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How to tell if a watermelon is ripe

Ripe watermelons have dried tendrils and pale bottoms.

There's nothing more depressing than picking one of the two watermelons in your garden, cutting it open, and discovering that it's not yet ripe.  That's what happened in our garden last year, so this year we grew more watermelons and started learning the secrets to ensure we only pick the watermelons when they are fully ripe.

Some folks say they can tell when their watermelons are ripe by thumping the side and listening for a hollow sound.  Good luck.  Others count the days since they planted their seeds and look at the days to maturity on the seed packet --- this is a good start, but doesn't factor in chilly weather droughts, and other features that set your ripening back by a day, a week, or a month.

I've found two signs that seem to be much more fail-safe.  A ripe watermelon will turn yellow, tan, or white on the portion touching the ground --- the Sugar Baby in the photo on the left is a great example.  This pale spot can be harder to see on lighter green watermelons, like the Dixie Queen on the right.  Here, I focus on the tendrils directly opposite the stem running to the watermelon.  Once these tendrils start to dry up and turn brown, your watermelon should be juicy and sweet.

As a final note, we grew four varieties of watermelons this year --- Sugar Baby, Dixie Queen, Early Moonbeam, and Sweet Favorite Hybrid.  Sugar Baby won the prolific fruit prize and Dixie Queen won the taste test (but had very few fruits.)  Early Moonbeam was more of a novelty melon, with its yellow flesh, while we never actually got a fruit from the Sweet Favorite Hybrid.  It's always worth planting several varieties if you have a fruit or vegetable that doesn't seem to be working for you --- chances are that one of the varieties will become your garden's new star!

Check out Mark's homemade chicken waterer.


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