Harvesting Ripe Watermelons

July 26, 2006

I received a recent comment from a gardener inquiring about harvesting ripe watermelons from plants that had volunteered in her home garden.

There’s no guarantee that those rouge plants will produce mature fruits but if they do there are a number of techniques that can be employed to ensure that you harvest the mature watermelons at their peak.

See, Hear, and Feel Your Way to Ripe Watermelons

checking watermelon for rip.thumbnail Harvesting Ripe WatermelonsMany gardeners have trouble determining the best time to pick their home grown watermelons, and many shoppers have difficulty selecting a juicy, ripe watermelon at their local grocer or market. It’s always a big disappointment to lug a nice looking melon home only to discover that it’s hollow hearted, mushy, pithy, or just plain tasteless because it was harvested too early or well past its prime.

The problem is compounded by the fact that watermelons, unlike cantaloupes, will not ripen after they are picked from the vine. But there are a few simple tricks that can make harvesting or selecting a sweet, juicy watermelon more of a skill than a hit or miss gamble. The key is to focus your senses and combine sight, sound, and touch to select perfectly ripe watermelons in the garden or at the market.

If you’re growing watermelons in the garden the first signs of maturity will be visual cues. The underside of the fruit where it rests on the ground will turn a golden, straw-yellow color as the melon matures. For another visual sign of a ripening watermelon locate the curly tendril attached to the vine that is closest to the fruit. As the watermelon matures and ripens this tendril will dry out and become brittle.

Foolproof Methods for Harvesting Ripe Watermelons

A more reliable test for watermelon ripeness, and the one that most expert gardeners rely on is the “thump test.” You may have witnessed a stranger at the market tapping on watermelons with their fingertips or rapping against them with their knuckles as they attempted to choose a good, ripe one.

The secret is that thumping a ripe watermelon will produce a rather hollow sound that’s difficult to describe but once you get the feel for it choosing ripe watermelons will become more routine than a matter of luck. The hollow sound can even be felt with your fingertips, almost as if the fruit contained jello in its center.

This technique may require a little practice and some trial and error, but once you get the hang of it your watermelon harvesting will become easier and more rewarding. For practice, experiment with a bin full of watermelons at the grocer until you can easily distinguish the difference in sound made by a ripe melon.

Acquiring the “Touch” for Selecting Good Watermelons

The final method to judge watermelon ripeness in the garden or at the market is a trick that I picked up from Roger Swain, Science Editor of Horticulture magazine, at this past spring’s Pennsylvania Garden Expo. Roger shared a technique for selecting ripe watermelons that relies entirely on touch and could be performed with your eyes closed if you like.

Simply run your fingers around the center of the watermelon, not lengthwise but around the center of the fruit between the stem end and the blossom end of the melon. An immature watermelon will be smooth to the touch, but as the fruits mature they will develop slight ridges that will be very noticeable as you run your fingers across the rind.

Apply these simple harvesting techniques and the chances are that your next watermelon will be sweet, juicy, and delicious whether it’s harvested fresh from the garden or purchased at your local market.

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{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

Repellent Review July 28, 2006 at 2:14 pm

I was curious about the color. I’ve always tried to pick ones a little yellow. Do the same with pineapples. Checking for ridges is a technique I hadn’t heard of.

freda ranet August 11, 2006 at 10:14 am

What makes watermelons rot before they have matured?

Kenny Point August 17, 2006 at 10:07 pm

Hi Freda, I’m not positive of what type of rot you’re experiencing with your watermelons. Is it occuring when they are just forming or when the watermelons are ripening? If it’s when watermelons are just beginning to grow and the fruits are still small it could be a case of blossom end rot as described at the following link about tomato rot. Blossom end rot affects not only tomatoes but also peppers, eggplants, and watermelons.

Evelyn Cundiff August 21, 2006 at 11:47 pm

I’m growing a volunteer watermelon in my yard in San Diego. Transplanted it from the rose/flower garden to a better spot, and it has grown like crazy. There are two oval-shaped fruits which appeared about 10 days ago and have doubled in size in the last 4 days (about 7 in. long), and there are other small ones. Should I pick off the little ones to help the larger ones continue to grow and ripen before it gets too cool?

Kenny Point August 22, 2006 at 10:54 pm

Evelyn, that’s a great idea removing the smaller watermelons will benefit the larger fruits and enable them to mature and ripen faster since the vine will be able to focus all of its energy on the larger melons. Don’t hesitate to thin the small watermelon fruits because they would be unlikely to mature and ripen if left on the plant anyway.

Sue April 17, 2007 at 7:56 pm

Amazing information!!! Your Internet site is cool.

Patrick Mabry April 27, 2007 at 2:24 pm

I was curious about the color. I’ve always tried to pick ones a little yellow. Do the same with pineapples. Checking for ridges is a technique I hadn’t heard of.

I do not know if the color helps, unless the green watermelons sat too long past “ripe” and the bottom is sometimes yellow. Over about a 20 year period while trying to purchase watermelons myself, I conducted informal surveys of other shoppers/grocery workers for a good list of “how to pick” a sweet honeydew melon, watermelon:
Largest melon (if price each), not by weight

No bad odors; possibly sweet smell or no odor at all

Consistent plumpness and shape similar for both halves

Shiny and smooth rind, minimal bruising, patching, or pits Rind/fruit skin exterior scarred in a “zipper” pattern, often referred to as “Bee Stings”

Melons destined for local markets can remain on the vine until the full slip stage, when soluble solids reach 15% and the fruit slips free of the stem If enough bee stings are present across a majority of the fruit rind, the interior fruit “watermelon meat” or “honeydew meat” will almost assuredly be sweet and juicy. The methodology seems to be originating from insect feeding as the fruit grows on the vine. Insects “smell” the fruit aroma or sweating, bite the fruit rind causing the fruit to bleed sweet nectar, from which they can drink. The bite heals into small brown “bee stings”, causing the appearance of ridges or a zipper type of effect on the rind. Find a melon with one or two full, deep, wide zippers running the fruit length from end to end and you probably have the sweetest melon in the “briar patch” and should be a hit with your guests.

jennifer July 23, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Any idea on how long it takes the watermelon fruit to ripen? I have several growing and I’m curious (and impatient.)

Kenny Point July 23, 2007 at 5:22 pm

Hi Jennifer, the time to maturity for watermelons varies depending on the variety that you are growing. Some of the smaller, early maturing varieties are listed to mature in as little as 70 days. While the larger, full-sized watermelon varieties can take up to 100 days to mature and ripen the first fruit.

sharon craddick August 3, 2007 at 3:52 pm

I’m trying to grow seedless watermelons, and they are hollow sounding but not as big as a basketball. I’ve never done this before. there are only two developed watermelons so far, but several blooms and marble size ones. I hate to pick it too early, but it’s not getting any bigger and I hate for it too go bad. Any suggestions would be very helpful. Thank You Sharon

Kenny Point August 3, 2007 at 6:24 pm

Sharon, if your watermelon passes the majority of the tests listed above including the color change underneath, then go ahead and harvest one of them. Give it a few days if you want to play it safe since you don’t have much margin for error. Use the quality of the first melon harvested to help determine when to pick the remaining fruits. The marble sized watermelons may not have time to grow and mature before the season ends.

Penny September 2, 2007 at 4:02 pm

I have some very large black diamond watermelons but the flesh is pale. They are pretty sweet but I was wondering why they are not bright red. Any idea?

Thank you

Kenny Point September 2, 2007 at 8:26 pm

Penny, are you sure the fruits were fully ripened? I know that some watermelon varieties are different shades of red, or not even red at all. You can find watermelons that are yellow-fleshed, orange, pink, and even white. I’ve never grown the black diamond varieties so I don’t know how red the flesh normally is, but if the vines are healthy and productive, and the fruits are sweet, crisp, and flavorful, I wouldn’t worry too much about the color.

Dave Newell August 22, 2008 at 9:17 pm

My wife Marcia plucks a straw out of a broom (she even does this in the grocery store) and lays it across the watermellon (width) if it aligns by itself length wise with the watermelon it is ripe and a good one. I’ve never seen it fail and as a member of the scientific community I have no idea what causes the damn straw to turn. Try it it it does work!

Barry L June 11, 2009 at 9:11 pm

What is the scientific reasoning for a broom straw to turn on a ripe watermelon? What causes this to happen?

Mark June 24, 2009 at 10:26 am

To answer Barry’s question about picking a watermelon with a broom straw. I’m a physics teacher. It’s all about magnetics. The straw acts like a compass needle. The riper the watermelon, the more magnetic it becomes, causing the broom straw to turn, towards the magnetic activity, just like a compass needle. So, there you have it. So, if, when you place your straw sideways on the bottom of the watermelon, the more it turns towards longways, the riper the watermelon. I love doing this at the food market. I usally draw a crowd and end up picking one out for a lot of folks.

ruralgirl August 10, 2009 at 11:21 pm

I’ve never heard about the broomstraw trick, I’ll have to try that. I have heard a lot of people say that they look for beestings in a good watermelon and I just have to say that that is so stupid. Bees wouldn’t have any reason to sting a watermelon. It isn’t a flower and they can’t get any nourishment from it. The second fact is that bees lose their stingers after they have stung anything. It has a barb on the end of it and using it causes their death. What would they sting a watermelon? *rolls eyes*

R.Field August 18, 2009 at 11:49 am

I don’t get the physics behind a magnetic piece of straw. Static build-up I might buy. My girl’s grandad told her about testing a melon with a straw, we tried it and it seems to work. But WHY? I don’t know any type of physics that allows non-metals to hold or create a magnetic field. Are there trace amounts (of metals) in the melon? What generates the field and how can a straw possibly act like a compass needle. I have seen this ‘dowsing’ work, I don’t believe in sympathetic magic so there must be a logical reason. Sorry, but I don’t buy the ‘physics teachers’ magnetic field theory.

Heather R August 20, 2009 at 9:49 am

I have harvested our first watermelon & am not sure if it is over ripe or wasn’t quite ready. The flesh is pale red and not crisp. The seeds are white (but big, not the little ones like in the seedless melons at the store). There is a star shape hollow area in the center when we cut it. The rind is not smooth, rough all over. The bottom was whitish & it always sounded hollow to me so that test was difficult. Thanks for any help you have. We have 2 more melons growing!

Kenny Point August 20, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Heather, the problem could be related to a condition called “hollow heart” that affects watermelons. It’s more common in seedless varieties but can occur with seeded varieties as well. Hollow heart usually occurs during periods of excessive rain or if there is too much nitrogen applied to the soil. I would keep an eye on the other melons and use the tests above for testing watermelon ripeness and hope for better results. Good luck.

David Pettus September 7, 2009 at 4:42 pm

My brother-in-law just yesterday showed me the “straw trick”, and it’s an amazing thing, but like Mr. Field says, I find it hard to believe that melons become “more magnetic” as they ripen. Can anyone out there suggest another solution to this phenomenon?? Are you sure this works ONLY on ripe melons? Can the position of the melon (north/south, east/west)affect the results? Does time of day matter? Well… anyway… I’d like to know why this works!

Candace November 12, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Fresh, ripe fruit vibrates.
Just as we vibrate.
We have a vibration of around 6.5 thousand angstroms.
Most fruit vibrates at 8-10 thousand angstroms and the vibrations drop for over or under ripe fruits and at their peak when fruit is perfectly ripe.
Possibly could explain the straw theory.
I am definitely going to try it out next time i pick a watermelon.

BJ Henry February 5, 2010 at 3:45 am

The straw effect is the same as someone using a forked peach branch or whipping willow forked branch to look for water….water witchers. The watermelon has reached the maturity where it is full of water which means ripe.

Marissa February 15, 2010 at 1:09 am

So…I’ve heard that if watermelons have scratch marks from bees they will be riper, because bees can tell which ones are sweeter and they want to eat them. Is this true?

kriste March 20, 2010 at 1:43 am

we have grown a watermelon, it was not attatched to vine anymore and when we cut it open it was pink, not bright red, still little sweet but not like a properly ripened watermelon. my question is can this make you sick or is it ok to eat (just wont be as sweet as it could have been)

Kenny Point March 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm

The watermelon should be fine to eat, sounds a little under ripe but if it taste OK it is good enough to eat. If it was grown organically you can even juice it, rhine, seeds, and all.

Bobby Bouche' June 19, 2010 at 11:33 pm

My grandpaw showed me all 4 tricks (methods) of choosing a ripe watermelon. The straw trick will gather people in a grocery store, and if you’re practiced at it, the “feel” of the melons ridges coupled with the color of the nesting area (bottom) of the melon will almost always guarantee a luscious, sweet, juicy melon…..as well as an enjoyable time at the grocery store. Thumping actually takes more of a “trained” ear but if you “feel” the thump is “spongy” like the inside is full of pudding, you’re on the right path.

Look, thump, hear, feel and enjoy….

Amy June 25, 2010 at 10:38 am

I am growing a nice crop of watermelons… im watering them religiously…but as soon as the reach about grapefruit-sized…i notice they have split open on the bottom(a 2-inch crack)… i dont see any ants in there.. im wondering whats going on???

Kenny Point June 25, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Amy, if possible try to barricade all of the openings under the shed except for one spot and place the trap right there so that the groundhogs have no choice except to go into the trap.

Amy July 5, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Kenny, what?….im not having groundhog problems… watermelon problems.. i think you made an “oops”.

Kenny Point July 5, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Sorry Amy, must have gotten some comments crossed. I’m not sure what is causing your watermelons to split, but could you actually be over watering the vines and causing the young fruits to expand too rapidly? How often and how long are you watering them?

David July 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm

I have a watermelon vine growing on a trellis. The melons are hanging suspended in the air. Any suggestions?

Kenny Point July 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm

David, use something like a pair of nylon stockings to make a sling or hammock like support for the melons. Then tie the sling to a stake, trellis, or whatever the melon is climbing up. The stocking will give and expand as the melon grows but continue to bear some of the weight and keep the fruit up in the air. Send me a pic if you try this technique, good luck with the watermelon.

12-year old gardener extraordinaire! August 1, 2010 at 11:37 am

My mom’s watermelons are really small, but they dont seem to be rippening properly.

Bernessa August 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

Hi, love your website, but was wondering if you’ve ever grown a watermelon in an “Earthbox” ? Also, I started some seeds a few weeks ago and was wondering if it was to late to grow my watermelon in Southern New Jersey. One more question :-)… Can you grow them inside the home?
Thanks in advance!

Fred August 4, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I grew my first watermelon this year. I waited til it was pale yellow on the bottom, hollow sounding, and the tendril near the fruit had wilted. But when I cut the melon open, it was pale/light pink and bland — not super juicy either. Is this under ripe or over ripe? How can I do a better job?

Kenny Point August 5, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Hi Bernessa, it probably is too late to be planting watermelons in this area because they like a long growing season and plenty of warm days. I also don’t think they would do well indoors unless you had a rather extensive hydroponic setup.

Kenny Point August 5, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Fred, your watermelon sounds under ripe to me… you’re doing everything right but sometimes it just takes a bit of trial and error to get things just right. Also don’t forget the feel test to look for the ridges that will develop as the fruits mature.

Garden Guru August 10, 2010 at 11:00 am

This was an excellent, concise article that got right to the point without all the extra hogwash. I think the “technique for selecting ripe watermelons that relies entirely on touch” is the best method overall, since the “thump test” seems to be more trial & error than anything else. Anyway, I’ve had good luck this year with the Crimson Sweet melons and for the first time, I also grew the slightly sweeter orange-yellow watermelon variety. To the rest of y’all: good luck with your future crops and I’d like to see more & more people start being less dependent by raising their own food.

Christine August 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I have just picked my first watermelon ever from my personal garden. We seem to have the smaller sized ones. I always thought that the less yellow on the bottom, the more ripe it was. I think I picked it too soon. The meat and the seeds are white. I tasted it and it isn’t real juicy, however,it is sweet. I have at least 6 more melons growing as I can see and I will let them get a whole lot more yellow on them than this one did. I think I blew it on this one. Please advise what you think. Thanks for your input

Joe August 15, 2010 at 12:32 am

Hello all,

I’m a novice gardener and just started my first garden this year. I have a question as to the “maturity” that is always mentioned for different veggies and fruits. When it says that something will reach maturity in “70 days,” does that mean that it is 70 days from when you first see the blossom or fruit growing, or is it from the point when you plant a seed and it grows from seedling to full-fledged plant?

Any advice would be appreciated! I have had moderate success with “some” of my plants this year, even though I have only about 4-5 watermelons out of about 3-4 plants. That actually reminds me of another question…how many fruit should one expect per plant? I planted the seedlings in enough time, but I’m wondering if I waiting too long to transplant them into the yard.

Kenny Point August 15, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Hi Joe, the maturity dates listed are typically from the point in time that the seeds are sown or when transplants are set out into the garden. Watermelons are not the easiest crop to grow so that is actually not a bad yield for a new gardener. The number of fruits will vary based on the variety that is being grown, soil fertility, weather conditions, etc. Two or three melons per plant would be a good harvest. Also, if you allow too many melons to grow it can affect the size and ripening of them all.

Fred Mann August 18, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Will do. Thanks Kenny!!!!!!!!!

johnny August 20, 2010 at 4:49 am

To the lady who has problems with splitting – critters love watermelons, especially if it a particularily hot summer. Everything from pheasants to squirrels to quail to turkeys even deer will open up a melon to get at the sweet liquid. I personaly have had a big problem with pheasants and turkeys in the past. I put wire cages over them nowdays to prevent this from happening. I am growing Black Diamonds this year. I have picked 4 so far (one wasn’t quite ready) and this weekend I will pick 3 more all about 60lbs apiece. I have about 10 more from softball to volleyball size that i hope will ripen before the weather changes. The heat this year has been perfect for them.

Mike R August 31, 2010 at 6:42 pm

My watermelon plants each produced 2 full size watermelons. We harvested one a few days early, it was okay but not great. The second one was perfect. The plants have now died and we removed the remaining 2 watermelons, which are both ripe. What is the best way to store them? In the refrigerator?

Luposian September 7, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I bought a small pot of Black Diamond watermelon plants and… for the first time in my entire life (I’m 42 yrs. old)… I now have TWO watermelons! I have NEVER been able to get watermelons to grow before… the plnts have always been small and weak and i never get meons on them… ever.

I will try the “straw-technique”, as I don’t want to waste one of the ONLY two melons I have. As a Christian, I try to avoid anything that could tend towards any sort of “witchcraft” or “divining”, because the bible says it’s wrong, but… if one is not trying to (or believes they are) calling upon “spirits” to guide them, I suppose it’s safe. If it works, it works!

Dave Newell September 9, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I have been getting updates on this web site since I told about the straw tecnique my wife uses to assure a ripe watermellon. Two years ago I planted some watermellons from plants my daughter got at Home Depot. The plants produced many full sized mellons and the ones we harvested were ripe and delicious. I gave up gardening after that year. My daughter picked up the gauntlet and has a garden this year with mellons in it. I picked one that had a beown tendrill and a creamy bottom and seemed to thwack properly. I brought it into the house and did the straw on it and the damn straw turned and lined up with the long plane of the mellon.
We put it in the fridge and cut it the next day and it was great. My daughter saw the straw line up with the mellon and in disbelief said no way! but it seems to work.

Dave Newell September 9, 2010 at 5:13 pm

After I left the last comment I thought of something that has been on my mind since my great success with full sized watermellons two years ago. Here in Northern Massachusetts We have had a limited growing season. The victory garden says May 15th to Sept 15th. the New Hampshire midget was developed for us in this area but the mellons were small round and better than nothing. but now these full sized mellons are coming along that seem to be fine here. Have there been dvelopments in breeding that have caused this phenomanon??

Patrick Mabry January 5, 2011 at 10:34 am

Since my April 27, 2007 comment, I noticed D’Anjou Pear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%27Anjou) displaying similar ridges/”stings”/marks. I believe the fruit skin is eaten and juice drank by insects; the resulting marks can cover exposed areas of the fruit, plant or tree. The pear pattern of marks are smooth at the ends with interspersed dots in-between.

I think after the insect gets its fill from fruit, the fruit skin dries and browns. Repeated visits can cause patterns to cover all or part of the fruit. My personal observations include patterns similar to zippers along entire fruit length, dots, or exposed areas of fruit; additional areas displaying these patterns are new limb growth on plants and trees. I imagine crawlers like ants and aphids would access via limbs or where the fruits contact the ground. Flying insects would probably access nectar sources such as flowers first then hit the fruit up for nourishment once flowers withered.

I have not conducted any scientific studies confirming my suspicions, but I am interested to know if my information is correct.

Patrick Mabry January 5, 2011 at 12:12 pm

In response to Amy on June 25, 2010, “watering religiously” is probably a good plan. Be careful you are not causing the fruit to split due to over watering. [see article for further guidance: http://www.hortmag.com/weekly-tips/tomatocaretips “If you water too much after the fruit has set, the tomato skins may split. In general, soak the soil six to eight inches deep twice a week.”
If you are watering deeper/more often than that, back off a bit until you notice the first inch or so of top soil soil is dry to the touch. Soil types will vary drainage, so watch how the plant responds until proper watering amounts can be identified.
[If you are still having problems, consider following all the tips in this additional article: http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/water/az1298/

Roxanne May 25, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I have seen the question posted if bee stings or scratches in watermelon play a big part in helping us to locate a nice ripe watermelon, or is it just a myth? I work in a store and a customer told me that one of our produce workers encouraged her to pick out a watermelon with bee markings in it (like tiny pin holes). Someone who truly knows their fruit please respond. Thank you

kristinia June 12, 2011 at 3:29 am

I planted a sugar baby watermelonplant at the end of april.I now have about 10 to 15 watermelons on it.Two of them are a little bigger then a tennis ball.the otherwise ones are about the size of pecans. Should I pick some off


Verlinda Stone June 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm

hello!! i have a question… i found some yellow water melon plants at walmart and decided to try them this year (again..) I tried 2 plants last yr and they both died. I am wondering what I can do to insure they don’t die this year(i live in Utah) AND, are the watermelon plants’ leaves suppose to feel dry?.. any help would be appreciated… i am not an experienced gardener…. i am just from AZ and miss a Good Yellow Watermelon :)

Pat Mabry June 28, 2011 at 7:18 pm

> Marissa February 15, 2010 at 1:09 am
> So…I’ve heard that if watermelons have scratch marks from bees
> they will be riper, because bees can tell which ones are sweeter and
> they want to eat them. Is this true?

Hopefully this is a fresh perspective. Here goes…

I believe all fruit at some point in time during maturation attracts birds, insects, animals, etc by sweet aroma and rewards of

sweet nectar, juice, and the like. These scratch marks appear due to what I imagine is biting/chewing through the exterior

skin/rind of the fruit, as well as the stem, leaf, and branch of the plant/tree.

Note: I may be wrong about this, but through thirty years of observation and comparing notes with others helped a lot. Via

“field study” whether from a farm/garden or buying fruit from market/produce section, I have come to the conclusion insect-

scarred fruit tastes the sweetest/most delicious.

Example 1: an ant crawling on a new growth section of a tree bites the tender stem. The plant reacts to this “wound” to the

circulatory system by releasing tree “water” which the ant drinks. When full, the ant returns to the nest (though probably

communicates to friends about the location). More ants bite the area, causing more and more tiny bite scars. Once ants find

ripe fruit, the area around the fruit stem can become an “insect ground zero” of sorts.

Example 2: a bee is desperately thirsty, due to the end of flowering season for the local fruit orchard. The hive needs

nourishment. The bee finds a ripened pear hanging from the branches and lands on an open spot. The reward of sweet nectar soon

brings friends to the area seeking to quench their thirst. It is my guess that fresh wounds reward them with the most abundant

and/or sweetest juice, therefore the old wounds dry up and form a scar that looks like a splattering of superficial paint over

a painting that looks like it just does not belong there.

Example 3: a beetle happens upon your watermelon in your garden while crawling around your yard, probably due to the sweet

aroma the flowers and fruit itself emit. They bite, drink, and move along… after all, they have to avoid predators.

Since ants, bees, and beetles approach via different routes leaving behind masses of “bee stings” all over your watermelon, you

will definitely enjoy the sweet flavor of your home-grown fruit (unless you pick it too early/late).

Some common watermelon (other melons/fruit too) tips:

-Thump it with your thumb and listen for a hollow sound (usually only applies to watermelon)
-Sweet aroma
-Yellowish base (dark-green watermelon) or whitish base/base is lighter than overall fruit color
-Scars/bee stings covering the fruit, massed at stem/flowering ends, encircling lighter colored base, and/or massed in only one spot (meaning only flying insects were able to see that portion due to leaf growth)

Pat Mabry June 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm

> kristinia June 12, 2011 at 3:29 am (minor edits)
> I planted a sugar baby watermelon plant at the end of April. I now
> have about 10 to 15 watermelons on it. Two of them are a little bigger
> then a tennis ball. The other ones are about the size of pecans. Should > I pick some off?

Depending on the growth season for the plant, yes and no. If you are receiving mature watermelon fruit from each “attempt” on the vine, then no. Though you may only know that at the end of the season.

Given consistent pollination, watering, nutrition, light, warm weather, and protection from predation over the full growth season, the plant can make full-sized fruit for each attempt. With reduced access to any of those (including flying insects to pollinate the flowers), the results will vary accordingly. Soil nutrition is huge, since producing enough sugar to make a sweet fruit requires the proper balance of nutrients.

So, for your question… if the growth season is four months and the two months into it you have “extra” fruit that is not even close half-size of a mature fruit, snip it. Even better, snip all but three or four flowering buds before pollination. This may only be required in areas with “reduced access” mentioned above. Given a little practice these concepts can become second-nature.

Barbie July 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I have quite a large garden spot, so I’ve allowed some of volunteers to come up from last year. Plus, have deliberately planted some Black Diamond’s which I am very excited about and hoping they do well. I have them planted in what I believe is very good soil here in NE Oklahoma, (Green Country). I fertilized them twice so far with a dose of some Tomato Tone I happened to have to be sure they had adaquate nourishment for the amount of growth they will have to make to achieve that nice large size we look for in Black Diamonds. Now, to the cruz of my post…I’ve heard that copper is what causes fruit to be sweet. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. But I’m wondering whether it would hurt to add a little copper to the soil in a plant or two as an experiment. I wouldn’t want to do this with all my wm plants on the chance I might mess up the soil nutrient balance. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve messed up something by one of my “experiments” gone bad. Actually, I wouldn’t want to loose any of these plants. Has anyone else heard this about copper as a “sweetener”? Just wondering.

Also, I have some Blacktail Mountain melons growing, some from volunteers and some I planted for an early melon. For those of you who haven’t heard of the Blacktail Mountain, they are a small melon like a Sugar Baby, and very sweet, but seedy. Some folks say they have the “best” flavor of any, but they will have to go some to beat out Black Diamonds in my book. And I haven’t had a good Black Diamond in a coon’s age so I am watching these like a hawk!

Anyways, I am also growing Sun Moon and Stars, and Crimson Sweet. They are all looking really good and coming on strong even though we are having a very HOT summer so far and it’s hard to keep everything watered, but rather that than fungal problems.

Best wishes to all in your melon and other gardening ventures! :)

Staci Grammer July 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm

We checked our watermelon in the garden to see how they were coming along. They are slightly larger than a canteloupe at this point, and my husband noticed a couple of them were split wide open and, of course, now rotting. Why did this happen?

Barbie July 11, 2011 at 12:07 am

Hi Staci…My first best educated guess would be too much of a good thing in the water dept, i.e; overwatering. I did that one year and lost my entire crop of cantaloupe.

Pat Mabry July 17, 2011 at 4:15 am

Re: Staci Grammer July 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm
We checked our watermelon in the garden to see how they were coming along. They are slightly larger than a canteloupe at this point, and my husband noticed a couple of them were split wide open and, of course, now rotting. Why did this happen? >>>>

I believe you may have over-watered at a critical time after a drought.
[ http://ucanr.org/sites/mgfresno/?story=367 ] ” Fluctuations in the weather, temperature and watering cause fruit split in citrus, especially in navel oranges. A period of high humidity followed by a dry period can trigger the splitting effect. Usually only a few fruit on any given tree are affected. Monitor for extreme or sudden climate changes and keep the soil under citrus trees evenly and consistently moist, not soggy, to alleviate the problem as much as possible. Irrigate when the top 3-4 inches of soil have dried out. ”

Here is more about this from [ http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/pdf/8038.pdf ]: ” Naval Orange Split

Although the exact cause is unknown, fruit splitting is likely the result of stress to the tree. Splitting appears to be most closely related to extreme fluctuations in temperature, humidity, soil moisture, and possibly fertilizer levels, and the disorder is probably caused by a combination of these factors rather than by a single cause. For example, when hot weather is combined with high winds, the tree becomes drought stressed and begins to take water from the fruit, causing the fruit to soften and the leaves to cup.

If the tree is then irrigated heavily, the dehydrated fruit swell, causing them to crack. Young trees or dwarf varieties with relatively small or shallow root systems, as well as trees grown in very sandy or porous soils that do not retain moisture well, may be more susceptible to fruit splitting.

Reasonable cultural practices to avoid extreme fluctuations in soil moisture and fertilization levels throughout the growing season may help to minimize fruit split. Trees should be irrigated regularly to assure a continuous supply of soil moisture, especially during hot or windy weather. When hot winds are anticipated, irrigate before the winds begin. After the hot winds subside, irrigate lightly for a few days then resume a normal irrigation schedule.

Instead of a single large application of quick-release fertilizer each year, smaller monthly applications throughout the growing season (February through May) may help keep nutrients levels constant. Timed-release fertilizers offer the convenience of supplying nutrients at an even rate over the length of the growing season, but they are usually more expensive than other fertilizers. “

Julie July 19, 2011 at 10:39 pm

So I’m wishing I would have read this ummmmm about three hours ago. before I gave into the excitement of having a huge watermelon growing in the garden and cut it prematurely. The one I cut weighed about 20lbs and was about a foot and a half in length. I’ve got two more that are a little larger than a volleyball so I’m waiting it out. I do have one question though, I’ve still got lots of blooms and I’ve noticed that a few of the tiny melons that were green just a few days ago are now solid black and appear to be rotting. They are the size of a large walnut. What am I doing wrong? Will the blooms that are there now also bear fruit?

Kenny Point July 20, 2011 at 7:20 am

Hi Julie the plants may be thinning the fruits because there are more on the vines than the plant can handle. We’re also getting further into the season and the new blossoms may not have enough summer left to fully grow, mature, and ripen.

David Newell July 20, 2011 at 8:08 am

I have a friend in Banning California and he says his tomatoes are not setting fruit. what should he do?

Kenny Point July 20, 2011 at 8:17 am

David there are commercial fruit set sprays on the market but I would just give them time and the problem will probably resolve itself.

Erica Fletcher July 21, 2011 at 8:42 pm

This is our first year to try watermelon. We recently have been watching our first one that was a little larger than a cantaloupe. It was yellow in a small patch where it was sitting on the soil and within a couple days it had started rotting on the bottom. Brownish/black spreading out away from the yellow. Any ideas how to prevent this from happening again? When we cracked it open it was pink inside but not fully ripened.

eric August 2, 2011 at 11:53 am

My watermelons on the vine, which was about the size of a plum , all turn black and dried out after 45-50 days. Need some help and advice. This is my second try at growing watermelon.

Kari August 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

This is my first year growing watermelon and I have three on the vines right now. My soil is very poor, heavy clay and alkaline, but being a fairly new gardener I didn’t realize how bad the soil was until I had already planted my seeds. The seeds took forever to germinate and a long time to grow. I planted them in early April and Im just now starting to get small melons starting to grow.

I have one that is about the size of a grapefruit and two more that are a little smaller. We are having a major drought here with very high temps (heat index around 110 everyday in Houston area). My questions are, how often should I water and is it too hot to fertilize. I think the melons will be very small if I don’t fertilize, but I also think it will burn up the plants if I do add fertilizer. Should I just chalk up this year to a learning experience and be happy about the small melons or try to add some fertilizer? Any suggestions?

Kenny Point August 8, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Kari, I would water the plants two or three times a week and try to makes sure the water is soaking in deeply. Use a liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion or seaweed that you can mix into water and drench to apply. It’s also safe to side dress the plants with compost or spray a foliar fertilizer onto the leaves of the watermelon vines. I wouldn’t give up yet since you have a lot longer growing season there in Houston.

jonny August 13, 2011 at 9:28 am

This is my 2nd year growing watermelon and I have vines that are 16 feet. I have 1 fruit per vine. I planted it around june 2 here in ny. The fertilizers was 14-14-14. Some of the weight of the fruits are 50, 60, and 80lb. So my question is… 1) it is just Aug and the leaves are turning brown, yellow and black how much longer do i need to wait to pick them… 2) I don’t remember what kind of seeds I put down so how do I know how big they will get? 3) are my vines too long? i have 1 vine that’s about 17 feet now is that ok?

Kenny Point August 14, 2011 at 8:20 am

Hi Jonny, read the article in this post for tips on determining when your watermelons are ripe and ready to be harvested. Don’t worry about determining their size focus on ripening. It is fine to have long vines but if they are setting new flowers and fruits you may want to remove those since they will never have time to mature and will sap energy away from the fruits that you are trying to ripen. Good luck!

Skye August 20, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I just picked my smallest watermelon as a test to see if it was ripe. The stem was still green and the rind was solid green all over, no yellow underside, but I have probably moved it in the patch at some point. It did have the “bee stings” but I didn’t have a clue they made a difference. It was dead ripe, delicious, sweet and juicy. Most of my remaining watermelons are quite a bit larger. I am new to growing watermelons and am wondering if they are all at the same ripeness level of the smaller one or because they are larger, should I expect them to ripen later. If so, how much later? My largest melon is probably twice the size of the one I picked today which was about the size of a large honeydew melon.

Kenny Point August 22, 2011 at 8:16 am

Congrats on your watermelon crop, they can be a challenge to grow. I would test and pick each melon individually to determine when they are ripe. The more you experiment the better you will get at judging the ripeness and maturity of your fruits.

Rick Stevens August 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm

My mellons have been growing for 3 months and seemed to start late to actually bloom and start growing. Now they seem to get to a point that is much smaller than the seed package indicated and just stopped growing. The bottom of at least one is starting to yellow at around 7 lbs but the stem does not seem to be drying out. I think the biggest one is about 10 lbs and they are Black Diamonds and supposed to reach 35 – 40 lbs.

Ali Bajaber December 3, 2011 at 10:50 am

hi i planted 1acre of hybrid watermelons in my farm(KENYA) on 18th,October 2011,i planted them directly. some started rotting while they just started forming the small fruit by turning black in colour,after that i haven’t noticed a recurrence of the rot. my question is how big would the fruit get and when will they be ready to be harvested. your advice will be highly appreciated,i’m a first timer in melons.

Richard Powers May 28, 2012 at 6:56 pm

No one truly answered the question of why a straw turns on a watermelon (ripe or not). One answer that the watermelon becomes more magnetic as it ripens isn’t satisfactory because one still needs to know why the melon becomes more magnetic and why the straw acts as a compass needle. let me know if there are other reasons to account for the straw turning event.


Teresa July 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm

We have planted watermelon in our garden & my husband picked one today when he cut into it it wasnt ripe @ all. What do we do to get it to ripen since we have already cut into it?

Kenny Point July 17, 2012 at 8:25 am

Hello Teresa, unfortunately there is nothing that you can do that will help that watermelon to ripen.

mike July 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm

watermelon rots through the rhine on bottom of melon can not figure out what causes this

Jessica July 31, 2012 at 9:35 pm

This is my first year growing watermelons. I planted 3 plants and so far have 12 growing melons that I can see. Couple of questions. 1. I removed a melon today that was starting to rot on the blossom end and I did the thump test on it for comparison. It sounded dull compared to my two largest melons which sounded hollow but they didn’t pass any other ripeness tests (still green tendril, not yellow underside) so still not ready? 2. One vine has grown out of the garden and tons of little curly tendrils have attached themselves to grass/weeds. Will that affect the plant at all? 3. Should I put the growing melons up on some bricks or wood to get them off the ground? And 4. At this point should I remove any fruits that have just started growing to allow the larger ones to ripen better? Thanks for any advice, I’m very excited that my melons have actually grown since it’s my first time with them!

joy October 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm

October and my watermelons are not ripe yet How much cold can they take OHIO

linda July 12, 2013 at 6:18 pm

I just found out some dogs have been using my melon patch for bathroom do I have to throw them all away? I can’t fence in my patch and I wanted so my melons.

Pat Mabry December 12, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Re: [linda] “I just found out some dogs have been using my melon patch for bathroom do I have to throw them all away? I can’t fence in my patch and I wanted so my melons.” >>>
1. Dogs urinating: as far as I know, this is a good thing. Valuable nutrients in urine can improve/amend soil. If the only thing the dogs are doing is adding nutrients, I say let them continue. But if the dogs (or any other animals) are digging up plants/roots or any other activities that interrupt your plant’s growth cycles in your garden i.e. chasing bees, eating flower blooms, eating your gardens fresh growth/spouted plants, etc…. then prevent access by those animals.

Pat Mabry December 12, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Re: [linda; July 12, 2013] (cont.)… “do I have to throw them all away?”
2. Your watermelons should look normal i.e. not rotten, with a shiny/waxy rind, the inner flesh is usually red/yellow (variety dependent). The presence of urine in the soil will not cause any problems; in fact, some studies have shown amended soil with urine and fecal matter (vs. chemical fertilizers) can improve the flavor of produce.

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