Harvesting watermelon - How do you judge if it's time?

This isn’t the greatest photo. Sorry. This is a Pee-Dee Sweet Seedless watermelon. How are you all judging whether it’s time to harvest? We had some mice nibble off the tendrils on a bunch of them. What should I be looking for?
These were started indoors and transplanted 5/15/2022. It’s listed at 72-75 days. I don’t see a yellow spot on the bottom… it’s kind of white.
I don’t want to pick too early or too late! Any advice?


I think the other indicators are dense (feels heavy) and dull bloom from wax rather than shiny rind.


Thanks. Do they always develop a yellow spot or does that depend on variety?

A yellow field spot is helpful, but is not always present in a ripe watermelon. It depends on the cultivar----and on field conditions. Sometimes, you’ll also see spots on the bottom of the melon where sugar leached out; these are often accompanied by small black dots—somewhat reminiscent of “fly speck.” These tend to be a sign of ripeness/sweetness, but are not always present. Sometimes you see both “sugar spots” and a nice yellow field spot; at other times only one of these. And at other times, neither.

The tendril nearest the fruit being completely dead and dry is usually the first indicator I look for. If they’ve been nibbled away, of course, that will make it a little more difficult. Use any that remain as indicators for other melons of roughly the same age.

Sounding watermelons can also be useful, but takes practice. Start thumping on some melons that you know aren’t ripe yet. They have a certain hard, sharp and shallow resonance about them. You want a rich, hollow resonance—something akin to smartly thumping one’s breastbone. A dull thud means overripe and mushy.

My usual procedure is to 1.) check the tendril; 2.) if dry, carefully examine for field spot; 3.) thump; and 4.) repeat steps 2 and 3 until I’ve decided to take the melon or leave it another day or two.

One can also look for subtle changes in the color/texture of the rind, and judge by weight relative to the size of a given melon. A ripe melon will also frequently bleed syrup at the stem when cut—though by that time it’s obviously too late to turn back!

Picking a melon at the right time takes practice—and even old hands don’t get it right every time. Good luck!


Great description, and I believe, with limited experience, that some of the indicators vary by genetics of the variety as well.


Solid advice. Thank you!

1 Like

Very true! Some varieties—like “Strawberry,” which is pretty much all I grow now—are very easy for me to judge using these methods. Others give me fits!

1 Like
  1. Is the tendril completely dead and black/brown? This is the most reliable indicator with all melons I’ve ever grown having a dead tendril when the melon is ripe.

  2. Does the melon have a lumpy/bumpy feel when you rub it with your hand? This is the second most reliable indicator but with a caveat that some commercially developed varieties like Dixielee stay smooth forever. Start by rubbing your hand across an unripe melon and then try one that is ripe. The difference is very distinctive but can’t usually be seen, only felt.

  3. Does it have a large ground spot either yellow or white? The larger the ground spot, the more likely the watermelon is ripe. This is one time when large size is important. The ground spot should be almost as large as the area of the watermelon touching the ground.

  4. What sound does it make when thumped? Thumping takes practice, but is a very reliable way to determine if a melon is ripe. A “muffled thud” is what you should hear from a solid thump.

  5. Does it have a “dead weight” feel when you lift it? This takes time to develop, but once you get used to hefting watermelons, you can tell when one feels dead heavy and is ripe.


Tendril method is the easiest for me as a beginner and is reliable. You can see it slowly dry out as your Mellon ripens.


So tendril B closest to the melon looks really healthy. So it appears we’re not close to ripeness. Why is tendril A so dried up?

A tendril that gets broken desiccates and dries up like that. I’ve also seen dried tendrils where a female flower formed then aborted.

Check out this thread for more disinformation.

I use the tendril method too and have found it to work most reliable on charleston grey melons.

The tendrill will start browning up on one end… and will slowly brown completely to the other end. Let it brown completely before picking.

It might take it a week from when it first shows a little brown… until it is completely brown… but wait for it.

Should be perfectly ripe when fully brown.

This CG was picked using the fully brown tendril method