How you protect your watermelon plants will depend on what type of animal is feeding on them. A ripe watermelon is a tempting target for many animals, from aphids to ground squirrels. Mammals and birds can be deterred with bird netting, melon cages, and various traps. Insects however will require repellent sprays, certain mulches, or insecticidal soap. A combination of these techniques will protect your ripe fruit from all manner of pests.
7 Ways to Protect Your Watermelons from Animals
Sweet watermelon with its high sugar content is a tempting food source for many animals. You’ll need to keep a careful eye out for paw marks or signs of insect infestation to know what’s preying on your watermelon rinds. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can use one of the following methods to protect these summer crops.
Netting is an effective barrier for birds, insects, and most types of mammals. Use a mesh thickness of 0.4 – 0.8 mm to effectively repel birds and insects. Make sure that you buy enough netting to fully cover your watermelon plants. Watermelon vines are prone to sprawling, so you need enough netting to cover a wide area.
- Use this bird and insect netting to protect your watermelons from all manners of pests.
- Measure the area your watermelons cover, to make sure you have enough netting to protect the entire plant.
- Build a frame for the netting, or use these hoops to easily create a frame.
- Attach the frame to the netting with zip ties.
Netting cannot simply be draped over plants on the ground. You will need a frame to support it. You can either build a frame yourself or purchase hoops built for this purpose. The hoops can be installed in minutes. Then, all that’s left is to secure the netting to the hoops with zip ties. Once your watermelons are covered, birds, bugs, and animals will have a hard time breaking in.
Fencing is another effective means of keeping mammals out. Fencing is usually made out of wood or metal and should stand 2–8 feet, depending on the animals you’re trying to stop. While fencing can’t prevent all bird or insect damage, chicken wire can keep rabbits, ground squirrels, and rodents out. Just make sure to dig a trench at the bottom edge of your fencing and extend the chicken wire 6–12 inches belowground. Then, fill in the trench.
- Fences are a great way to keep rabbits and rodents away from your watermelons.
- To stop rabbits and small mammals, make a fence out of chicken wire with the bottom 6–12 inches of wire buried beneath the soil surface.
- To stop deer from invading your garden, install deer fencing that is at least 8 feet tall.
If you need to stop deer from invading your watermelon patch, you will need a fence at least 8 feet tall. It’s best to make the fence out of deer fencing or turkey wire. A tall fence is required because deer can leap over 6-foot fences easily.
A melon cage is a wire construct that surrounds individual melons. It’s more effective than fencing and doesn’t require building an entire fence. All you need to do is place a melon cage over each of your watermelon plants. This common method of protection will not guard against insect damage but it is effective against rodents and birds.
- Place this melon cage over your plants to protect melon plants from birds and mammals.
- Most standard melon cages do not have a fine mesh that will stop insects.
- Cover a melon cage with insect netting to make a bug-proof cage.
If you want to make an insect-proof melon cage, you can cover a standard melon cage with fine netting used to repel insects. Keep in mind that fine netting may shade your plants to some degree, so you may want to remove the cage during sunlight hours to allow your plants to soak up the rays.
Fencing and netting won’t keep bugs away from your watermelon crop. Spray repellents are the most effective and common way of protecting ripe fruit from insects. A few sprays of a vegetable-safe repellent can keep away aphids, ladybugs, and various other watermelon-eating insects.
- Use this vegetable-safe insect repellent to protect your watermelons.
- Repellents keep away various creatures by producing bad aromas that they can’t stand.
- Be sure to always follow label usage instructions exactly to stay safe and healthy.
The key to using repellents effectively is to follow the label instructions exactly. The Department of Agriculture requires these safety instructions on all repellents and pesticides for safety. Following these directions is key to staying healthy and using the repellent effectively.
Certain mulches can deter insect pests from attacking your watermelon vines. Cypress and cedar tree mulch can repel insects when added on top of your garden soils. Spread a 3-inch-deep (7.5 cm) deep layer of cedar or cypress mulch around your plants to make a natural insect-deterrent zone.
- Mulch made from cedar or cypress naturally repels insects.
- A 3-inch (7.5 cm) layer of mulch throughout your watermelon patch will drive off insects.
- Mulch has the additional benefit of helping the soil retain moisture.
Mulch provides a double benefit because it also helps lock in ground moisture which keeps your watermelon healthy. So, mulch is always a great garden addition. Just make sure not to cover watermelon leaves or stems with mulch, since too much mulch can cause moisture and rot.
Insecticidal soap is an organic product that kills pests on contact and keeps your watermelons safe from infestation. This soap works by killing insects once they are already swarming a plant. This means it is not ideal as a deterrent but very effective for ending an infestation.
- Use this natural insecticidal soap to protect your watermelons.
- Insecticidal soap is best used for killing insects during an active infestation.
- Insecticidal soap does not act as a long-term deterrent, but it is a great organic method for driving off insects.
As with other repellents, be sure to follow safety instructions exactly when using insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap is organic and harmless to plants, but can still cause irritation to humans.
Neem oil is another amazing organic method for keeping watermelons pest-free. Neem oil is a naturally occurring pesticide made from the sap of the neem tree. You can find many neem oil sprays. Simply spray the neem oil compound on insects to kill them and save your watermelons.
- Use this organic neem oil spray to kill insects on your watermelon plants.
- Neem oil kills insects on contact, halting infestations naturally.
- Spray neem oil on your watermelon plants every two weeks to stop an infestation.
- As a bonus, neem oil also works as an antifungal, which prevents fungus from damaging watermelons.
Neem oil is not only a natural pesticide, it’s also an antifungal spray. So, spraying your watermelon plants with neem oil every two weeks helps to keep insects away. Plus, you’ll also prevent fungus from causing plant disease.
What Animals Will Eat Watermelon Plants?
Bugs like aphids and caterpillars love to devour watermelon leaves and fruits. Birds, squirrels, rabbits, and even coyotes all love sweet melons. Watermelon juice is known for its hydrating properties. This makes it an attractive target for parched mammals during the summer months.
- Bugs including melon aphids, caterpillars, and grasshoppers.
- Mammals such as rabbits, ground squirrels, and even coyotes.
- Certain species of birds also like melons.
These are not the only pests for watermelons, but they are the most common. Research which pests are most likely to be in your region. Knowing in advance will go a long way to helping protect your watermelon plants.
Do You Need to Protect Your Watermelon Plants?
You should absolutely protect your watermelons from pests. Watermelons are especially attractive to rodents which are known to carry plenty of diseases. You don’t want these animals crawling around your garden and risk them spreading disease.
- It is best to protect your plants from pests.
- Rodents in particular carry disease and can be harmful to your garden.
- Insects can leave behind plant debris that attracts fungal infection.
Certain insects can also promote fungal infections which can interfere with watermelon production. If you want your sweet fruit to not catch a fungal disease, it helps to keep pests away. Just be sure not to harm any animals that can help pollinate your watermelons.
How Do You Protect a Watermelon Plant from Animals?
There are various ways to protect your watermelon vines from pests. Here is a quick and dirty guide to common watermelon pests and how to deter them:
- Install fine netting on a simple hoop frame to protect watermelons from birds, insects, and small animals.
- Use fencing to protect watermelons from small animals, or to protect your melon patch from deer.
- Place melon cages over your watermelon plants to protect them from birds and animals.
- Spread a 3-inch (7.5 cm) layer of cedar or cypress mulch in your garden to naturally deter insects.
- Spray watermelon plants with insecticidal soap or neem oil to kill pest insects.
Keep in mind that it may take a combination of these solutions to protect your melons. But don’t give up hope. With these tips, you’re sure to be enjoying a pest-free melon patch in no time.