How to tell when a watermelon is ripe on the vine

Q: This is the first year I have grown watermelons. They are taking over my garden! When is the right time to harvest them?

A: I have a gourd vine right now that seems headed in the direction of I-85. If you hear traffic reports of a green, slimy mess on the interstate, you’ll know it arrived and tried to cross.

Watermelons are no less rampant – the typical spacing in a garden is at least six feet between plants. Let the vines spread as best you can. They absorb the sunshine that is turned into the sugar that makes a watermelon sweet.

The easiest way to tell when one is ripe is to find the little “pigtail” sprout that occurs on the vine just opposite of where a melon is attached. While the melon is unripe, the pigtail is green. When the melon is dead ripe, the pigtail turns brown.

Being the impatient sort personally, I’d wait until the pigtail turns yellow then use a knife to take a deep, narrow plug out of the fruit. If it seems to be ripe enough to eat, dig in!

When to Harvest Garden Produce

watermelon tendril

watermelon tendril

watermelon tendril above the fruit

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