When is it time to pick watermelon from the garden? Because watermelon does not continue to sweeten or ripen after picking, harvesting at the right time is a must. Use these tips to know when it’s time to pick your fruit.
This lists fruits that ripen after picking and those that do not to help guide your harvesting decision.
Is This Watermelon Ready to Be Picked?
Watermelon | Species: Citrullus lanatus
Flowering vine-like plant that produces edible fruit
• Annual crop (1,000 varieties)
• Consistently moist, well-draining soil with full sun (6+ hours/day)
• Needs ample growing space and shelter from wind
• Fruits do not ripen or sweeten after picking
• How to check if fruit is ready to pick
• Native to topical regions including South Africa
Shop Online: Buy watermelon seeds at SeedsNow (US shipping)
How can you tell when the watermelon you’re growing is ripe and ready to be picked?
Common advice includes knocking on the rind and checking for color changes. But does this help? These actions can provide clues but not the whole picture.
The tips listed below—when considered together—will help aim you in the right direction.
But, ultimately, the only way to be certain a watermelon is ready to eat is to test it.
Keep in mind that once you do remove the fruit from the vine, there is no turning back. It’s not going to continue ripening or sweetening at this point.
Your best option is to read the tips provided and then, if you think it’s time, pick one fruit and taste it. Is it ripe and good? Or needs more time? Or perhaps it’s overripe?
It’s a bit daunting when you’re new to growing watermelon—or any food crops, but with more experience, knowing when to harvest will become second nature.
It’s also helpful to keep notes of details like sowing or planting dates, expected days to maturity, and on what day number you harvested the fruit. This information will be a valuable resource next year.
- Signs Watermelon May be Ready to Pick
- Watermelon Fruit Storage Tips
4 Signs Watermelon May Be Ready To Pick
1Days to Maturity
This is the most important tip. It takes time for any fruit to ripen on the vine and you cannot fast-track it.
Seed packets tells us how long each crop should take from either seed to harvest or from transplanting young plants to harvest—with the recommended amount of light.
Professional growers know this to the day, as they know the seeds they are using and their growing conditions.
If you know the type of watermelon you are growing, look up the estimated days to maturity.
Depending on the variety, this may range from 60 to 110 days.
- How long have you been growing it?
- Did it have lots of sun and water throughout the growing season?
Many fruits like watermelon can only begin ripening when they have reached maturity.
The only way to know for certain that a watermelon is sweet is to taste it. If you like watermelons that are sweeter or more flavorful, learn which varieties have these traits. Crimson Sweet, Little Darling, and Bush Sugar Baby are all examples of high-sugar watermelons. The right variety picked when fully ripe—but not overripe—is your best bet.
Knock, knock! This is a popular tip but difficult for beginners.
Thump the watermelon with your knuckles and listen to the sound it makes.
Ripe watermelons produce a hollow sound.
Under and over-ripe watermelons may produce a thud.
It’s hard to imagine getting good at this unless you had a whole bunch to test and confirm.
We suspect it will also vary with variety and size.
But lots of people swear they have an ear for ripe watermelon sounds, so knock yourself out.
This tip is also used when buying watermelons at the grocery store or farmer’s market. But again, even if it might indicate ripeness, it’s not going to tell you whether the fruit is sweet or delicious.
There are exceptions to this one—as there always are in gardening—but the field spot, the part of the fruit that touches the ground as its growing, can turn yellowish as the fruit becomes ripe.
If it’s white, it’s not ready.
But, this is not a universal rule for all watermelons—just one other possible clue to check.
4Curly Tendril Color
If you know your watermelon has had enough time to grow, this tip is another possible ripeness clue.
Check the color of the curly tendril nearest the top of the melon where the stem joins the fruit.
If it’s green, the watermelon is still ripening.
Once it turns brown and dries out, you have a ripe melon, or possibly over-ripe melon.
It’s something to pay attention to in combination with the other tips.
And, if the growing season is ending, maybe you just pick that watermelon, cut it open, and have a taste.
These other tips are ones some gardeners swear by but do not seem to be reliable for everyone—or, their usefulness comes with experience.
Smell the melon | A ripe watermelon may have a sweet watermelon-ish scent. If it’s too ripe, it may have a rancid odor.
Firmness | An unripe watermelon fruit is going to be tough and hard. As the fruit matures and ripens, its water content increases and the fruit will both become heavier but also may have a bit of give to it. When over-ripe, at some point that rind will start to decay and turn to mush.
Watermelon Fruit Storage Tips
Whole, fresh watermelon | Left uncut, a fresh, ripe watermelon should be fine at room temperature for approximately one week.
Cut watermelon stays fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days (maximum).
Frozen watermelon | You can “flash freeze” watermelon by placing cut chunks on a tray in the freezer until frozen. Then store in airtight freezer bags in freezer up to 2-3 months. Fruit will be mushy when thawed: use for items like fruit leathers, popsicles, and smoothies.
The only full-proof way to know if a watermelon is ripe is to cut it open and check.
Other signs include:
- Number of days the fruit has been growing. Has it had enough time (per your seed packet) with enough sun and water?
- The sound the fruit makes when you knock on it with your knuckles. A hollow sound is a positive sign.
- A yellow (not white) field spot. This is the section of the watermelon that rests on the ground.
- Brown and dry tendril(s) near the part where the stem meets the fruit.
Now, let’s eat. I hope it’s delicious.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
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