• 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Citation'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Congo'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Dulce Fantasia'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon  'Faerie' AAS 2012 Winner
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Ferris Wheel'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Golden Crown' AAS 1991 Winner
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Golden Midget'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Imperial F1'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Jamboree'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Moon and Stars'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Moon and Stars Yellow'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'New Hampshire Midget' AAS 1951 Gold Medal
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'New Queen AAS 1999 Winner'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Orchid Sweet'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Quetzali'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sangria'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Shiny Boy' AAS 2010 Winner
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Smile'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Splendor F1'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sugar Baby'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Amigo'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Beauty' AAS 2004 Winner
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Beauty' AAS 2004 Winner
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Favorite' AAS 1978 Winner
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Harmony'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Tiger Doll F1'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Top Gun'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Triple Gold F1'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Triple Play F1'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Triple Score F1'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Yellow Baby' AAS 1975 Winner'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Yellow Buttercup'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Yellow Doll'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Yellow Doll'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Grandeur F1'
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
  • 2013: Year of the Watermelon
    Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.
 
2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Citation'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Congo'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Dulce Fantasia'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Faerie' AAS 2012 Winner

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Ferris Wheel'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Golden Crown' AAS 1991 Winner

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Golden Midget'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Imperial F1'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Jamboree'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Moon and Stars'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Moon and Stars Yellow'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'New Hampshire Midget' AAS 1951 Gold Medal

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'New Queen AAS 1999 Winner'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Orchid Sweet'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Quetzali'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sangria'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Shiny Boy' AAS 2010 Winner

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Smile'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Splendor F1'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sugar Baby'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Amigo'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Beauty' AAS 2004 Winner

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Beauty' AAS 2004 Winner

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Favorite' AAS 1978 Winner

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Sweet Harmony'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Tiger Doll F1'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Top Gun'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Triple Gold F1'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Triple Play F1'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Triple Score F1'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Yellow Baby' AAS 1975 Winner'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Yellow Buttercup'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Yellow Doll'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Yellow Doll'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon 'Grandeur F1'

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2013: Year of the Watermelon

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2013: Year of the Watermelon

Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits...

2013: Year of the Watermelon

Not only are watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) delicious, they are one of the largest edible fruits grown in the U.S. It’s also one of the most useful fruits as every part is edible: the flesh can be eaten as is, the rind can be pickled and the seed can be roasted or ground into other ingredients.

Today’s watermelons can be classified as picnic, icebox, seedless and yellow/orange flesh types. Picnic types are the larger melons that can be round, long or oblong and are the largest ranging from 15-50 pounds. Icebox melons are smaller, round types that range from 5-15 pounds. Seedless are mid-sized, oblong or round and range from 10-20 pounds.

In the early 1990’s seedless or triploid melons came onto the market and it’s estimated that 50% of all watermelons grown commercially are now seedless. For the home gardener, seeds of a huge variety of heirloom and hybrids are readily available, allowing you to choose from rind colorations that range from light green to dark green and can be striped, solid or mottled. Flesh color ranges from almost white to bright red.

PLANT HISTORY

Watermelons probably originated almost 5,000 years ago in the Kalahari Desert of Africa where botanists have found its wild ancestors still growing. Watermelons migrated north through Egypt and during the Roman era they were cultivated and prized. Hieroglyphics on the walls of Egyptian buildings tell stories of their harvest. Watermelons were buried in the tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife. Melons spread across the European continent and particularly flourished in the warmer Mediterranean areas. Watermelons were documented in 1629 in Massachusetts. During the Civil War, the Confederate Army boiled watermelon to make molasses for cooking. It is in the Southern states such as the Carolinas and Georgia where watermelons flourished as commercial crops. Numerous varieties were developed and variations of flesh color surfaced.

BENEFITS AND USE

Watermelon is considered both a fruit and a vegetable with sweet juicy flesh. It is used as a sweet enhancer or a dessert after everyday meals. It is also made into juices with different combinations to add that zing and flavor. In China, the watermelon is stir-fried, stewed and often pickled. In Russia, the watermelon is pickled and eaten.

During the summer, watermelon becomes the all favorite and a “must have" that is known to quench the summer thirst as well as a sure shot way to beat the summer heat. Watermelon is fat free and rich in vitamins A, B6 and C.

WATERMELON HEALTH BENEFITS

 According to the Western Watermelon Association, the vegetable watermelon is fat free, nutritionally low in calories (an ideal diet food), and is a good source of energy. Watermelon is perhaps the most refreshing fruit of all because it consists of 92% water making it a great thirst quencher. Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin C, beta-carotene and lycopene as well as a good source of vitamins B1 and B6, pantothenic acid, biotin, magnesium, potassium and dietary fiber.

Watermelon is a rich natural source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce the risks of the diseases related to oxidative stress. Dietary consumption of the carotenoid lycopene has been associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. Research indicates that lycopene is helpful in reducing the risk of prostate, breast and endometrial cancers, as well as lung and colon cancer, heart disease and asthma.

Eating watermelon can protect against the negative effects of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is just a fancy word for loss of vision. It fights the age-related symptoms of vision loss. Studies show that eating watermelon is actually healthier for your eyes than eating carrots. As an immune system booster watermelon is a rich source of citrulline, an amino acid that can be metabolized to arginine, an essential amino acid.*

*This information is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended to provide medical advice.

CAN I GROW WATERMELONS?

Any gardener can plant a hill or two of watermelons as they are easy to grow and, oh so good on sultry summer afternoons. Watermelons can be grown in all parts of the country but grow best in warmer temps with a long growing season. For those gardeners in northern or cooler climates, choose an earlier-to-mature variety like AAS Winners ‘Shiny Boy’, ‘Golden Crown’ or ‘Yellow Baby’ that all mature in 70-75 days.

For a smaller variety that will fit in the refrigerator easily, try one such as the eight-pound 'Seedless Sugar Baby Hybrid'. Or go for the glory and sow watermelon seeds for an extra-large whopper like the 30-35 pound 1950 AAS Winner 'Congo.' Heirloom fans will want to plant 'Moon and Stars,' introduced in 1926, with a deep green skin speckled with tiny yellow stars and quarter-size moons.

GROWING WATERMELONS

Watermelons need a long growing season (at least 80 days) and warm ground for seeds to germinate and grow. Soil should be 70 degrees F or warmer at planting time. Sow seeds 1 inch deep and keep well watered until germination. To get a jumpstart in cooler climates, cover the planting area with black plastic to warm up the soil or start seeds indoors two or three weeks before they are to be set out in the garden. Don't start seeds any earlier, because large watermelon seedlings transplant poorly. Plant 3 seeds ½ inch deep in 3- or 4-inch peat pots or large cell packs and thin to the best plant. Place in a sunny south-facing window or under lights to germinate. Make sure the area is warm both day and night, ideally 80 degrees F. Use a seedling heat mat if necessary.

CULTIVATION

Watermelon is a space hog; vines can reach 20 feet in length. So plant where there is plenty of open ground. Amend soil with organic matter such as compost or composted cow manure. Add a balanced fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Sow 8 to 10 watermelon seeds in a hill, and push seeds 1 inch into the soil. Space hills 3 to 4 feet apart, with at least 8 feet between rows. Thin plants to the 3 best in each hill. Keep soil free of weeds by shallow hoeing or with a layer of mulch.

Luckily, breeders have been working on varieties that still produce a large number of fruits on shorter vines like ‘Sugar Baby’ with vines just 3 1/2 feet long or the newest AAS Winner ‘Faerie’ with vines just 10 feet long.

Watermelon plants have moderately deep roots and watering is seldom necessary unless the weather turns dry for a prolonged period. When vines begin to ramble, side dress plants with half a cup of balanced fertilizer (5-10-5). A third application of fertilizer should be made when melons are set. Withhold water as melons start to mature to intensify sweetness.

The fruit and the vine are susceptible to frost so plan accordingly. Expect one or two melons from each plant but seedless varieties can produce more.

NOTES ABOUT POLLINATION

Watermelons do require pollination and this is almost always done by insects, more specifically, honey bees. So make sure you have a bee-friendly garden so they are welcome to do the work for you. Should you decide to hand-pollinate your watermelons, read up carefully on how to identify the male flowers vs. the female flowers and how best to do the hand pollination.

WATERMELON GROWING TIPS

When vines begin to ramble, give watermelon plants a dose of boron to help them produce sweeter fruits. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of household borax in 1 gallon of water and spray foliage and the base of the plants. If your growing season is less than 90 days, start watermelon seeds indoors and use black plastic mulch.

INSECTS & DISEASES

Cucumber beetles and vine borers are the worst watermelon pests. Apply an insecticide such as Sevin or use Bacillus thuringensis for organic control. Floating row covers work, too, but they should be removed when watermelon plants start to bloom, at which time pollinating insects must be allowed to reach the flowers.

WATERMELON HARVEST TIPS

Determining when a watermelon is perfectly ripe is not easy. One way favored by many gardeners is to watch the tendril closest to the melon stem. A tendril is a modified leaf or stem in the shape of slender, spirally coil. When it turns brown and dries up, the melon is ripe. The trouble with this method is that with some watermelon varieties, the tendril dries and drops off more than a week before the melon is fully ripe. Slapping and tapping or thumping are other common methods used to determine ripeness, but they are not always accurate. If using this readiness test, listen for a soft hollow sound to indicate maturity.

Watermelons mature rapidly during hot weather. Most are ripe about 32 days after blooming.

The surest sign of ripeness in most watermelon varieties is the color of the bottom spot where the melon sits on the ground. As the watermelon matures, the spot turns from almost white to a rich yellow. Also, all watermelons lose the powdery or slick appearance on the top and take on a dull look when fully ripe.

Watermelons should be handled carefully: avoid rolling, bumping or dropping to prevent internal bruising of the flesh.

After picking a watermelon, chill it before serving for best flavor. Some folks sprinkle a little salt on their watermelon, but it's probably thought of as a cure for poor tasting store-bought melons and certainly not necessary for home-grown. If the seeds present a problem, grow seedless watermelon varieties like 'Seedless Sugar Baby Hybrid' or 'Orange Sunshine Hybrid'. A cut melon, if covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, will keep several days in the refrigerator.

Store uncut watermelons at temperatures ranging from 60 to 70 degrees F. Temperatures below 50 degrees or above 90 degrees for extended periods will increase flesh deterioration.

CONCLUSION

Last but not least, enjoy your watermelon harvest! Watermelon chunks can be frozen to use in watermelon slushes or fruit smoothies. Watermelon sorbet or granita stays fresh in the freezer for up to three months but the most common way to enjoy watermelon is while they are fresh, sweet, crisp and cool.

For More Information

Please consider our NGB member companies as authoritative sources for information. Click on direct links to their websites by selecting Member Info from the menú on the left side of our home page. Gardeners looking for seed sources can use the “Shop Our Members” feature at the top of our home page.

National Garden Bureau would like to thank W. Atlee Burpee for providing the majority of the content in this article.

This Fact Sheet is provided as a service from the National Garden Bureau. The use of this information is unrestricted. Please credit the National Garden Bureau as the source.