August 23, 2014

1 - NMSU publications give tips telling how to determine when your homegrown melons are ready to pick.

Yard and Garden August 23, 2014


I decided to try to grow melons for the first time this summer. I bought some melon transplants and was amazed at how well they grew. However, now I am wondering what is wrong. The melons stopped growing when they were about a foot across. Why are they so small? How can I tell when they are ripe?


Did you plant watermelons, honeydew melons, cantaloupe (muskmelons), or another kind of melon? Many melons are mature at the size you described, and there are varieties of watermelon that are bred to be small enough to put inside a refrigerator. They are often called icebox melons because they may be placed in the refrigerator whole without taking up all the space in the refrigerator. Cantaloupes, honeydew, and some other melons are typically small, so I suspect these are not the ones you are asking about.

According to information in NMSU Extension Publication Guide H-216: When to Harvest Vegetables by Dr. Stephanie Walker, watermelons indicate that their fruit ready to pick when the "tendril opposite fruit withers as the fruit ripens; the soil spot (where watermelon rests on soil) turns from white to creamy yellow; the rind at the soil spot becomes tough and resists denting with a fingernail; and rapping or thumping produces a dull sound at maturity rather than a hollow sound."

For gardeners growing cantaloupe, Dr. Walker states that the time to pick these fruit is "when the stem separates easily from fruit (full slip). They may also be harvested at half-slip stage (only half of stem slips cleanly off fruit when forced) for commercial shipping." This helps explain why people prefer to grow their own vegetables and fruits; because they can harvest at the peak of flavor and sweetness. Harvested at this time the fruit cannot be shipped and have only a brief shelf-life. Vegetables and fruit from the store are good, but home grown fruits and vegetables are even better when picked at the most optimum time and consumed quickly. Additional information regarding optimal times for picking crops as well as growing them is available in Circular-457: Home Vegetable Gardening in New Mexico by Dr. Walker.

In this publication you will find information regarding when it is too early, too late, and the optimal time to harvest. Many other useful publications are available on the NMSU College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences web site ACES Publications.

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:, 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, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook page.

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