Tips on Growing Sugar Baby Watermelons
If you are looking for a small watermelon that doesn’t seem to take an eternity to ripen, then look no further than ‘Sugar Baby.’ This melon lives up to its name, producing sweet and succulent flesh once ripe. The growing requirements of this heirloom are much like what’s necessary for other watermelons and its smallish size fruits mean you can even grow the melon on a trellis. Read on for all the tips on successfully growing ‘Sugar Baby’ watermelons.
‘Sugar Baby’ Characteristics and Growth Habits
‘Sugar Baby’ watermelons fall into the category of “icebox” due to their petite size. Watermelons ranging in size from 5 to 15 pounds are considered icebox melons because they fit well inside a refrigerator.
Their basic characteristics and habit of growth include:
- The melon is round with striped skin when immature, changing to a dark greenish-black when ripe.
- The inner flesh is sweet and red with dark brown seeds.
- Plants grow 8 to 10 inches tall on compact vines that aren’t too long, making it suitable for smaller gardens or containers.
- It takes approximately 78 days from germination until the watermelons are ripe.
- Seed germination takes anywhere from five to eight days.
Good Choice for Northern Gardeners
Although “Sugar Baby’ also grows well in subtropical areas of the country, its shorter days to harvest makes it a suitable good choice for gardeners in the North who have a shorter growing season.
Whether growing the ‘Sugar Baby’ melons directly in the garden or in containers, make sure to situate the plants in a weed-free site that receives sun for the majority of the day. Other basic requirements for the best growth of garden-grown plants include:
- Prepare the planting site by working about 6-inches of organic materials into the soil. Make sure the planting site’s soil drains well and doesn’t have a tendency to become soggy.
- Watermelons are frost-sensitive, so make sure the outdoor soil temperature is at least 70°F (21.1°C) before planting the ‘Sugar Baby’ seeds or transplants in the garden.
- Space multiple mounds about 2 to 3 feet apart and multiple rows about 4 to 6 feet apart.
- Plant the ‘Sugar Baby’ seeds 1/2 inch deep into a mound, planting about six seeds per mound. Once the seeds have germinated and have about four leaves, thin to the healthiest three or four plants.
- Keep the soil moist until the melons are approximately the size of a tennis ball. Thereafter, water only when the soil becomes dry.
Expert Tip: When watering and to discourage disease problems, make sure to water at ground level and not overhead where the watermelon’s foliage gets wet. Water early in the day to give the melons leaves a chance to dry.
Growing in Containers
Due to the compact vines and small fruits, ‘Sugar Baby’ is a good selection for containerized growth. The basic difference in growing in containers compared to directly in the garden is the need for support for the developing melons.
The basics of growing in containers include:
- Situate the container in a sunny location where there’s already support like a fence, arbor or trellis. If no support is available, you’ll need to erect a stable system for the melon plants to climb. Make sure it’s strong enough that it won’t fall over supporting the plant and developing ‘Sugar Baby’ melons.
- Use a 5-gallon container with bottom drainage and fill with a well-drained, fertile potting mix.
- Sow several seeds in the container, or transplants, and thin to the healthiest one or two seedlings once they’ve developed about four leaves.
- Once the vines start growing and are long enough to reach the support, gently help the vines attach to the trellis, fence or arbor, as they won’t naturally cling on their own without help.
- When the watermelons reach the size of a tennis ball, support them by tying something like pantyhose around them and then tie the pantyhose’s ends to the support system.
- Keep the container’s soil moist but not soggy until the watermelons reach the size of a tennis ball and then decrease watering by half.
Note the date your ‘Sugar Baby’ seeds germinated so you have a good idea on when they’ll be ripe, according to the days to harvest listed on the seed packet. The tendril attached to the melon and vine turns brown and dries, when the watermelons are ripe. Those grown in the garden develop a yellow spot on their bottom where they made contact with the soil.
“Thumping” the watermelon and listening for a hollow sound isn’t always a good way to judge ripeness. Sometimes the melons’ will be overripe if you wait for the hollow thump.