Growing Watermelon 911

Near daybreak, waking to a loud and screeching halt that resulted in my nearly being thrown out of the big rig cab bunk -- I was grateful we’d avoided the accident ahead of us. A few minutes later, when Bill returned to the truck after surveying the situation, I heard him calling dispatch:

“Hmmmm. . . . . Watermelon 911! The @#$% road’s blocked by a head-on collision between an over-loaded produce farm truck and a deer. No one's hurt, but it’s going to make this hot delivery to Wally World late. Both sides of the road, are blocked and there’s no one out here on this country road, but me and the driver. Cell phone's not working here in the mountains, can you call the local authorities? Watermelon 911!"

We were just outside of Van Buren, Arkansas when this incident happened, making the next to last delivery to a Wal-mart distribution center. After nearly thirty days of "too much marital togetherness" in my husband's big rig, this was an unexpected and unwelcome delay in getting home.

Truck drivers know that Wal-mart's picky about their delivery times, loads can't be too early, and definitely can't be even fifteen minutes late. The load's delivery date and time would have to be rescheduled, translating into trucker aggravation -- as now no doubt, we would be sitting in a truck stop for a day or two -- waiting for that new appointment, or a place to drop that load and get new load in the direction of home.

We sat for over four hours while the mess was cleaned up. My husband, who can't resist an offer of anything free, had the back of that cab, filled with "free watermelons," twenty-two melons to be exact. Since at the time, there was just the two of us in the house, needless to say the neighbors, deer, and other wildlife on our farm enjoyed quite a treat for a number of days.

Since that time, I've teased him whenever we pass the kinds of pickup trucks you see on the highways -- the ones piled with watermelons to be sold on the roadside, at about half what the grocery store sells them for. Whenever I spot such a watermelon seller -- I simply call out, "Watermelon 911! Watermelon 911!" and he always stops to buy a couple.


"Watermelon -- it's a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face."  --  Enrico Caruso Photo credit: Steve Evans, India, Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons
"Watermelon -- it's a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face." -- Enrico Caruso Photo credit: Steve Evans, India, Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Van Buren, Arkansas

Van Buren, Arkansas has a reputation of being known as the Ozark Mountains playground. Lots of waterfalls, wildlife, white-water canoeing and rafting, fishing, gold, mountain biking.

Most of all, it is home to Devils Den State Park, a popular destination for inexpensive cabin vacations on the lake, spelunkers, and backpackers.

The 411 of Watermelon Planting and Growing Tips

Don't Over-water Your Melons:

There is a myth or misunderstanding that watermelons, because they are primarily made up of water -- need to be watered constantly. You can over-water watermelons.

Here in the South, where watermelons grow best, the watermelon will put out a massive root system in search of water on it’s own. If you are not careful, you’ll know when you are watering your watermelons far too much -- when the hot sun bursts your watermelons.

Protect Your Watermelon Crop:

If you live in a hot summer climate, or this summer is unseasonably hot, try an old-fashioned method of using hydrated lime (aka pickling lime, calcium hydroxide, or slacked lime) to protect your watermelons. Make it into a thin white-wash like paint (paste) and cover the tops of your melons with it.

Not only does it help the melons from getting overheated, should you get too much rain or over water -- but it also deters armadillos, crows, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, and voles from damaging your melon fruits. Remember: Re-paint after each rain.

Choose Your Watermelon Home Site Well:

As with all fruits and vegetables, watermelons for optimum growing, have their preferences. They want well-drained soil, fertile, and at least six hours of direct sunlight, and lots and lots of space.

Hilltop Watermelon Condos:

Watermelons are best grown in small man-made hills or mounds. Make sure that these are loose soil rich (gets oxygen to plants and allows roots to take hold). This method also keeps excess moisture away from the plant but into the roots were it needs to be. This is critical in dry hot weather.

Make No Mistake:

The biggest mistake gardeners make in growing watermelons is to plant them in the ground (either by seed or started plants) too soon. The soil temperature is absolutely a key to watermelon growing success. The weather needs to be a consistent sixty to seventy degrees for watermelons to take.

Other Watermelon Tips:

  • After the watermelon flowers start appearing, it is vital to water at least every three days.
  • Old-timers swear watermelons grow best, if they are planted on the outer row of corn.
  • Rabbits, voles, field mice, and armadillos are often the cause of watermelon damage.
  • Watermelons prefer a soil of pH of 6.0 to 6.8
  • Horse manure makes the best fertilizer for watermelon plants
  • One well-known and proven watermelon growing tip -- is to plant broccoli, calendula, catnip, goldenrod, Mexican marigolds nasturtiums, radish, rue and tansy as watermelon companions. They will discourage cucumber beetles and other insects from attacking your melons.

"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 the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat."
"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 the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat." | Source

Are My Watermelons Ripe?

Watermelon and Prostate cancer

It’s now thought that watermelon combined with green teacan help to prevent prostate cancer in men. Watermelons are great lycopene laden fruits.

They are among apricots, pink grapefruit, papaya, and guavas in terms of health benefits.

Some studies suggest that men are over 80% less likely to get prostate cancer from consuming fruits rich in lycopene than those who don’t partake.

Secrets to Harvesting Watermelons

Out in your watermelon patch or field, it’s often difficult (even for long time gardeners) to know if a watermelon has reached it’s peak, and if it is ready for harvesting. So, just how do you know if a watermelon is ripe enough to cull from the vine?

  1. Keep a good garden calendar for your seed variety, counting off the number of days until expected harvest (usually 60-90 days)
  2. Watermelons will generally be ripe if the spot where the melon rests on the soil becomes lighter colored
  3. Watermelons should be ripe, when the place where the fruit attaches itself to the stem has turned from green to brown
  4. Old-timers thump the watermelon to determine if there is a distinct change in sound. Note: Personally, I find this hard to do, and have been surprised by unripe melons in my attempts to do this.
  5. If you are growing a mini-melon variety, determining ripeness may be even harder.

  6. Some watermelon varieties’ patch or spot on the underbelly touching the ground, will turn color from an off-white to more of a yellow, if ripe.

  7. Another old-timer method for harvesting watermelons is just to watch carefully for a cessation of grown in the fruit.

What to Look for in a Store or Produce Stand Watermelon:

  • Look for watermelons that seem heavy for their size
  • Look for watermelons with smooth rinds
  • Look for watermelons outsides that are not shiny
  • Look for watermelons outsides who are also not dull
  • Look for creamy or yellow colored under-bellies
  • Don’t buy watermelons that are soft, have soft spots, or leaking a milky white fluid.

  • Also don’t buy watermelons that have dents, bruises, or cuts.

  • However, insect bites on the surface are not of a concern.

Watermelon Art

Carved Watermelon - David Sims, London, UK via Creative Commons Wikimedia Commons
Carved Watermelon - David Sims, London, UK via Creative Commons Wikimedia Commons

Watermelon Basket

Square Watermelon
Square Watermelon | Source

The Color Of Your Melon

Many Americans are not aware that watermelon's fruit, internally come in many colors. There is an estimated twelve hundred plus varieties of watermelons to choose from. They can be:

  • Canary Yellow -- Try the varieties named Yellow Crimson Watermelon, Desert King, Gold Baby, or Clay County Yellowmeat
  • Coral red -- Try the variety named Congo
  • Orange -- Try the variety named Orangeglo or Orange Fleshed Tendersweet
  • Salmon yellow -- Try the variety Golden Midget
  • Scarlet Red-- Try the variety named Blacktail Mountain
  • White -- Try the varieties named Cream of Saskatchewan, White Wonder, or Black Seeded Ice Cream

One of my favorite heirloom seed sellers of watermelons is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Junior Landcare Watermelon Challenge - Australia

Watermelon Bug
Watermelon Bug | Source

Watermelon Bugs

Watermelons might be crying silently for you to call Watermelon 911! if the following three most common watermelon pests are present in their lives:

Aphids -- Evidence: Curly or deformed leaves that have soft bodied aphids on the underside. Aphids can be green, brown, or black. Sometimes you’ll find a honeydew or black sooty mold along with them. Cure: Insecticidal soap sprays on the underside where the aphids are.

Squash Bugs -- Evidence: Grayish or yellow/brown flat backed (sometimes speckled) bugs about ¾” long. Leaves develop small specks that turn yellow at first, and progress to brown. Afterwards, the vines will wilt from where it starts and follow to the end of the vine. Cure: Handpick egg masses, juveniles, and adults on plants. One old-fashioned solution is to lay small planks of wood on top the plants in the spring, and turn them over in the sun each morning.

Cucumber Beetles -- Evidence: They live through the winter and feed on the seedlings, so they are hard to detect. Usually, you won't see them until it's too late. Look for irregular shaped holes in leaves, chewed areas on watermelon flowers, girdled stems, and holes gnawed in melons. Sometimes wide-spread wilting of leaves and stems are an indicator of this beetle. These insects also spread plant diseases and will eat the pollen, thus preventing fruit and make the watermelon plant generally ill. holes in leaves, chewed areas on flowers, girdled stems, and holes gnawed in fruit. Cure: Use insecticidal soap.

Watermelons are also susceptible to a number of diseases, such as:

  • Wilt diseases
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Mosaic Leaf and Fruit Disease

Watermelon Business

Watermelons are big business, even for the home or hobby farmer. In today's uncertain economy, if you have the land and want to grow an easy cash crop -- watermelons are a good choice.

As I discussed recently in, Growing Money, crops that are the most expensive in the local grocery stores or nurseries are the plants you want to plant if you are "growing money."

Last summer, watermelons here in Florida, were being sold for $6.99 each at the local grocery stores. The average short vined watermelon vine produces three to four fruits per watermelon plant. A field of 150 long vined watermelon plants, produces on average five watermelon fruits, per plant. Sold at $3.50 each, it's an easy $2500 in your cash pocket after seed costs.

Remember: Generally, long vined watermelon plants have better taste.

Giant Watermelon

Fay Todd (Krebs) with her grandsons, Left to Right: David,Michael, and Timmy.
Fay Todd (Krebs) with her grandsons, Left to Right: David,Michael, and Timmy. | Source

Mam'maw's Watermelon Rind Pickles

Watermelon rind pickles were once a common recipe found in many women’s kitchens.

This recipe is from one of Fay Todd’s cookbook of 1922, written by hand on an empty page, apparently gotten from her sister Laura Bell. Fay Todd was from Louisiana, Missouri. She was the paternal great-grandmother of my children, born in 1895.

Ingredients:

  • Left over watermelon rind, scraped free of any watermelon fruit
  • 4 quarts of water
  • ¾ cup of Kosher salt or pickling salt
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 7 cups of white sugar
  • 2 ½ tablespoons whole cloves
  • Dozen cinnamon sticks (about 3 to 4 inches long)
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced
  • 1 small piece of ginger root (very thinly sliced)

Ingredients:

  • Peel the skin off the rind
  • Cut into one inch cubes until you have 16 cups of rind
  • Place in glass bowl
  • Add water and salt (adding more if this amount doesn’t cover the rinds)
  • Cover with cloth and soak overnight inside the refrigerator
  • Drain off water next day and re-cover with clear water
  • Place in large pan and bring to a boil for a half hour
  • Drain again
  • Pour white vinegar into another large pot and add sugar
  • Place cinnamon, ginger root, and cloves in a tied up cheesecloth and add to mixture
  • Bring vinegar and spice mixture to a boil
  • Add drained watermelon rinds
  • Boil again until the rinds are transparent and the syrup is somewhat thick (somewhere between 45 minutes to an hour usually)
  • Remove spice bag
  • Add lemon slices
  • Spoon into sterilized and hot one pint jars
  • Allow ½ inch head space before sealing
  • Bath sealed jars in boiling water for another ten to fifteen minutes

Note: Makes 4 pints

Watermelon Pollination

Key to having a good watermelon crop is having lots of bees and wasps visiting your garden. The insects pollinate by putting in pollen, that the flower directs to what will be the stem end of the melon, and back up the blossom as more pollen grains are added.

Without enough pollination, a watermelon bloom will close, and the result will be misshapen and non-existent watermelon fruit. Bees and wasps are hugely important to watermelon crops.

Luis Melendez, still life, Watermelons and apples, Museo del Prado, Madrid - Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Luis Melendez, still life, Watermelons and apples, Museo del Prado, Madrid - Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Big Watermelon Myth

Even today, you’ll find popular “experts” claiming that you should not plant watermelons near cucumbers, cantaloupes, or squash because they will cross pollinate, and the flavor and quality of your fruits will be compromised.

There is a more complicated scientific explanation for why they don't, but I don't think it's necessary to spell out. Just remember that there is a lot of misinformation on the Internet regarding this.

Watermelons will cross-pollinate with “other watermelons” but not other members of the plant family. It is simply a long held myth that doesn’t affect your watermelons.

Watermelon Fun Facts!

  • America ranks 4th in watermelon production. The states producing the most watermelons are: Arizona, California, Florida, and Georgia.
  • Egyptian’s recorded watermelons in their hieroglyphics walls more than five thousand years ago.
  • Egyptian kings had watermelon seeds placed in their tombs.
  • No one produces more watermelons than China.
  • Watermelons are believed to first showed up in the Kalahari Desert region of Africa.
  • Watermelons had spread to Europe beginning in the Mediterranean countries.
  • Watermelons were known to be in the U.S. by 1615 as both food and drinks. Some believe they came via seeds by African slaves.
  • Watermelons are an astonishing 92% water.

  • Early pioneers and explorers used watermelons as canteens.

  • August 18th is National Watermelon Day in America.

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Comments 47 comments

monicamelendez profile image

monicamelendez 4 years ago from Salt Lake City

Fantastic hub and that carved watermelon is amazing. So pretty!


judy janssen 4 years ago

should watermelons be turned when growing them in the garden?


bushraismail profile image

bushraismail 4 years ago from ASIA

Hello there, Around where I live watermelons dont ever grow..people will be shocked to hear that it is growing in my house...by mistake..I am overjoyed and am scared that it will wilt today or tomorrow.

My father cares too much for any plant he's watering it 3 times a day....There is a young fruit. Hope we get to eat it..


sopa 5 years ago

is a good thing having this page


NicoleB 5 years ago

This may sound dumb but I have no idea if I plant a regular watermelon or a personal watermelon. How am I to know when my watermelons ready to be picked?


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks sosiecki! Glad it was useful to you.


sosiecki profile image

sosiecki 5 years ago from Madison,North Carolina

Jerilee,great article,I too have followed most all you advised.Living in N.C. It is often about 100 degrees and

and that can cause splitting, though It's a new one on me about the pickling lime.My wife and grow and can,freeze and preserve everything,including our own herbs.Thanks again!


Nyameba 5 years ago

Jerilee, thanks for the encouragement. i will try planting and see the results. my land can take about 800 plants.

my email is : galazyprince@yahoo.com


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Nyameba! I have seen watermelon raised successfully on pots and in raised beds.


Nyameba 5 years ago

Good info. but can't i Watermelon in a clayey soil. that get water logged when it rains. we are in the dry season in Ghana now. it won't be raining till late march.

my email is : galazyprince@yahoo.com


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Tom Blake!


TomBlake profile image

TomBlake 6 years ago

What a great angle on gardening watermelons! I also had trouble keeping deer and other critter out of my garden. Thankfully, there’s deer off that can keep the marauding deer away.

Here's the spray I'm talking about:

http://www.deeroff.com/advantage. It works by targeting both the highly developed sense of smell and taste. It’s the only one that targets both.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Kamran100!


Kamran100 profile image

Kamran100 6 years ago

Good ..good ...good

i like watermelon to much

good article..nice video. afer watching video i also wanna eat watermelon.hahah


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States Author

Thanks myawn!


myawn profile image

myawn 6 years ago from Florida

Thanks I love to eat watermelon nice information about the watermelon


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States Author

Thanks salt! Love them too.


salt profile image

salt 6 years ago from australia

Thankyou so much. I love watermelon and its in season here.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Lake Ozark Rentals!


Lake Ozark Rentals 6 years ago

Great Hub! Nice to see what a watermelon can do!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Rocky! True on the watermelon carvings, they make a nice center piece when entertaining.


Rocky 6 years ago

Thanks for sharing good article, Watermelon Carvings is also interesting topic


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks livingsta! I tend to write about what I know.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 7 years ago from United Kingdom

All your hubs seem very very interesting. mostly related to nature and environment. i will have to take some time out to go through all your hubs. keep posting


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks tim-tim!


tim-tim profile image

tim-tim 7 years ago from Normal, Illinois

Amazing Watermelon Art!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Sally's Trove! It's a favorite of mine too.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Fabulous Hub! I was happy to see the watermelon rind recipe. It's a favorite treat of mine, but so expensive to buy in the stores, if you can even find it. I will definitely be trying it this summer.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks mulberry1! Looking at the stem is a better marker anyway.


mulberry1 profile image

mulberry1 7 years ago

Excellent hub! Now I know to look at the stem to see if they're ripe. (I'm no good at thumping)


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks DarleneMarie! I try to walk that tight rope of not being too super informative and giving the readers eye-strain.


DarleneMarie profile image

DarleneMarie 7 years ago from USA

As always, Jerilee does it again with her super informative watermellon Hub!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks RGraf! Getting close enough to the season to start them indoors for the spring here in the South.


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

Too bad they are not in season now. I could take on a juicy one :)

thanks for the craving.


packerpack profile image

packerpack 7 years ago from India, Calcutta

You are welcome ..... anytime


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks packerpack! I appreciate the heads up, what I love about hubpages is that you learn something every day. There is a big learning curve here no matter how long you've been a hubber or how well you do.

Thanks Netters!


Netters profile image

Netters 7 years ago from Land of Enchantment - NM

Great story. A lot of useful information too. Thanks.


packerpack profile image

packerpack 7 years ago from India, Calcutta

Thanks will go through that Hub.

And yes there is one more thing that I thought to tell. I don't know if you already know it but still thought to let you know that we aren't supposed to put links in comment as it will be considered promotion. If you want anyone to read your Hub then I would suggest you to give the title of Hub instead of the link. Let the user go to your profile page and search for the same. I am not trying to be rude, just thought to let you know about it because use of too much of links in your comments may be considered seriously negative.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Muthusamy!

Thanks BrianS! I may have to switch to another topic just to make sure I don't lose non-gardening readers but have many more planned in coming weeks.

Thanks packerpack! I'm planning a hub on the black thumb society. Also did a hub a good while back http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Worlds-Finest-Connoiss... that may be of interest.

As far as I know it's a Department of Ag quasi holiday that many small town communities make the most of holding watermelon festivals, etc. I don't know why the specific date.


packerpack profile image

packerpack 7 years ago from India, Calcutta

Well I am no farmer or on who would grow watermelon for those who are it is a very good and very informative Hub. you have covered all the depth and breadth of water really very well. Well it is true for all your Hubs. But the tips that will actually benefit me are those about how to buy them. That's why I said you have covered all the depth hand breadth of the topic very well, have explained tips that will be useful for all, farmer, buyer or even pickle maker! That's great.

And what is National Watermelon Day in America on August 18th. Are you sure? What is the significance? Is it that day watermelon was grown here for the first time?


BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

Can't get enough of these gardening hubs, keep em coming.


Muthusamy R profile image

Muthusamy R 7 years ago from CHENNAI India

Jerilee you have have compiled most of the useful information on Watermelon. Excellent efforts. Thank you for the useful and informative HUB


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks Aya! You might want to try the following heirloom varieties for your location (1) Missouri Heriloom Yellow Flesh; (2) either Moon & Stars; (3) Malahi (from Israel). Make sure you also don't wait too long after the last season frost to get your watermelons in the ground because of your shorter growing season (no more than 2 weeks). Or if you start them indoors, be sure to harden them off (set them outside each day for a few hours on warmer days).

Thanks ajbarnett! I always like compliments.

Thanks C.C. Riter! I had a neighbor who used to plant a certain number of "over the fence" extra plants just for your kind.

Thanks Mighty Mom! My husband and daughter love their watermelon too.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

Watermelon 911. What a cool title for your tribute to the almighty fruit of summer! Makes me want to dribble some pink juice down my chin and spit out seeds. Thwap!


C. C. Riter 7 years ago

Jeri, thanks for this info and reat hub. I enjoyed it. It remands me of where I was raised in watermelon country and how we used to steal them at night right out of the patch. *Confessions of a 10 year old thief with head hung in shame*

We learned that if it's ripe it just breaks right off the vine.


ajbarnett profile image

ajbarnett 7 years ago from Costa Blanca, Spain

Yet another well informed hub, Jerilee. Your research and knowledge is impeccable.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Jerilee, thanks for this useful information about watermelons. It's just possible that when we planted them before, it was still too cold.

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