October 3, 2015

1 - Depending on the type on melon, there are several signs that indicate the best time to harvest.

Yard and Garden October 3, 2015


I know when to harvest my tomatoes, beans, and squash, however I never seem to be able to harvest my melons at the right time. How do I know when to harvest melons?


Melons can be a challenge to harvest at the proper time. That proper time depends on which type of melon you are growing as well.

If you are growing watermelons there are several signs. I have never been good at the thump test, but some people prefer that test. I prefer some signs provided by the watermelon itself. The "pigtail", the tendril that forms on the stem opposite the point of attachment of the watermelon will turn brown and dry as the watermelon ripens. That is a first sign, but I prefer to back that up with the ground spot sign. The ground spot is the white area on the melon where it sits on the ground. Do not turn the melon as it grows to keep this ground spot from forming because you need it to tell you when the water melon is ripe. During the growing season the ground spot will be greenish-white. As the melon ripens the ground spot will develop yellow coloring. This may not be a distinct yellow, but you will notice more yellow than before. Be careful not to break the watermelons stem as you check the ground spot.

If you are growing cantaloupes, honeydew melons, and most other smaller melons of this type you can check for a few signs. The first sign is that the end of the melon away from the stem begins to soften a little. A second sign is that the melon develops a nice fragrance when you put your nose close to it to smell it. The best sign is when the stem naturally separates from the melon. You will notice that the stem develops a crack at the point where it spreads to join to the melon. Commercially grown melons are harvested at the "half-slip" stage when the stem is one-half separated from the melon. The melon is not completely ripe at this point, but it is ripe enough to harvest and still immature enough to ship to market. That means in your own garden you can grow an even more perfect melon by waiting for the "full-slip" stage. This is when the stem develops a crack completely around its attachment to the melon. The melon will often separate easily from the stem at this time. Such a melon will be at the peak of flavor. To leave it longer lets it become overripe.

You will be able to take great pleasure in sharing watermelons and other melons at the peak of ripeness when you hear those with whom you are sharing exclaim, "This is the best melon I have ever eaten!" Of course, you, the gardener will also be thinking the same thing. Bon appetit!

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!