How To Tell If A Watermelon Is Ripe – Look For These Clues!

by Texas Homesteader ~ 

Many gardeners wonder how to tell when a garden watermelon is ripe. Luckily there are several indications to let you know when the time is right to pick that perfectly-ripe, sweet, juicy watermelon.

Indications Your Watermelon Is Ripe

There are several clues that your garden watermelon is ripe, no matter what the variety. Look for these simple clues:

  • Melon is deceptively heavy for its size
  • Bright yellow area where the watermelon touches the ground
  • ‘Spoon’ (small spoon-shaped leaf very close to the melon) has dried and/or fallen off
  • The closest tendril to the watermelon is completely dried
  • Watermelon skin looks dusty white on top of the glossy green skin
  • Some people swear by the thump test. A dull thump is supposed to indicate a ripe melon. I fail at this test every time – maybe there’s a secret?

How to tell if a watermelon is ripe. There are several clues to look for. #TexasHomesteader

Is My Watermelon Ripe?

Color Of Melon’s Underside – One indication you can use to gauge if your watermelon is ripe for the picking is by looking at the underside of the melon. That’s the area that sits on the ground as it’s growing.

The color in that spot goes from green to white to cream colored to light yellow to bright yellow.

This watermelon from my garden has the yellow underside I’m looking for.

Bright yellow underside of water is indication for ripe melon. #TexasHomesteader

Stem Indications – Also the stem of your watermelon will give you clues as to its ripeness.  Look at the very first tendril on the stem, growing closest to your watermelon. The tendrils start off green of course. Then they gradually turn brown.

I was hoping one of my melons was ripe, even though this tendril still had a touch of color where it meets the vine. I harvested it anyway thinking it was close enough.

Big mistake. The watermelon wasn’t quite there. I ended up having to feed it to my chickens.

Black Star backyard Chickens eating watermelon. #TexasHomesteader

Watermelon Weight – Ripe watermelon has lots of moisture in the meat of the melon. That’s why it’s called WATERmelon!

So you’ll want to pick up the melon before you cut it from the vine. It should feel deceptively heavy for its size. That will indicate there’s lots of moisture inside, which is another good indication of a ripe melon.

Growing Sugar Baby Watermelon

I prefer to grow Sugar Baby watermelons. I like that they’re smaller than those mammoth varieties such as black diamond & such.

As empty nesters, there are only two of us in our household. My garden producing several 50-pound watermelons would be production overload and a waste for sure. There’s no way we could or would want to eat much watermelon!

Sugar baby watermelons are much more moderately sized. Plenty big enough for RancherMan & me. And Sugar baby melons typically weigh between 6 and 15 pounds. THAT’S more like it!

From a single Sugar Baby watermelon vine I typically harvest 6-7 watermelons. That’s plenty for RancherMan & me to enjoy throughout the summer.

Bonnie Plants is known for their seed. And according to Bonnie:

“This small, round melon is called an icebox type because it is petite enough to fit in the refrigerator. This widely adapted heirloom variety is solid, dark green on the outside with a bright red, firm and fine-grained flesh that is super sweet. Watermelon contains high levels of healthy antioxidants, making Sugar Baby a great sweet way to pack in good nutrition. Vines are compact. Plant about 4 feet apart.”

    • Light: Full sun
    • Fruit size: 8 to 10 pounds
    • Matures: 78 days       
    • Plant size: Long vine
    • Plant spacing: 48 inches apart

Volunteer Watermelon Vine Benefits

I didn’t plant watermelon in the garden this year. But as luck would have it a volunteer vine showed up anyway, right at the edge of my row of green beans. Yea – Free food!

I often allow my vining plants to amble among the other vegetable plants in my garden. It’s like my very own (free) Living Mulch. And in traditional 3-Sisters Garden styled benefit, the vining plant helps other plants in the garden.

A vining plant grows along the ground and shades the soil around the other plants. This shading not only moderates those hot Texas summer temperatures on the soil itself, but also preserves moisture as well since shaded soil means less evaporation is taking place.

So this volunteer watermelon was allowed to remain right where it sprouted to do double duty for me – Help keep my green bean plants healthy, preserve moisture and, you know, give me home-grown watermelons!

Watermelon Watering Requirement

It’s said that garden watermelons grow best when given plenty of water. That makes sense – it is watermelon after all! But once that vine takes off, how in the world does a gardener know where to direct the waterhose?

You could just water the entire planting row I suppose, knowing that you’ll eventually get at least some water to the roots of the plant where it’s needed. But I hate to waste that much water. No worries, I have a water-saving shortcut.

This gardening hack not only marks where the base of the plant is, but helps deliver the water directly to the plant in a method that allows it to slowly soak in right at the roots. No wasted runoff, no evaporation!

Water-Saving Garden Irrigation Hack

I repurpose empty coffee cans to fill various needs on our Homestead. I’ve made Chicken Feeders out of them and also Planting Pots.

And I’ve made a Flour Canister and a fun country-styled Bread Box for my kitchen. So many ways to Repurpose Coffee Cans!

I keep several empty coffee cans in my garden too. They help me to use only the amount of precious Harvested Rainwater that I need to keep plants healthy in growing our food without wasting any water.

For my raised beds I’ll punch holes in the lids of the coffee cans. When it’s time to water I fill the can with water, snap on the lid and then turn it over – hole sides down – to allow water to drip & deep-soak right at the base of the plant.

Plus the coffee can itself is also offering shade to the plant’s roots since I leave the cans in place until the next time I water.

This holes-in-the-lid method keeps the actual can intact. That allows me use my rainwater holding tanks if necessary during drought. I can fill the coffee can with rainwater and walk it to my garden, snap on the lid with holes and invert the can at the base of my plant.

But for my tomatoes and any vine plants, I actually punch holes in the bottom of the coffee can itself and place it for the entire growing season right at the base of each plant.

That way I can fill the can with water from my underground cistern hose without having to move it at all. (very helpful with tomatoes since they’re behind a trellis).

Black Star backyard Chickens eating watermelon. #TexasHomesteader

My tomatoes each have one of those cans at the base of the plant, as do my vining plants such as cantaloupes, pumpkin and watermelon.

Picking A Ripe Melon

So I’ve got this volunteer Sugar Baby watermelon growing, it’s shaded my green bean planting row all season long, and at last it’s time to start watching the melons for harvest. I want to pick them at the peak of freshness, unlike my premature melon-picking faux pas earlier this season.

So each time I go to the garden I inspect the watermelons I have growing on the vine. Here’s what I’m seeing:

Dry Tendril – I saw that one melon’s tendril appeared to be dried all the way to the stem. And the ‘spoon’ was gone too. (It’s normal for the spoon to dry and fall off well before the tendril shows its final ripening signs.)

The first tendril from the watermelon should be completely dry to the vine to indicate ripe melon. #TexasHomesteader

Heaviness – Then I picked up the watermelon. Wow! Yeah, it’s pretty heavy. (It ended up weighing 8.2 pounds for this little 9-inch-long melon)

Underside Yellow – Then I flipped the watermelon over and looked at the underside. The skin was bright yellow in the spot where it had laid upon the ground during the growing season.

I think this one is ready!

Bright yellow underside of water is indication for ripe melon. #TexasHomesteader

So I used my garden shears and cut the watermelon away from the vine. Now is the moment of truth! I’d already lost a watermelon earlier this season due to picking it too soon. Would I be wrong again? NOPE!

I didn’t jump the gun this time. The watermelon is… Perfect!

So if you’re wondering if the watermelon in your garden is ripe, check out these helpful clues the plant is giving you. You’ll be enjoying a cold, sweet watermelon in no time!

~TxH~

My Favorite Garden Hacks

My favorite gardening hacks all in one place. #TexasHomesteader

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