Watermelons: Summertime Fun!
The watermelon gets its name because it is 90% water and in the U.S. August 3rd is National Watermelon Day!
Florida has a great climate for growing watermelon and is a leading producer in the US. Due to Florida’s climate we can plant and harvest in the winter as well as the summer. In fact, Florida is the only state in the country that produces watermelon from December to April. Watermelons grow best when the daytime temperatures are between 70-85 degrees.
Watermelons, a member of the cucurbits family, originated in Africa. They grow on a vine, have pale yellow flowers and their fruit is round or oval. If you plan on growing watermelons you will need plenty of space, as much as 18-24 square feet per plants. When planting watermelon you can either plant seeds or transplants; just be careful with transplants as watermelons have sensitive roots. Plant your watermelons in a location where they will receive full sun. Watermelon is versatile and will grow in almost any type of soil as long as it’s well-drained.
There are a few varieties of watermelon that do particularly well in Florida. If you are planning to grow the popular smaller, icebox-sized watermelons, look for ‘Sugar Baby’ or ‘Mickeylee’ varieties. If you have the space and desire to grow larger watermelons look for ‘Jubilee’ (Florida Giant), ‘Crimson Sweet’, or ‘Charleston Grey 133’.
To get the best-tasting watermelon, avoid stress to your plants from insects, disease, weeds, poor nutrition, or too much or too little water. Watermelons take 80 to 100 days to mature depending on the variety. Watermelons don’t sweeten after they are picked, so harvest time is important. They generally ripen over two weeks so keep your eye on them.
Dr. Bill Rhodes, professor of horticulture at Clemson University, offers the following advice on how to tell if watermelons are ripe:
- Thump it. If the watermelon sounds hollow, it’s ripe.
- Look at the color on the top. The watermelon is ripe when there is little contrast between the stripes.
- Look at the color on the bottom. A green watermelon will have a white bottom; a ripe melon will have a cream- or yellow-colored bottom.
- Press on it. If the watermelon sounds like it gives a little, it’s ripe. (Rhodes doesn’t like this method because it can ruin the quality of the fruit.)
- Check the tendril. If it’s green, wait. If it’s half-dead, the watermelon is nearly ripe or ripe. If the tendril is fully dead, it’s ripe or overripe; it’s not going to get any riper, so you might as well pick!
- Stems should be cut with a sharp knife close to the fruit.
- Watermelons can be stored uncut for about 10 days. If cut, they can last in the refrigerator for about 4 days. Wrap tightly in plastic.
Above information obtained from the following:
https://www.flfwa.com/ Florida Watermelon Association