Zayn Malik Managed to Grow 40lb Watermelons on his Pennsylvania Farm — Here's How

The One Direction star has proved himself a dab hand at gardening with his prize-worthy watermelons

A headshot of Zayn Malik on a red carpet wearing a pink jacket and looking off-camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Zayn Malik might seem like an unlikely contender for Pennsylvania's watermelon growing contest, but he'd actually be a likely winner. The One Direction star put down roots in the keystone state after the birth of his daughter, settling down on a sprawling ranch to offer her a more secluded life away from the cameras. It's here that he discovered a love for gardening and - it seems - a hidden talent for growing giant watermelons.

Appearing on the hit YouTube series Hot Ones earlier this week, the singer opened up about life on his farm and his foray into vegetable gardening. Besides an impressively huge yield of scotch bonnets and Carolina reaper chillis, he told host Sean Evans that his biggest success to date was his prize-worthy watermelons.

When asked about his biggest gardening achievement, he said: 'I grew some of the biggest watermelons I’ve ever seen. They were huge like 40lb watermelons.' The secret? ‘It’s the soil, plus the weather is ideal, and the rains really good,' he told host Sean. 'It’s really humid out there in the summer.'

We'd all like to think we're capable of growing juicy fruits that are just as ginormous. And, as it happens, the watermelon planting season is just around the corner, offering the perfect opportunity to give it a try (if you're up for a challenge). Here, we ask some gardening experts how to fill your modern vegetable garden with a bountiful harvest of juicy watermelons this summer. If you want to grow impressive fruits that give Zayn a run for his money, here's what you need to know.

1. Choose the right variety

A pile of large watermelons growing outside on the vine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to grow larger than normal fruit or veg of any kind in your backyard, the first step is choosing the right variety. Where super-sized watermelons are in question, professional gardener Lina Cowley, owner of Trimmed Roots, suggests Carolina Cross watermelons. 'This heirloom variety produces the true giants of the watermelon world,' she says.

'When conditions are ideal, Carolina Cross can yield massive oblong fruits weighing up to an astonishing 200 lbs.,' Lina goes on to explain. 'The rind has a light green base with darker stripes, making for an eye-catching appearance, but the real prize lies within - the flesh is a brilliant crimson red, incredibly crisp and bursting with sweet, sugary flavor.'

According to gardener Brandon Longo, this particular variety holds the record for the largest watermelon ever grown. 'Another variety to consider is the Florida Giant, which can produce hefty watermelons as well,' he adds. 'These varieties have the genetic potential to grow oversized fruits, given the right conditions.'

2. Offer the right conditions

Speaking of those all-important conditions, there are a few crucial factors you'll need to provide to grow large, succulent watermelons like Zayn. 'To grow these colossal melons, you'll need plenty of space, nutrients, and a very long, hot summer season,' says Lina.

While the weather is one element that's out of anyone's control, there are plenty of things you can do to boost the growth of your melons. 'Amend your soil generously with aged compost or manure, and keep the plants well-watered, aiming for one inch per week,' says Lina. 'With their rambling vines, give each hill a 6-8 foot diameter to sprawl, and protect developing fruits by placing them on boards or mulch to prevent rotting.'

'Watermelons also crave sunlight which means at least six hours of direct, unobstructed sunlight per day,' adds Brandon. 'They also love heat, with temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit being ideal for growth.' Finally, Lina emphasizes the importance of consistent moisture for optimal growth. 'It's a good idea to use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to keep the soil evenly moist,' she advises. It's also wise to take note of the best time to water your garden if you want to retain moisture for as long as possible.

3. Avoid harvesting prematurely

A large watermelon growing outside on the vine

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Patience is a virtue, especially within the world of watermelons. 'They need a long growing season (around 80-90 days), so timing is crucial to ensure they can reach their full potential before the first fall frost,' says Brandon.

The art of growing these large fruits is a fine balance between harvesting too early - meaning they won't reach their full size - and harvesting too late, by which point they're over-ripe. Generally, you'll know your melons are ready when the underside turns from pale green to buttery yellow or cream.

Besides harvesting, you'll also need to choose the ideal time to plant for optimal growth. 'In most climates, you'll want to directly sow watermelon seeds once the soil has warmed to at least 70°F, usually 1-2 weeks after your last spring frost date,' Lina explains. 'In cooler regions, start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks early for transplanting.'

4. Prune, fertilize, and watch out for pests

Lastly, as is the case with growing any of your own produce, you'll need to prune, fertilize, and keep an eye out for pests and diseases if you want melons as large as Zayn's. To help you grow prize-worthy melons, Brandon recommends selective pruning throughout the season. 'As the vines grow, you might want to prune away smaller fruits to focus the plant's energy on the larger ones,' he says. ' Large watermelons can also stress the vines so providing support, like a sling made from fabric or netting, can prevent them from pulling off.'

To grow the greatest melons in your neighborhood, you'll also need to give your plants plenty of room. 'Space plants 3-5 feet apart in rows 6-8 feet apart to allow sprawling vines,' says Lina. 'Place a thick mulch-like straw under developing fruits to prevent rotting and withhold water in the final weeks to concentrate sugars and boost sweetness.'

For watermelons that look like they'd win a contest, you'll want to feed them with a balanced fertilizer, but be cautious with nitrogen. 'Too much can promote vine growth at the expense of fruit size,' Brandon points out. 'By following these tips and paying close attention to the needs of your watermelon plants, you'll increase your chances of growing a giant watermelon that could rival Zayn Malik's impressive 40-pounders!'

Lilith Hudson
News Editor

Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.