How to Grow Sugar Baby Watermelons
A Ripe Sugar Baby Watermelon
Sugar Baby Watermelons: Great for Small Yards
Sugar Baby watermelons are known as “icebox” watermelons, because the melons are small enough to fit into a refrigerator. Gardeners in Northern areas fare well with icebox watermelons, because they mature in a relatively short period of time (often in 85-90 days), allowing the fruit to be harvested prior to the first frost. Sugar Baby watermelon vines produce a fruit that is approximately 6 – 10 pounds.
Sugar Baby watermelon plants require less room than standard watermelon vines, and can be grown in a small sized raised bed: our family planted several plants in a 4’ x 4’ raised planter. Each vine will be about 3 ½ feet long, and are easy to grow in nearly any sized garden. Sugar Babies produce less fruit on each vine than a traditional watermelon variety: each plant will produce one or two watermelons. The fruit is red, crisp, and very sweet, and contains small black seeds. If other watermelon varieties are grown next to the Sugar Baby watermelons, do not save the seeds for planting the following year. The resultant fruit will likely be a hybrid of the varieties you have grown – while some of the fruit will be good, some may turn out to be “pig melons” and not very tasty.
Planting Sugar Baby Watermelon Seeds
Plant the watermelon seeds about 1 inch (2 cm) deep in “hills” or into soil in a raised bed. In Northern areas, wait until the danger of frost has passed. In our area of the country (Western New York – Zone 5), we typically wait until Memorial Day weekend to plant. Use quality soil enriched with compost.
Once the watermelon fruit has started to appear on the vines, restrict the amount of water to 1” or so per week. Watermelons are native to Southern Africa, and are desert plants. To develop sweet fruit, the plants require relatively dry conditions. Some watermelon gardeners will mix sand into the soil prior to planting the plants to provide a more “desert-like” medium. Raised beds help water drain quickly from the plants, so the watermelon plants will not get flooded during periodic rain storms.
How to Determine When a Sugar Baby Watermelon is Ripe
Sugar Baby watermelons have a rind with a solid, dark forest green color. The fruit is nearly spherical, and about the size of a small bowling ball (about 8.5” in diameter). Mark the date the seeds are planted onto a calendar: this will allow the gardener to estimate when the fruit will ripen. Most Sugar Baby watermelons ripen about 85 days from the day the seeds are planted.
Once the required amount of time has passed, examine the fruit. The area underneath the melon (where it is in contact with the ground) should turn a yellow color. Sometimes, Sugar Babies are so dark in color that the yellow coloration can be difficult to see. In this case, it may be necessary to rely on other signs – in most situations, however, the watermelon will have developed a yellowish underbelly.
Watermelon plants have a “spoon leaf” – a small, spoon-shaped leaf closest to the watermelon on the vine. This leaf will dry up, turn brown, and often fall off when the melon is ripe. The curly tendril closest to the watermelon will also turn brown, indicating the fruit is ripe.
Before cutting the fruit from the vine, gently scratch the Sugar Baby watermelon with a fingernail. A ripe melon will have a hard rind and will be resistant to scratching.
Determining When a Watermelon is Ripe
Harvesting Sugar Baby Watermelons
Once the melon is ripe, simply cut the watermelon from the vine. Cut open the melon: a ripe melon will be a deep pink or red color, with a lot of mature seeds in the heart. We planted our watermelons in late May, and we had mature fruit by the end of August. Our four year old son planted the seeds, cared for the plants, and ultimately enjoyed eating the result of his hard work!
Sugar Baby Watermelon Nutrition
Sugar Baby watermelons are low in calories and have a very high water content. All watermelons act as a mild diuretic (i.e. they flush water through the body). Red watermelons like the Sugar Baby watermelon have lycopene, an antioxidant. Watermelon also contains a small amount of calcium and protein. All watermelon varieties have a good dose of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, in addition to potassium and magnesium.
Watermelon is a healthy, sweet snack on any summer day!