Watermelon Growing


#1

I intruded on a veggie thread started by @subdood_ky_z6b , and while he was kind enough not to say anything, I felt bad but wanted to have a little watermelon discussion so I cut and pasted my original post in the other thread to here. So some parts of the following entry may not make sense since it came from a prior thread, but it should be the basis for starting a good discussion :

Watermelons are the one thing I actually consider myself an experienced grower since I’ve grown them for more than 20 years, dozens of varieties, many techniques, and so on. This year my trial watermelons are:
Congo
Klondike
Peacock
Royal Golden (2ed trial)
Mississippi Cobb Gem
Wilcon’s Sweet
Sandgeria

I said I have 4 that I always grow and that is true, but over the years that has really gone to 6. These are the watermelons that I’ve grown many many times and year in and year out find them to be the best overall watermelons you can grow. They rank highest on taste and general health and toughness of the plants- meaning they taste great and are pretty easy to grow. By all means, if you were only going to grow a few watermelons, these are the ones I would recommend.

  1. Orangeglo - This is my all time favorite watermelon and my personal favorite, hands down. It is certainly the sweetest, but the taste is also just a little bit different from other watermelons. Nothing dramatic, and hard to explain, but just a little more “fruity” and not just purely sweet (though its the sweetest). If you check most university brix tests, this one is almost always listed as the sweetest one they tested.
    There are a couple (minor) negatives which I must disclose. First and obviously, it is a yellow watermelon. Most Americans grew up knowing and eating nothing but Red watermelons- they are the epitome of summertime and American. Many, not most, people will just never warm up to and accept yellow watermelon the way they do red. If they were blinfolded they’d always pick this as the best, but since friends and family eat in large part with their eyes, yellow watermelons are often considered a gimmick or experiment or etc. A lot people just feel a good watermelon must be red. The other negative with this one is that a fair number of them will develop hollow spots in the middle, especially when they get dead ripe. Its not all that common but does happen in a fair number . It doesn’t really effect the taste but its just a little disappointing to open one of these and find a big hollow spot where you were hoping to find the sweetest, best meat- in the heart. But its not common enough to keep me from rating this my favorite watermelon. Many people here say Desert King, also a yellow, is their favorite but I haven’t tried it yet (Baker was out this year).

  2. Charleston Gray - You mentioned that your Bro in law may try them this year. I bet he will be happy. They tend to be among my first ripe watermelons, the vines are quite productive, and they are a very good tasting melon. They are among my standards for all these reasons. The only down side is that it is fairly common for them to get a soft-spot on the end of the melon as they grow and then they will start to rot from that end back toward the stem. Also, Charleston Gray tend to be a little more variable than my other standards, meaning sometimes they just aren’t all that sweet, even when grown in same garden at same time and same weather. But over all, these are just really good watermelons. They are long, non-striped. I like long melons but that is just me, I think maybe most people like round melons.

  3. Jubilee - One of the most popular watermelons, and for good reason. Its the most famous of the long, stripped melons and can get quite large (30 pounds and even more isn’t unusual, and 20-25 pounds is very common)/ I find these to be one of the most dependable watermelons, almost always turning out the same sweet, great tasting flesh. Just an all around great watermelon

  4. Crimson Sweet: Probably the single most popular watermelon in American and maybe the world, and for good reason. These are wonderful, sweet watermelons that taste great, are fairly easy to grow, and fun to eat. They are the classic round, stripped watermelon you see in the grocery store. Size can vary considerably but most of mine average around 18-20 pounds. Being round they fit in the fridge better than the longer ones.The slight downside is they can be quite seedy and the seeds are a little harder to remove than they are with long melons, but its not a big deal to me. These also have thick rinds which lets them ship well without cracking- which is proably one of the reasons they are so popular commercially.

  5. Black Diamond - This is a great tasting, easy to grow, large round watermelon. Overall it just has a great, sweet taste and is productive. They also will hold on the vine quite a bit longer than other varieties. Their appearance seems to put some people off, perhaps because for some reason you very rarely see solid, dark green melons in the grocery store. Many people consider these to be heirloom and/or “country melons”, perhaps because they are more common at farmers markets and roadside stands than at Grocery Chains. But I find them to be solid, dependable melons worthy of inclusion on any growers list. You wouldn’t be disappointed.

I answered your question so thoroughly because I’m often asked for my “favorites” list so I thought I’d list them along with an explanation for you and others who might be curious. Of course, there are scores of watermelon varieties and just like peach, plums, and apples, most gardeners have their own favorites and I some may mention them here. Even these 4 of my 5 “standards” might not even be my all-time favorite, best tasting watermelons. But they are near the top, easy to grow, and don’t have tje downside that some that I might even like better may have. For example, I think a good Georgia rattlesnake watermelon can be one of the best. But they are unpredictable, often turn out deformed, and are really hard to tell exactly when to pick. So while a perfect GA Rattlesnake might rate higher to me, its not consistent enough to be on my “standards” list.

I’d love to hear other’s view on watermelons.


#2

I only get smaller watermelons, and Yellow Doll is a favorite

How do you rate the icebox/under set?


#3

I think my favorite in that category is Blacktail Mountain. They look a lot like sugar babies, but in my experience there is a lot of difference. Sugar Babies are just soooo seedy. BM have a lot too, but not as many. I also get more melons per vine with BM and they are always sweet. I get a fair number of Sugar Babies that aren’t all that sweet.
A really fun small melon, to me, is the Golden Midget. They are just so unique and fun. They are solid yellow to orange ON THE OUTSIDE, and even the vines turn mostly yellow as the melons start to mature. All this uniqueness and still a good tasting watermelon.

WHile we’re at it, let me mention a word or two about the small watermelons that are WHITE or cream colored inside. (cream of Saskatchewan, Sugar Lump, White wander, Japanese Suika, etc). DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME. I consider them to be “Gimmick” melons. Like the aforementioned Golden Midget, they are interesting and fun because they are so unusual. The flesh is white. But the fun ends at harvest time! I’ve tried them all, and the very best white melon I’ve ever had wasn’t as good as an average red. They aren’t sweet at all, nor do they have any other interesting flavor profile. Just bland. And the seed catalog descriptions are just ridiculous. They say things like “creamy flesh” or “sugar sweet”. No. They mouth feel of the flesh is the same as regular watermelon, but without the sweetness or other taste.


#4

I really like yellow watermelons, I have never tasted an orangeglo that I know of. Maybe next year I will try a hill of them. What does the rind look like?


#5

If you try an orangeglo, you’ll be hooked. Once you go orange you’ll never go back. :slight_smile: They are long stripped. In fact, most people cannot tell them apart from jubilee. I actually run the two together sometimes, and when a friend or family member comes by and asks for one, they always are amazed that I can walk through a patch with jubilee and Orangeglo mixed together and pick out one or the other. Orangeglo are a tiny bit more “boxy” and the strip is very slightly darker.
Try one, Jason. You’ll love it.


#6

When I had more space I grew Black Diamond and Charleston Grey. I liked them both but I think Black Diamond was a bit better. It was maybe more inconsistent for me as some were definatley better than others but they were all very good. I grew Sugar Baby also and they were good. People used to rave about them. I know what you mean about them being very seedy though. I may try Blacktail Mountain and orange glo now.


#7

I think this is Orangeglo. I planted them for the first time this yr. Only one melon so far that I can see.

Here’s my favorite Star Brite:

My 2016 melon patch planted March 4.

That’s very early given we usually get a freeze in April. We did have long cool stretches including several freezing nights in late March. I protected them at night with blankets for what seemed like forever. I’ll be rewarded by 30 lb melons June to Oct.

I have to apply nitrogen all summer to keep them growing. That keeps the plants producing all summer Vines reach 20-30ft by fall.

I also protect from hail until July when hail chances drop. Any significant hail damage causes the fruit to rot before it matures. This melon was just outside the hail netting.

For me Star Brite outgrows and out yields most others. It reaches 13-14 brix. That’s all the sweetness I need. It outgrew Orangeglo by 5 fold this spring and a hybrid I planted by 20 fold.


#8

What great photos!!! And I cannot believe how big your vines and melons are already! WOW! I know you are a lot further south, but it sounds like you took some steps to get an early start even for you. And btw…I concur that the first photo is an orangeglo. Can’t be 100% but I’d bet on it.


#9

Here is a kind of funny story about melon growing. When I gre them in Austin area raccoons would devistate them if un protected. So I started cutting up big sections of shade cloth and covering each melon with it and weighing it down with bricks and rocks! The coons couldnt figure out how to pull of the rocks and get the cloth off. A few melons had scrath marks on the through the shade cloth but no covered melons were ever destroyed. I also think this method protected the melons from sunburn which would also sometime happen. It looked pretty funny to see all the melons with rockpiles around them and such.


#10

Coon have never bothered mine. They do strip off all stonefruit until I trap them. They also have never bothered my sweetcorn. In the Midwest they are trained to sweetcorn and wipe out any small patches.


#11

That is a great story! You won’t believe what eats my watermelons…COYOTES!!! I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it (many many times). They bite and scratch until they get into it, then they eat them completely down to where the only thing left is the rind. Sometimes you just find them scratched and bitten but they give up before they break into them. Some nights they will get 3-4 melons. Maybe I should try shade cloth! haha

BTW…while we’re telling funny watermelon story’s I’ll share my favorite watermelon joke:

2 teenagers kept sneaking into a farmers melon patch and sneaking off with a nice watermelon. When the farmer had enough, he decided to put an end to their raiding his patch. The next night when the boys showed up to get a watermelon, there was a large sign in front of the patch that said “WARNING: ONE OF THESE WATERMELONS HAS BEEN POISONED”. The farmer went out the next morning and was thrilled to see his plan had worked- not a single melon was missing. However, when he came around to the front of his sign, he was floored to see that one word had been crossed out and changed. The sign now said “TWO OF THESE WATERMELONS HAVE BEEN POISONED”

:slight_smile:


#12

I’m a little further south than most of you guys and have been growing melons
for many years. During that time, I’ve grown more than 50 different varieties, both regular size and ice box. Since ice box melons take as much room, I’ve long stopped growing them. This year I’ve reduced my growing area, so I’ve limited myself to my all time favorite top three and top two cantelopes.

  1. Orangeglo. This is the BEST orange melon on the market. It was developed by Willhite’s, but they have stopped offering it, and I’m afraid that seeds are going to be harder and harder to find. Their last several crops have been plagued by poor germination and a tendency to revert back to a red melon.

  2. Gold Strike. This is BEST yellow fleshed melon on the market and a truly ripe one is like eating pure nectar. I furnished watermelons for the Southeast Fig Festival last year and took gold strike for every one to eat.
    It got rave reviews.

  3. Big Stripe. This a crimson sweet type melon, but averages between 30-40 lbs. My biggest has been 67 lbs. This is the BEST red fleshed melon, I’ve eaten and it sizes down well too, unlike black diamond, which I also like. But you have to have lots of room, in order to grow a good BD. Anything less than 20 lbs. won’t ripen.
    Charleston Greys are good also, but the best CG type is Greystone. Once you’ve grown it, you’ll never go back to just CG.
    Cantelopes:

  4. Super 45. Big, VERY firm, crunchy and a taste like you’ve never thought you could find in a cantelope. I give away MANY melons and I’ve NEVER had a person that didn’t like Super 45. It was recommended to me by the melon expert at Willhite’s and boy was he right.

  5. Sugar Queen. Big, great texture and extremely sweet. Completely different melon than Super 45.

Everyone has their favorites and these are mine.


#13

Nice photos, it sure has distinctive stripes on it. My grandpa used to grow a yellow watermelon that was very good but it had a light green rind with no stripes. I should try and grow am orangeglo , it would probably be better than the ones I remember. Those look like they are a nice size. Every thing here has been slow from the cool spring. I still don’t have a tomato on my plant yet.


#14

I just love that you also rank orangeglo as one of your favorites. Maybe together we can convince everyone here to grow them. I absolutely love Gold Strike as well, so you and I are in absolute agreement. As you said, its more yellow and orangeglo is more orange (duh) but both are just beyond sweet, and the flavor profile (to me) is more than just its extreme sweetness- it is a fruity, distinctive taste that I can’t quite explain.
I’ve never grown Big Stripe, but since I so strongly agree with your other choices, I will absolutely have to try that one.

I’m glad you brought up cantaloupes. I’ve been growing them as long as watermelons and have tried many varieties, but I must be honest, I have never had the success with cantaloupes and other cantaloupe-type melons (some people get a little huffy if you don’t make the distinction between “melons” and true “cantaloupes” but around here we call most any of the soft, yellow fleshed melons “cantaloupes” even though I understand not all are. Among other problems, I get major powdery mildew issues. Especially about the time they start to ripen, my vines very often die about a week or less from when the cantaloupes would be ripe- its very frustrating! I’ve used sprays like immunox and it helps but doesn’t stop it. I also pick quite a few canteloupes that just aren’t sweet. Even if I grow the same variety in same garden- one year they are great and the next year they aren’t.

BTW…one of my most successful ones are called “Hales best 45 melon”. Now with an unusual number like 45, that must be either the same or a close relative of your beloved “Super 45”. Do you know?

Finally, I must say that I have even worse luck with Honey Dews. Tried many of them with very little success. Not sure why. SO I better stick with watermelons. There are few things I enjoy more than a perfect cantaloupe so I’ll always grow them, but my success rate doesn’t entitle me to offer advice to anyone the way I can with watermelon!


#15

Coyotes oh wow it always something isn’t it! That joke is great also.


#16

Dessert king watermelons are my favorites! They are occasionally pink but most are yellow. Turtles eat a hole in the side of my cantaloupe every time I try and grow them so occasionally I find scratches on my watermelons.


#17

I’ve grown Hales Best and while it is very good, the two that I mentioned
are much better. The only problem I have with growing cantelopes, is deciding
when to pick them. You have to watch them every day, because they can
become over ripe and start to rot over night. I’ve grown honeydews and like
them very much, but they take an extremely long time to ripen, and I always
end up picking them too soon. Earlidew is never early, and how it got that name, I’ll never know.


#18

The place I got mine had Hales Best, which I usually grow, and also had Hales Best 45. Since they were different and one had the 45 I thought maybe it was similar to yours. WHo knows. And I think you hit the nail on the head with honey dews…I always feel like they aren’t ripe no matter when I pick them.


#19

The marketing department


#20

I’m the opposite, my watermelon growing has met with so little success I gave up on them and concentrate on the cucumis melons, which do well here, as long as the mildews and cucumber beetles don’t get them first