Haha, good post man, love it! Hope you can add a bunch more years to your 40 years of watermelon growing, That is quite an accomplishment right there, I’m sure you have made a lot of people happy with 40 years of melons!
Hey cityman, I really like reading about your watermelon growing experience! I mean, 40 years? I am bound to learn something from you if I pay attention a little bit! And seriously, the post you wrote- I think it was back on the gardenweb forum many years ago, I book marked it because I knew I was going to want to refer back to it. You described your favorite watermelons, you gave tons of detail, and based on that I started growing OG, and I think Blacktail Mt was one your list as well, which I grew for the first time last year.
I actually need to grow some smaller melons, so RG will be great in that regard! We just can’t eat a 25#+ watermelon ourselves, and when you get 5 or six ripening at once, it gets crazy! We live way out in the country, and no really close neighbors, so I can’t just drop off watermelons at random places!
The few “neighbors” we have are older and would not take that large of a melon! I have tried!!! I bring them to church with me on Sundays, that’s the best way for me to share.
And thanks for your encouragement on struggling with picking melons at the right time. With OG, I almost always pick them over-ripe. With Jubilee, I often pick them under-ripe. Ugh. I use all those same methods you describe. The thumping sound is lost on me. I swear different varieties have different ripe sounds. What is ripe for one is over-ripe for another. I won’t give up, and hopefully I will improve a little each year!
So here’s a funny story about sharing an orange melon with the unsuspecting public. I loved your tale, by the way!! Too funny!!! Cantaloupe, indeed!! Anyway, I was in charge of preparing breakfasts for a women’s retreat one fall. I had some beautiful OG that were perfectly ripe at that time, so I cut some up and placed it on the buffet table with the other food. Many of the ladies were oohing and ahhing over it later, commenting on how unique and good it was. One of my friends asked them where the melon was, she hadn’t seen any watermelon on the buffet. When they told her it was orange, she laughed!!! She had seen it, and thought is was winter squash of some sort. She wondered why I would put out cold, raw, cubed winter squash on a breakfast buffet!!
haha. See, Orange Watermelons are 100% worth growing just for the entertainment and stories they create! But of course, we know OG also happens to be a spectacular tasting watermelon. But if I’m going to take credit for helping you discover a great watermelon, then I have to take the blame to exposing you to one that I now think isn’t that great: Blacktail Mountain. I think at the time I put it on my recommended list I was just excited because it was a fairly fast seed-to-plate melon, small in size, yet better tasting than sugar baby. But we all learn and grow with experience, and my experience has led me AWAY from BTM Blacktail Mountain. Its too seedy, the flesh isn’t especially crispy, and its sweetness can vary a lot in the same patch the same year. Its ok, just not great. Sounds like you had somewhat already came to the same opinion.
I too live in the country (and love it). I give away a lot of melons each year but just as you say, some folks almost act like I am burdening them with a giant melon.’ That’s why I’ve often said my all time favorite melon is probably Crimson Sweet. It can still be a bit on the large side but to me is usually about right. It’s crisp, always sweet as sugar, etc. Its no coincidence that its the most popular seeded melon in America. Jubilee are also really high on my list- big as they may be. What I love to do is just slice them into 4 long slices and only cut the big center piece (the heart) off the top of each quarter of melon. Its the closest I’ll ever come to living like a millionaire! ha. Just eating the very best part of something and leaving the rest of it for the peasants (which in my case means chickens!!! haha).
Loving your story about the woman wondering why winter squash is on the breakfast fruit tray! haha. Imagine if it hadn’t come up at the end she would have just always thought you were odd! haha
@ctduckhunter Thanks for the kind words. I actually take a large part of my watermelons to the local senior citizen center and I enjoy seeing how much they appreciate it more than I like growing them. As for my 40 years, I hope you saw that I started counting when I was only 10 (though I really was growing and learning then under my neighbors tutelage). So how much the experience of a 10 year old really counts is up for debate I’d think. Still, lots of years having fun.
Cityman, I am giving BTM another try this year and if I am not happy, it won’t return. I would like to find a smaller, crisp red melon, around 10# size. I grow enough big ones, so a good smaller melon would be great. I haven’t tried Crimson Sweet, so I might give it a whirl next year.
That seems so decadent, eating only the heart of the melon!!! But your chickens love you for it I bet. Here I have a few cows that have taken a liking to watermelon (and pumpkins). Only a few though. Most do not like it. But the ones that do get pretty excited when they see me coming with the huge pot full of melon and rinds!
What a blessing that neighbor of yours was to you as a youngster. That’s a good lesson for us all. You never know what you might inspire in a child. Thanks to him who taught you, and you who shared with the rest of us, many of MY friends (as well as my family) have enjoyed delicious watermelons!
Ways to tell if a watermelon is ripe:
Feel of the watermelon. A ripe watermelon has a lumpy/bumpy feel that is not present on unripe melons. This can’t be seen very well visibly, but run your hand over the melon and it will be obvious. One caveat, some commercial melons have been developed to stay smooth when ripe. Dixielee is an example.
Look at the tendril that grows from the same stem node as the watermelon. When it turns dark brown, the melon is usually ripe.
Check the size of the ground spot. The color of the ground spot can range from while to yellow to burnt orange in some varieties. The color is not important, size is. Larger spot means a ripe melon.
Thump the melon. This one takes practice. A ripe melon has a dull thud that is never present until ripe. Your neighbors may accuse you of torturing your watermelons, but trust me, the thud does not lie about a ripe melon.
Heft the melon. A ripe watermelon develops a very heavy full feeling where an unripe melon will distinctly feel lighter weight.
80% of the flavor of a watermelon is from genetics and the remaining 20% is from growing conditions. The best flavored watermelons grow with abundant water up until about 3 weeks before maturity. That last three weeks needs to be with very little water so the melons sweeten up to their peak.
What are the best flavored watermelon varieties? I’ll agree that Crimson Sweet, Congo, and Jubilee are good to very good, but they have a few detractions such as too large size and poor performance in some climates. Yellow Moon & Stars, Luscious Golden, Ledmon, Halbert’s Honey, Wibb, and Orangeglo can be exceptional. I won’t know for sure about Bradford until I’ve tried it this year. Historical reports suggest it will be exceptional.
Thanks for that checklist @Fusion_power !
I haven’t read about #1 before. I will definitely make a note to check for the lumpy/bumpy feel this year.
#2 is easy, got that.
#3 I thought it was the color that was key, as it turns darker yellow to golden it would be an indicator of ripeness. I will pay more attention to the size of the spot.
#4 Ya… I will have to work on that one.
#5 Well OK, that makes sense. But a 20# or 30# melon stills feel heavy to me when hefted.
I am going to research the other varieties you mentioned. As I told cityman, I am looking for a smaller melon to grow to compliment my larger ones.
I will also look forward to seeing pictures and reading a report on your Bradfords! I hope they live up to the hype and grow great for you!
I’m growing watermelons for the second time. The first time was a disaster and I waited 6 years to try again. I’m trying Orangeglo and Moon and Stars. I’m excited to see daily progress now that it is consistently hot and days are long!
Nice! They are looking good!!
Hopefully this is your year for watermelons, @bleedingdirt!
Off topic, but I found this humorously ironic.
I’m growing Jade Star again this year. If it does as good this year as it did last year, it will not disappoint you for a small melon. It is smaller than crimson sweet and they were both excellent super sweet melons for me. Here is a pic from last year, can’t wait for my first one this year.
Looks like a great melon! Thanks for telling me about it. I will definitely keep that one in mind for next year!
Y’all are killin’ me with these amazing watermelons!
I wish I lived near at least one of you
Our farmer’s market doesn’t have anyone selling any heirloom melons
@TrilobaTracker Maybe you and your family need to take a midwest vacation
Hey @ctduckhunter, do you remember how many days it takes from fruit set to harvest for Jade Star?
Will they separate from the stem when ready, like a muskmelon? A few of mine are getting a little bit of orange pigmentation, but still almost entirely green. The vines are loaded with fruits.
I do not remember, I know I planted all my melons at the same time and they were ripening at the same time as crimson sweet, jubilee improved, and Charleston grey. Sangria was a little later but not a keeper for me and Black diamond just never did get ripe. It also got cut from my spot.
Which variety are you growing?
In my experience, which is limited, none of the watermelons I have grown ever slip from the vine when ripe like a cantaloupe or honeydew will do.
See the post by @Fusion_power about 9 above yours. He has given us some great tips for harvesting ripe melons!
I was referring to the ha’ogen and wondering if it slips from the vine. I dont want them to get overripe if they dont slip.
I trellis mine and suspend the fruits in a mesh bag. They usually drop in the bag when ready.
OK, sorry for my confusion. Ha’Ogen do slip from the vine when ripe. However, if you wait until they slip easily, they may be a little over-ripe. I try pick them when the skin color changes to a yellowish orange and you have to exert a little pressure to get the melon to separate from the vine. I swear there is really only one day between perfect and over-ripe! It never fails that I will leave several of them on the vine because the color is not quite as orange as I think it should be, and they seem too firmly attached to the vine. They next morning I find these same melons on the ground, having taken it upon themselves to detach and let me know I should have picked them the day before!
Since you have a lot of fruits, try picking them at different stages - when the background color changes to a yellow, dark yellow, yellow/orange, and see at what stage you like them best. I like a more firm texture. The more ripe they get, the softer the flesh (but also the sweeter the melon).
I don’t bother with putting the melons in bags. There are too many of them for me to bother with, but I haven’t found they need it. The ones that drop to the ground (which is covered in mulch) don’t usually split. If they do, I don’t really care because I always end up with too many that I can’t use or give away anyway!
First crack at the Crimson Sweet. Bit of a slow start with the late chill this spring but they are coming in like gangbusters with the heat.