Read the Seed Packet
When you are deciding what variety of watermelon you want to grow, the first thing you should do is pay attention to the “days to harvest,” which is listed on the seed packet. Days to harvest, is the amount of time it takes from planting your melon seeds until you can expect to harvest ripe fruit.
Once you plant your watermelon seeds, it’s a good idea to mark your calendar on the planting date and then count forward and make a note on the expected date the melons should reach the ripe stage, per the days to harvest.
Of course, if you live in an area where the warm growing season is short, you’ll want to select a cultivar that doesn’t take as long to ripen. Watermelons perform best once temperatures are consistently warm and are very sensitive to frosts and cold weather, so select a variety appropriate for your climate.
Variety & Days to Harvest Examples
Regardless of where you reside, there are varieties of watermelons well-suited for the length of your particular locale’s growing season. Some examples of the varying days to harvest of different melon cultivars include:
- ‘Sweet Dakota Rose’ an heirloom, produces 10- to 20-pound, bright red-fleshed fruits. Good for shorter seasons as it matures in around 60 days.
- ‘Yellow Alice’ is a Korean hybrid producing small, round fruits with yellow-flesh. Matures in 55 to 60 days.
- ‘Compadre’ is a disease-resistant hybrid producing 20- to 25-pound, red-fleshed and oval fruits. Matures in 82 to 85 days.
- ‘Gold Strike’ a hybrid producing 22- to 24-pound fruits with orange-flesh and skin with a distinctive dark stripe Matures in 80 days.
- ‘Mountain Sweet Yellow’ is an heirloom producing 20- to 35-pound fruits with dark-yellow flesh and matures in 95 to 100 days.
- ‘Carolina Cross’ bears 200-pound, red-fleshed fruit with green-striped skin. Matures in around 100 days.
Expert Tip: Although most people think of red flesh when it comes to watermelons, there are varieties with pink, orange and yellow flesh.
Visual Signs of Watermelon Ripeness
Without having to cut into the watermelon to check is the fruit is ripe or not, there are other visual means that are telltale signs your melon has achieved its prime stage of ripeness and is ready for harvesting.
- The curly tendrils on the stem where attached to the watermelon change from light green to brown and become dry.
- The watermelon’s appearance changes from shiny to dull.
- You can’t penetrate the outer skin with a thumbnail.
- The bottom portion of the melon that touched the ground changes from green to yellowish.
- The heavier the watermelon, the riper it is.
Once you’ve determined your watermelon is ripe and ready for harvesting, simply cut the melon off the vine.
Expert Tip: “Thumping” the watermelon and listening for a dull thud isn’t a good indicator of the melon’s ripeness. Some ripe melons won’t have the “dull thud” sound and sometimes you’ll end up with an overripe and mushy watermelon.