My little girls with some melons that we picked Tuesday night, Jade Star is the winner on taste without a doubt!
Here are a 12-lb. Northern Lights (left), a 15.5-lb. Strawberry, a little Kaho (forgot to weigh it), and a Zatta di Massa.
This is my sixth Strawberry this year—and several more are waiting. And while I haven’t grown anything approaching the size of my 42-pound champ last year, they’ve all been good to excellent. They’re better, probably more consistent, than Crimson Sweet—and are probably my favorite melon. Janosik, all three or so of which I’ve tried have been top-notch, is gaining on Strawberry, though. Northern Lights is a productive and early red-fleshed melon, Russian I believe. All have been decent—but don’t hold a candle to Strawberry. Yarilo (not pictured) looks—and tastes—like a somewhat bigger version of Northern Lights, and was not very productive this year. Kaho is a neat little (very little) melon with pretty orange flesh—and they’ve ranged from okay to very sweet; all have been extremely seedy.
A cucurbitaceous miracle! Zatta di Massa managed to ripen two melons despite the wilt, and Kajari several more. The first Zatta was excellent, fragrant and sweet; the second only good, because it lacked a bit of the first’s sweetness. Here’s the interior:
It’s worth growing—and fighting the cucumber beetles over. My favorite of the two, however, was Kajari, which was consistently sweet and delectable. Guess I’m just more of a honeydew guy.
@MNmelons, I was admiring your splendid Janosiks again (I’m becoming a Janosik-fiend!) and it struck me: you’re growing all these fine melons in 3b! How do you do it in such a short growing season?
I start them in peat pots May 15 th or so and they come up before June 1st at which time I plant them in the garden in black plastic mulch. The black plastic helps all season. It makes the temp around the entire plant at least ten degrees warmer on a sunny day. You can feel the warmth just walking near it. I also get out in the patch and hand pollinate as soon as female flowers appear. This gets me earlier melons. It takes awhile for the bees to find them and often aren’t enough bees to pollinate them properly. This year we had a cold June and still started getting fully ripe melons about 80 days after transplant. My first was a Crimson Sweet. Couldn’t believe it cuz they set later and are 85 day rated. First time growing them and they are my second favorite after Janosik. We eat a watermelon every night and will be for 20 days or more yet hopefully.I’ve wanted to post more here but was only allowed 3 posts. Also have Athena cantaloupe getting close. About 40 of them. Them lime green melons are Bingo. They got to 27 pounds. Good tasting but not as good as Crimson Sweet. I have some of those that should hit 25. Biggest Janosik was 19 so far. Last year several went over 25. Forgot to say earlier the only fertilizer these get is cow manure dug under previous fall. And for foliage diseases I am using Biosafe organic products. Works very well against Anthracnose, alternaria and others. And they’ll only let me show you one pic so here’s the 27 pound Bingo melon.
This is something that has always wracked my brain. Is the harvest days from:
- Planting the seeds directly
- Planting my seedling ( I started it in Feb)
- When the melon was clearly pollinated successfully?
I ask because I have been following this thread as well as researching and most sites say from planting but I thought I saw on a post in this thread something referencing “Fruit Set”’ which I gathered to mean successful pollination.
I suppose this applies to all things yummy from the garden.
From what I understand it’s the day the melon plant goes into the ground, I only use transplants so not sure if it’s the same if planting by seed.
I have had amazing success harvesting with the tendril method, but I noticed the tendrils are only green on unripe melons on my earliest varieties. My larger, later maturity melons already have shriveled tendrils, every single one of them. Anybody know why this is the case only for the larger varieties? I have no way to know now exactly when the big ones will be perfectly ripe. Some disease is beginning to sweep through the patch and that could possibly be why, but the vines aren’t dying yet at all, just discolored foliage.
The seed packet will state a gemination to harvest time of something like 85 days. This is a tricky number because if you have a lengthy season, a watermelon vine can produce melons over a long period of time. Think of the days to harvest number on the seed packet as “typical days to earliest harvest” - the vine will continue to produce melons from that point on. This is why that number does not work so well for predicting peak ripeness.
A foolproof method that I have used for decades is keeping track of number of days from successful fruit set. This time varies by variety, but once you get it dialed in, the melons are always perfect. If you only have a few vines, it’s not too tough to keep track of all the fruits. The method is too time intensive to be employed on a large scale.
I finally had a successful muskmelon 120 days after starting the seed indoors. It was an 80-day melon. Now at 140 days a few more are starting to ripen. It looks like there will be a generous crop, which is a first for me. Usually the vines die of wilt before they produce anything. I just planted these to use up some old seed. I have several varieties.
So I’ve tried all the melons I’ve planted this year now.
Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte’s vine dried out in mid-August and critters nibbled on most of the fruits before they fully ripened. Got one that was way above the ground that still had a couple bites on it. It was very tasty. Compared to grocery store muskmelons it’s in a different league. Probably wouldn’t grow it again.
Crimson Sweet watermelon was solid like every year. Got one that was just under 30lbs. That one lacked a little flavor because I picked it the day after we got ~3 inches of rain. But the others are good as usual.
Today I picked my first Orangeglo watermelon. This one wowed me, the wife and the neighbors. I can see why this excites you all. I’ll be growing this one every year. I might stop planting the Crimson Sweet to make space for more Orangeglo.
With all due respect to Yankees, permit me once again to quote from Mark Twain’s protagonist in The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, in full:
“The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world’s luxuries, king by grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took: we know it because she repented.”
Sorry it took a while for me (consulting with my husband) to compose my thoughts.
What we’ve read or been told:
@SpokanePeach, among others, counts days from fruit set
@thecityman/Kevin and others here and on the Internet use combination of experience/sensory input to judge the ripeness of melons:
- Dead tendril
- Appearance of the “field spot”
- Less shiny look to the melon
- Hollow sound when thumped
- Melon growth slows/stops
The length of the “window of ripeness”(i.e. when a melon is “ripe”) depends on the variety.
As to what we do? Some combination of all:
- The days listed on the package is assumed to be the minimum time under ideal growing conditions (which we likely don’t have)
- We watch for dead tendrils, check the field spot, no change in size and rap melons
- We also try to label the estimated date of fruit set and use data from previous years like SpokanePeach
What we know:
All seed packets (except one) that we have purchased give days from transplant or emergence, if direct sown
Hime Kansen from Kitazawa Seed Co., says 30-40 days from fruit set, giving some credence to the counting days method.
What we have learned:
Sacrificing a melon to judge ripeness is difficult since we have so few
Spotting dead tendrils and yellow field spots is easy, unless of course, there is no field spot (OrangeGlo and Hime Kansen, this year) or it seems to remain white (Charleston Gray, this year)
Listening for a “hollow” sound when thumping seems to take some experience
Determining whether the melon is less shiny also takes experience (which we don’t have yet) and is complicated by the amount of Surround that gets sprayed around here
Counting days from fruit set isn’t always easy as our patch is compact (i.e. lots of leaves in a small area) and we occasionally miss seeing a melon until it’s several days along
We have no historical data on new varieties that we try, eliminating day counting as an option
What we have experienced:
We have picked underripe, ripe and overripe watermelons, as expected
We have picked melons that we felt were ripe (crisp flesh, decent sugar, good weight, reasonable rind thickness, etc) before the tendril died. Could they have improved if left on the vine? Possibly
There seems to be some evidence that counting days from fruit set may be relevant. For example, our OrangeGlo melons from last year seemed best when picked approximately 36-38 days from fruit set. This year, one that we picked at 38-39 days was crisp and juicy, but a 41-day melon was somewhat hollow and mushy in the middle and a 42 day melon hollow but still firm. Similarly, last year, Hime Kansen melons ripe at around 32-35 days, yet mushy at 38 last year. This year 35 and 39 days were excellent. We don’t believe we’ve waited for a dead tendril on a Hime Kansen, yet.
What we think:
A ripe homegrown melon is far, far better than any of the store-bought melons we can get around here
Growing watermelons is fun because they increase in size so quickly
Neighbors and people who walk around our street get to watch them grow as our melons are in the front yard
It’s hard to wait because we don’t want overripe melons.
Amen and ditto to all of what you say.
Someone I know who grew up on a watermelon farm in NC was telling me that the best way to tell ripeness is by the stem, he said it changes color when sap is no longer flowing. I can’t really figure it out, and he couldn’t say what that color change was… lighter, darker, yellow etc. I wondered if it was just for one variety. But he seemed sure of himself. I gave him permission to go pick a couple to jog his memory and will find out if he knows what he is talking about!
I always look at the tendrils first; if vines are stressed—or if it’s late in the season and they’re in decline—this can sometimes be misleading. Then I look at the bottom—which, as has already been mentioned, doesn’t work all the time or with all cultivars; sometimes, field spots won’t form at all if a melon is growing on plastic or another type of surface. While checking for field spots I also look for little black dots on the bottom of the melon; I’ve always call them “sugar spots”—though I assume they’re actually fungal growth—, and they often seem to be an indicator of ripeness. I then sound the melon a few times. I like to think my ears are getting better after years of doing this; but they fool me now and again. Small melons or very thin rinds can kind of throw me off: Kaho fits both descriptions and is hard for me to sound out for this reason. Anyway, after a good round of thumping, I stand around indecisively, then reexamine the tendrils and bottom and sound the melon a few more times. Sometimes, after more examination and consideration and handwringing, I pick it; sometimes, I’m even right. I find that those that leak a lot of “sugar” from the stem after picking are often good; of course, by the time you cut it, there’s no turning back.
@hoosierbanana, l definitely want to hear more about that guy’s stem method!
Lol, thanks…that was funny, good way to start the day.
In your post from back a ways " fighting the cucumber beetles over" caught my attention. I had to look them up. I have had a few in the past but never that many. Up until this year for the most part I only have grown cucumbers and zucchini. But this year I also have butternut and a couple types of pie pumpkins growing. I certainly see a significant increase in the cucumber beetles. I always thought they were a potato beetle in the past. I haven’t had bacterial wilt yet but see the cucumber beetle can vector it. So, what do you do to “fight” them? I certainly don’t want to let them get out of hand. I do till every year, that is supposed to help.
Calvin, I usually start early with neem oil and try to apply it weekly. This usually keeps their numbers down—and effectively suppresses squash bugs, too. This year, we had a rainy spell early in the season and I didn’t keep up with my beginning-of-the-season spraying—and the little #@$% got established and went wild. I think it was just a boom year for them here----and apparently in your area, too. Going to try a different approach next year: probably kaolin (Surround WP) + spinosad. Applying kaolin spray serves as a feeding barrier, and, according to some sources, makes the beetles unable to recognize your cucurbit vines as a food source. One study—can’t remember which right off hand—noted that the addition of spinosad to the kaolin slightly increased efficacy, and it should deep-six any beetles which make it through the clay barrier. Kind of a pain in the ol’ fundament keeping the kaolin on as you have to reapply as the plants grow and if it rains, but the important thing is preventing feeding early in the plant’s life, when it’s more susceptible to wilt infection. After plants are well-established, I may switch to a rotation of neem and spinosad. Anyway, this Surround stuff is danged expensive, and I kind of wonder if it might interfere with photosynthesis and therefore growth and production if I try to keep it on all season.
With all the methods I’ve used. still I‘ve not gotten it right with Black Diamond. It was the fourth trial, still all four were way under ripe.
Anyone knows how many days BD needs to fully ripen? So far, what the package says is not correct.