Melons for the North

I am obsessively debating over which 6 varieties of melons I will grow in Northeastern Pennsylvania this year.

Last year, I planted seeds on May 27 when the cold rains finally ended here, and the summer heat of 2019 finally arrived late.

I grew 3 varieties: Blacktail Mountain (picked Aug 22), Crimson Sweet (picked Aug 31), and Georgia Rattlesnake… Peculiarly, the first two never sweetened up for me (maybe picked too early, but I was careful w/ checking dates, tendrils, bellies, and thumps). However, I DID get a few OUTSTANDING Georgia Rattlesnakes which came in beginning Sept 3 and ate well (stored in fridge) through Sept 29.

It appears spring is coming early this year, and summer might also arrive early.

I am keenly interested in spreading out the season, and finding melons that are truly early-season that will size up and sweeten up without having to wait the standard 3 months. I am hoping the “early-season” melon isn’t a myth or white whale.

I like CRISP juicy sweet watermelons. I also like luscious cantaloupes (muskmelons) with flesh that isn’t too hard. I want to spread out the season (get some earlies); grow at least one cantaloupe; and grow some watermelons with novelty flesh or rind colors (IF they taste good and IF they can succeed in my conditions). I also like the idea of finding a muskmelon that is known to be ripe when it easily slips or detaches itself from the vine (I have heard that some varieties do this; eliminating the guesswork of when to pick).

NORTHERN GROWERS… BACKYARD GROWERS… THOSE OF YOU GROWING MELONS IN LESS THAN-IDEAL CONDITIONS— PLEASE SHARE your successes and shortcomings growing the following (or other melons) listed below with days to ripening (estimated after looking at various research) and possible sources (I am leaning towards those marked with an asterisk*):

Katanya 65 BakerCreek
Golden Midget 70 BakerCreek (seedy?)
Blacktail Mountain 73 Baker
Halona Cantaloupe 74
Bozeman 75 BakerCreek
Model Melon Honeydew 75 BakerCreek
New Queen yellow 75 crisp in Ohio
*Diana 76 Fedco
Gold Strike yellow 80 Willhite
Crest 80 Hollar or Twilley (CG type)
Ali Baba 80 BakerCreek
Sweet Dakota Rose 82 Baker or Fedco
*Greystone 84 HollarSeeds (CG type)
Revolution 84 Twilley (ate in central PA; delicious)
Charleston Grey 87 DutchPlantFarm or BakerCreek
Desert King 85 Willhite
Orange Glo 85 BakerCreek (not crisp enough?)
*Klondike Striped Blue Ribbon 85 Baker (rave reviews)
Peddler 85 BakerCreek
Crimson Sweet 85 DutchPlantFarm or Willhite or Hollar
Pride of Wisconsin Cantaloupe 88 Baker; Fedco
*GA Rattlesnake 90 Baker (my only success; try again)
Moon & Stars (Red) 95 BakerCreek
Super 45 cantaloupe ripe when?
Sugar Queen cantaloupe ripe when?

Northern Growers- Please share your input. Thanks!

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Of all the melons I’ve grown, there are a few that come back year to year.

Luscious Golden - medium size gold flesh with excellent flavor and texture

Ledmon - One of the best pink flesh melons I’ve ever grown

Yellow Moon & Stars - This is arguably the best watermelon I’ve ever eaten with outstanding flavor

Halberts Honey gets honorable mention, in a good year, it will edge out most others.

Wibb is another that in a good year can be exceptional

You might look up the Bradford wateremelon.

Check out Sandhill Preservation for some seed options. https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/watermelon

Alvaro (charentais) has done well for me. It is an easy melon to judge when ripe, because it changes color from gray/green to tan/yellow in 2 days when ripe. Tastes like a really good, melting cantaloupe. Barely bigger than a softball.

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Tom,

I saw in another post you’ve also tried to grow the Dove melon. How do you rate its flavor? What date did it ripen? Did it slip off the vine? Did it get soft and juicy? Was it sweet or musky? Thanks.

Black tail mountain is the only watermelon I have ever had success with, though I find it hard to tell when they are ripe.

My daughter grew Ginger’s Pride melon from Baker Creek one year and it did pretty well. I was away for a month and when I got back they were overripe and partially rotten but I still ate the good parts and they were very tasty. They didn’t get anywhere near as big as they look in the catalog though.

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@Matt_in_Pennsylvania,
Just saw this thread today.

I am new to watermelons. This is my 4 th year growing them. I counted days from fruit set, not from planting. All approximation
We like:
Hime Kansen, (small like Blacktail Mountain) 39-40 days
Crimson Sweet 55 days (long picking window)
Charleston Gray 50 days (long picking window)
Orangeglo 40 days (very narrow picking window)

OG is difficult to pick at the right time.
The first three have been very good. We will grow them again. We prefer Hime Kansen to Blacktail Mountain.

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I’ve also had good luck with both OrangeGlo and Crimson Sweet here in CT. The first couple years I grew Crimson Sweet I waited until one exploded in the garden before picking the others. I know this isn’t the smart way to do things, but it’s what I did. When picking that late middle was sometimes mush but the rest was still fine. After trying OrangeGlo last year I don’t think I’ll bother with Crimson Sweet again. It’s just so much better.

I have to try Charleston Gray. I got CG seeds on clearance a few years ago and still haven’t tried any.

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Different strokes for different folks. We prefer Crimson Sweet to Orangeglo. They taste somewhat different. CS is also easier to grow.

With a narrow picking window, OG is harder to pick correctly. Crimson Sweet has long picking window so getting it right is much easier. Thanks @thecityman who recommended both Crimson Sweet and Charleston Gray. Both are very productive, too.

This year, I will try Gold Strike. @SMC_zone6 recommended it. It could be a better version of orange watermelon for my zone.

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@SMC_zone6
@RobThomas
@SpudDaddy
@thecityman
@Antmary
@ddavis
@barry

Hi guys,

I see you once tried Ali Baba. How many melons did the vine produce? When did you plant? What date did they ripen? How would you rate the flavor? Were any of them sweet, crisp, and juicy? Rumor is they only produce one row of seeds, which are easy to scoop out. Was that your experience? Thanks.

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I neglected my melon patch that year and didn’t get any. It’s one I’d like to try again in the future though.

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I see that I posted about those melons almost five years ago. Unfortunately, I can’t remember anything about them!

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I planted mine in late march and got my first melons around early to mid july. Ali baba was a little earlier than jubilee improved, big stripe, and orangeglow although there was plenty of overlap. It was a nice crispy melon with decent sweetness. Not super sweet at all, but plenty sweet enough make us enjoy them very much. Really none of my melons have gotten super sweet. The one row of seeds thing sounds like a stretch to me, but it was probably easier to cut out the seeds than the other varieties i grow, definitely less seedy and better firmness than orangeglow. I had better luck judging ripeness on ali baba than the others, or maybe it just holds better in the field providing a longer window of opportunity. Its worth growing and i liked it a lot, but not a remarkable melon in my estimation. Just very solid and reliable. I never really kept track of the number of melons i got. It was probably something like 2 or 3 nice ones per plant. I ran out of seed and am working through the other seeds that i have for now.

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I used to grow Yellow Doll (watermelon) with success in Z4A.

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William,

That is impressive for Zone 4a.

How would you rate Yellow Doll’s flavor? Was it crisp and sweet? Thanks.

UPDATE!

I am fairly certain I have settled on growing the following 6 varieties this year. I will post more information after I have completed my research:

Aspire 60 Willhite

Dove 70 WeSeeds

Mini Love 75 WeSeeds

Gold Strike 80 Willhite

Charlene 85 Willhite

Georgia Rattlesnake 90 (seeds from last year’s fruit)

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How to tell when a watermelon is ripe:

Large ground spot whatever the color
Lumpy/bumpy feel to the surface of the melon (excepting varieties bred for smooth surface)
The tendril that grows next to the stem of the watermelon should be completely dry and brown
If you thump it with your finger, you should hear a muffled thump kind of like a bass drum
The watermelon should look plump and feel heavy by comparison with either under or over ripe melons
Some people can smell the stem end of a ripe melon to detect over/under ripe

One final note regarding seedless watermelons, a watermelon produces sugar in the tissue around seed. The more seed, generally the sweeter the melon will get. For this reason, it is very difficult to get a seedless watermelon to develop the sweetness that is typical of a seeded variety. There is a genetic component to sweetness which just means that some varieties get much sweeter than others. Also, it is normal for seedless watermelons to develop a few small seed under some conditions. These seed usually won’t grow, but if they do, they do not usually produce watermelons like the parent.

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What does the watermelon smell like when its over or under ripe at the stem?

Yes - the flesh was sweet and crisp with a flavor I would rate better than most store bought watermelons. I may have to grow it again!

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No! On second thought, I will swap out Klondike for Charlene. I want to try for the CRISPEST watermelon for that slot this year. The final tally is:

Aspire 60 Willhite

Dove 70 WeSeeds

Mini Love 75 WeSeeds

Gold Strike 80 Willhite

Klondike Striped Blue Ribbon 85 Victory

Georgia Rattlesnake 90 (seeds from last year’s fruit)

Not sure if Diana from Fedco is the same as Diana 76, but I grew that last summer in upstate NY and I didn’t care for the flavor. I won’t be growing it again, but again these are my conditions.

I liked Blacktail Mountain and August Ambrosia did really well here, available from Fruition seeds. These two are just as easy to grow as Sugar Baby and taste much better, I’ll be growing both every year from now, as tasty reliables :slight_smile: And I don’t usually have luck growing tasty watermelons ANY year, so that says something.