is to gently use your paintbrush to collect pollen from the stamen of the male flower. Then use the paintbrush to apply the pollen on the stigma of the female flower.
12. Prune the Sugar Baby plants
There are several reasons pruning your watermelon plants can help it. Pruning the plant will keep it short and suitable for growing in the pot.
Pruning the vines encourages the watermelon plant to focus more energy on growing flowers and fruit.
Pruning any diseased or slow-growing watermelon will help the plant spend more energy on the healthy, well-developing fruit.
You do need to be careful not to prune too much of the vines because that will reduce the amount of male and female flowers.
And if there is a lack of either male or female flowers, the watermelon plant will not develop fruit.
The best way to prune the watermelon plant is too observe it every day. If you see any diseased or dead leaves, vines, or fruit, you can prune them. You can also prune any vines that are weak and not bearing any flowers.
You can use a pair of pruners to cut off the part of the plant. This helps lower the chances of the plant getting infected by a fungal or bacterial disease.
13. Add support for the Sugar Baby watermelons
The Sugar Baby watermelon plant is small but it’s a vining plant and you need to provide support to it. You also need to give good support to the watermelons so they don’t break from the vine.
We already used an inverted tomato cage and wooden stakes to create good support for the plant. As the vines grow, you need to tie them to the support for stability.
Once the watermelons start to grow on the fruit, you need to add support to them as well. You can use any stretchy material like an old T-shirt or pantyhose,
Tie the material to the support structure so it can form a sling. And let the watermelon grow in the sling till it’s ready for harvest.
14. Harvest the Sugar Baby watermelons
You need to harvest the watermelon at the right time. If it’s raw and you cut it from the plant, the watermelon will not ripen like some other fruits. There are certain signs that will indicate when the watermelon is ripe enough for you to harvest.
The easiest sign is to check the location of the watermelon where it touches the ground or support. This portion will turn pale yellow in color when the watermelon is ripe.
Another way to figure out whether the watermelon is ripe is to check the tendrils closest to the watermelon. These are the short, curly, stem-like vines you find on the plant.
If you see that the tendril closest to the fruit has dried out and dead, that’s a sign that the watermelon is ripe enough to harvest.
It’s not easy to pluck the Sugar Baby watermelon from the vine. You need to use a pair of pruners to cut them off the vine.
Make sure to cut some portion of the stalk along with the watermelon. This will help keep it fresh for a longer period of time.
The good thing about watermelon is it can store for a long period of time, unlike some other fruits. If you cut it open, you can store it in a refrigerator so it lasts for a few days.
A single Sugar Baby watermelon plant will only grow a couple of watermelons. And some of them might grow larger than the others.
You may also find that the watermelon plant may continue to grow more fruit or just die after a single harvest.