By: Jannie Vaught
With the garden fully planted and the job of setting watering systems and repairing sprinklers the only thought in my mind as I plant and dig is “Watermelon.”
Citrullus lanatus is a scrambling and trailing vine in the flowering plant family Cucurbitaceae. The species long thought to originate in South Africa. Although that was an error and DNA tests have found it to also be in ancient Egypt. So it seems the watermelon and its historical family has traveled around the world. And who wouldn’t want to take this back home after a long adventure?
You would be heralded as the one who brought the watermelon. It is grown in tropical and subtropical areas around the world and is known for its large edible fruit. Botanically called a pepo. The sweet juicy flesh is usually deep red to pink with many varieties now from yellow to orange. Filled with many black seeds that are edible and can be dried and seasoned and have a nutty flavor. They are eaten fresh and the rind is often pickled. They like the heat and sun-loving with plenty of water. They have to have pollinators to produce and encouraging bees is a must for getting fruit. They can have some pest issues such as aphids, fruit fly and root-knot nematodes. They can also have issues with powdery mildew in heavy humidity so keep a watch out. The variety is almost endless, from seed to seedless. Large striped and small round green, And one of my favorites is the yellow desert melon grown in San Saba. They are small refrigerator types, small personal melons, to the Big Family picnic melon. On the garden scale, they like sandy loam soils with well-drained areas. Not soggy. With a ph of 5.5 and 7 with medium nitrogen requirements.
They have a longer growing requirement that many other melons, and can take 85 days after transplant for fruit. I sow direct seed. and yes it does take a long while to get that big ripe melon. And even when you think its ready wait another day. I grew one accidentally in my front yard that was so heavy I had to roll it to the porch. Sometimes I will place a thick pad of dry straw under the melons to keep them off any wet soil.
Yes, I baby them. A large roomy place is needed for them to wander and sprawl. I often plant them amongst the trellis plants that go up and they like to be down and have even climbed into a blackberry bush and hung like a giant peach. You just never know what twists and turns the garden will make.
Texas is one of the larger watermelon growing states, and aren’t we glad about that. When the days are hot and going into a hot kitchen is not very appealing my parents would do a watermelon supper. Table set, plates and silver, tea and napkin, salt and pepper on the table, And my Dad would slice long wedges of cold watermelon. Now that is a happy thought. And yes I planted lots of watermelons this year and I will wait and dream of the sweet reward of cold melon on a clean white plate.
Outgrowing green and planting watermelon with Jannie