- Sugar Baby Cultivation – Tips For Growing A Sugar Baby Watermelon
- What are Sugar Baby Watermelons?
- Sugar Baby Cultivation
- Additional Sugar Baby Information
- Watermelon, When to Pick
- Sugar Baby Watermelon Seed
- How Long Does Watermelon Last on the Vine and Harvested?
- When to Pick a Watermelon
- Variation of Growth Time
- Signs that The Watermelon is Ready to Harvest
- Tips for Properly Harvesting a Watermelon
- How Long Does a Harvested Watermelon Last?
Sugar Baby Cultivation – Tips For Growing A Sugar Baby Watermelon
If you are thinking of growing watermelon this year and haven’t yet decided what variety to attempt, you might want to think about growing Sugar Baby watermelons. What are Sugar Baby watermelons and how do you grow them?
What are Sugar Baby Watermelons?
An interesting nugget amongst Sugar Baby watermelon information is its very high “brix” measurement. What does “brix” measurement mean? Commercial watermelon growers value melons high in sugar and the name for this sweetness is called “brix” and can be scientifically measured. As its name implies, Sugar Baby watermelons have a brix measurement of 10.2 and rank as one of the sweetest watermelon cultivars. Citrullus lanatus, or Sugar Baby watermelon, is an incredibly productive grower as well.
Sugar Baby melons are round “picnic” or “icebox” watermelons perfect for small families and as the name suggests, small enough to fit into the icebox. They weigh in at between 8 to 10 pounds and are 7-8 inches across. They have either a dark green with slight dark veins or medium green with dark veined rind. The flesh is as mentioned, sweet, red, firm, and crisp with mottled with very few small, tan-black seeds.
Sugar Baby Cultivation
Sugar Baby melons, like all watermelons, require warm, dry temperatures to thrive. This early watermelon cultivar was first introduced in 1956 and is an early maturing variety, maturing in 75-80 days. They do best in Mediterranean climates where the vines spread out 12 feet or longer, with each plant producing two or three melons.
Most people start this melon via seed indoors at least six to eight weeks before outdoor planting time. These melons need rich, well-draining soil, amended with compost and manure. Plant them in an area with at least eight hours of sun exposure per day and account for at least 60 square feet of space per plant.
Additional Sugar Baby Information
Sugar Baby watermelon care requires consistent irrigation. Drip irrigation is recommended, as Sugar Baby varieties, like all watermelons, are susceptible to a variety of fungal diseases. Crop rotation and fungicide applications can also reduce the risk of potentially deadly disease.
These melons may also become infested with striped cucumber beetle which can be controlled through hand picking, rotenone applications, or floating row covers installed at planting. Aphids and nematodes, as well as diseases such as anthracnose, gummy stem blight and powdery mildew may all afflict the Sugar Baby watermelon crop.
Lastly, these melons, like all melons, are pollinated by bees. The plants have both yellow male and female flowers. Bees transfer pollen from male blooms to female blooms, resulting in pollination and fruit set. On occasion, the plants do not get pollinated, usually due to wet weather conditions or insufficient bee populations.
In this case, a little specialized Sugar Baby watermelon care is in order. You may need to give nature a hand, by hand pollinating the melons to increase productivity. Simply dab the male flowers gently with a small paintbrush or cotton swab and transfer the pollen to the female blooms.
Watermelon, When to Pick
Watermelons can be difficult to harvest at the right time. Several methods can be used to determine ripeness.
Produced by the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education at Kansas State University. For more information, visit our website at: http://www.kansasgreenyards.org
Transcript: When is a Watermelon Ripe on the Vine?
Watermelon can be pretty tricky to tell if it’s ripe on the vine. The most important thing to look for when you’re trying to tell when your watermelon is ripe is to look at the tendril right next to the stem. When the watermelon is ripe, the tendril will either be fully brown, or at least starting to turn brown. It shouldn’t be nice and green. That means that your watermelon is still growing, getting bigger, and getting sweeter.
When you’re picking a watermelon, you need to cut the stem. Unlike cantaloupe, the stem won’t pull out easily. Another thing to look for on your watermelon, to see if it’s ripe, is if it has a yellow area on the bottom of the melon. If it doesn’t have a flat, yellow area then that’s another sign that it’s not ripe yet.
You can grow watermelons in a small area, if you choose the right type of watermelon. This variety here is a Sugar Baby watermelon, which means that it’s a bush type. The vines only grow about three to three and one-half feet long. It takes up much less space than your average watermelon.
The downside to this plant, is that each watermelon on the vine is about twelve pounds. So, it’s a smaller watermelon. It’s not a huge icebox type of watermelon. And, the vine will have only one or two melons on it. The plant here has only one watermelon – for the whole summer. If you have a large container, thirteen to fifteen gallons of soil or bigger, then you can easily grow a vine such as a cantaloupe or a watermelon, if it’s a smaller variety.
This feature story prepared with Rebecca McMahon, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Sedgwick County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.
The bush form of “Sugar Baby” watermelons is the most compact. This type only produces vines that average 3 1/2 feet long. Compare this to the average vine length for bush types of watermelon, which is 6 feet long. The vining form of “Sugar Baby” watermelon grows vines that are longer than the bush form. Vines in the standard “Sugar Baby” form reach almost 12 1/2 feet long, which is the average size for most vining types of watermelon. To save garden footage, these vines can be trained up a trellis by tying the vines along the support structure as they grow. Once the vines set fruit, keep the watermelons from breaking the vines by holding them up with nylon stockings tied to the trellis and used as slings.
The condition of the tendrils near the fruit stem is another indicator of when a watermelon is ready to pick. When they are green at the attachment point, the fruit is not yet ripe, but when they start to turn brown and dry, it is harvest time. When the tendrils have fully dried out, the fruit is on the verge of over ripening and will not ripen further. Therefore, harvest the fruit immediately.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Citrullus lanatus var. lanatus
CULTURE: A light, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5–7.5 and a southern exposure is ideal. Good soil moisture is important in early stages of growth and during pollination when fruits are setting. After this point do not water the last week before fruits are ripe, as overwatering can cause bland fruit.
TRANSPLANTING: Sow indoors in 50-cell plug trays or 2–3″ peat pots in late April or one month (no sooner!) before transplanting outdoors. Plant 2 seeds per cell or pot, about ½–1″ deep. Keep temperature 80–90°F (27–32°C) until germination. Handle young plants carefully and never let the soil dry out. Grow seedlings at 75°F (24°C). Reduce water and temperature for a week to harden seedlings. When the weather is frost-free, warm, and settled, transplant 2–3′ apart in rows 6–8′ apart, or thin to 1 plant/pot or cell with scissors and transplant 18″ apart. Even hardened watermelon seedlings are tender! Do not disturb roots when transplanting, and water thoroughly.
DIRECT SEEDING: Sow 1–2 weeks after last frost when soil is warm, above 70°F (21°C), 3 seeds every 18–36″, ½–1″ deep, thinning to 1 plant/spot.
TRIPLOID/SEEDLESS: Start indoors under favorable conditions to ensure proper germination. A pollenizer watermelon, or normal seeded watermelon, is required for fruit set. Seeds of a pollenizer and complete growing instructions are included with each order. Although the fruits are practically seedless, a few seeds may form under stressful conditions. For more information, see our Seedless Watermelon production guide.
ROW COVERS: Since watermelons like consistently warm conditions, plastic mulch and row covers will make for earlier crops and better yields, especially in the North. Remove covers when plants have female flowers (tiny fruit at base of blossom).
DISEASES: Choose varieties resistant to diseases in your area. “Sudden wilt” is a complex disease and cold weather stress syndrome in late summer when plants have a heavy set of ripening watermelons, can cause plants to wilt almost overnight. Keep plants healthy with good fertility and irrigation to avoid sudden wilt.
INSECT PESTS: Protect against cucumber beetles with floating row covers applied at transplanting, or control with insecticides such as pyrethrin or azadarachtin.
RIPENESS: There are 3 ways to tell when a watermelon is ripe: 1) the tendril nearest the point on the vine where fruit stem attaches is browning/dead; 2) the spot where the fruit rests on the ground is yellow; and 3) the classic mystery — you hear “punk,” as opposed to “pink” or “pank,” when you flick the melon with your fingers.
STORAGE: Hold at 45°F (7°C) and 85% relative humidity 2–3 weeks.
DAYS TO MATURITY: From transplanting; add about 10 days if direct-seeded.
AVG. DIRECT SEEDING RATE: 1 oz./340′, 1,000 seeds/500′, 3 oz./1,000′, 1⅓ lb./acre at 3 seeds every 18″, in rows 6′ apart.
TRANSPLANTS: Avg. 550 plants/oz.
SEED SPECS: SEEDS/LB.: Avg. 9,700.
PACKET: See individual varieties.
Avoid the disappointment of cutting open a watermelon, only to find that it’s not fully ripe and sweet, with these simple tips.
Watermelons are one of my favorite summer foods, followed closely by cantaloupes and other melons, and to my mind, nothing tastes like summer like a sweet and crunchy watermelon. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like the disappointment of biting into what you thought was a ripe watermelon, only to be rewarded by the bland and flavorless taste of an unripe melon. I don’t know if there’s a word for that feeling, but there really ought to be.
Watermelons don’t continue to ripen after being harvested, unlike many other fruits, so it’s no good to just buy one and try to let it ripen on the counter. Cantaloupes and other melons do tend to get softer after sitting at room temperature for a few days, but from what I understand, their sweetness is determined by when they were picked, not by how soft they get on the counter.
To help do my part for world peace by reducing the disappointment of eating an unripe melon, here are a few tips on how to tell if a watermelon is ripe for eating, whether you bought it at the market or grew it at home.
How to tell if a watermelon is ripe when you pick it out at the market:
Look at its belly: Watermelons have an underside, or belly, which is in contact with the ground throughout its growth, called a “field spot.” This spot on a ripe watermelon will be yellowish (sometimes referred to as “buttery”), and not white, which indicates an unripe melon.
Thump it: Using your knuckles, rap on the middle of the watermelon while holding it up to your ear, or flick it with your finger (like flicking a crumb off your shirt). A ripe watermelon will have a hollow sound when knocked, which sounds more like a “plunk” than a “thwack.” An unripe watermelon will have more of a higher pitched sound, while an overripe one will make a “thud” or a lower-pitched sound. Learning the difference between the sounds of an unripe vs. a ripe watermelon takes a bit of practice, but one way to get a head start on it is to ask a melon grower at your local farmers market (or perhaps the produce manager at the grocery store) to demonstrate it for you so you can hear it for yourself.
Sniff it: Pick up the watermelon and carry it a little bit away from the rest of the melons (so you don’t pick up the smell of other melons), and give it a good sniff. A ripe watermelon should smell slightly sweet, and similar to what a melon tastes like, but not overly sweet (which can indicate an overripe watermelon). This sniff test also works great (actually, even better than for watermelons) on other types of melons, such as cantaloupes and honeydew.
Squeeze it: Gently squeeze the side of the watermelon to see if there’s a bit of “give” to it. The rind of the melon shouldn’t be soft, as the skin of some fruits get when ripe, but it also shouldn’t be hard as a rock, with no give to it at all.
Heft it: If you’ve gone through the above tests and still can’t narrow down your choices between a couple of watermelons, try comparing the weight of similarly-sized ones and pick the one that seems heavier to you. This isn’t a fail-proof test, but I’ve found it to be fairly reliable (although since I don’t tend to buy two similar melons and compare them after cutting them open, this may be more of an indication that I’ve already picked the ripest ones with the thump test).
How to tell if a watermelon is ripe when it’s on the vine:
Watch the calendar and break out the measuring tape: You did remember to save your watermelon seed package and write down the date you planted them, didn’t you? Many of the standard commercial varieties of watermelons grown in home gardens will be true to their descriptions on the seed package, assuming all other things are equal (good soil, adequate watering, lack of pest issues), so it’s good practice to keep track of when those melons ‘should’ be ripe before trying to harvest one. And a ripe watermelon from these varieties should be approximately the size indicated on the seed package, although that can vary quite a bit depending on the conditions in your garden.
Check the field spot: As mentioned above, gently turn the watermelon over and look at its belly to see if it’s more on the yellow spectrum (ripe) or if it’s still white (unripe). This is also a good opportunity to check for and remove slugs or sowbugs or other critters who may be looking to dine on the melon at your expense.
Examine the vine: The leaves and vine itself should still be green and healthy-looking, but on a ripe watermelon, the tendril closest to the fruit will tend to be brown and dried. If the tendril is still green, the watermelon is probably still ripening. If the whole vine and leaves are getting brown, the watermelons probably won’t get any riper, and it might be best to harvest them before they go bad.
Knock it off: Actually, don’t really knock the watermelon off the vine, but rather thump it as described above. A ripe watermelon has a distinctive tone to it, and if all other indicators point to ripeness, the thump test is a good one.
Look at the connection: Watermelons don’t slip right off the vine, as some other melons do, but the end of the vine near the melon may start to appear cracked or brownish as it ripens. I’ve not had very good success with this test, but several people have told me they use it as an indicator of ripeness.
Happy (ripe) watermelon hunting!
How Long Does Watermelon Last on the Vine and Harvested?
Watermelon is the quintessential summer fruit. It is juicy and delicious, a requirement for every summer picnic and holiday party.
Growing your own watermelons provides a gardener with a sense of satisfaction as friends and family enjoy the year’s bounty.
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However, if it is your first year growing them, you will wonder how long does watermelon last on the vine because you don’t want to let them sit too long and go bad!
How Long Does Watermelon Last on the Vine and Harvested?
When to Pick a Watermelon
It is easy to determine when to harvest a simple.
Typically, melons that you plant are ready to be harvested 80 days or so after you planted it from seed. It is a good idea to mark the planting date on your calendar so you should look for ripeness around 75 days.
The length of time also varies based on the type of watermelon you grow. Each seed packet will give you an average length of time; always make sure to check this.
Variation of Growth Time
All breeds and types of plants take a certain amount of time to grow. Watermelons take, on average, 65 to 90 days to harvest. The above mentioned 80 days is a good average to remember.
As you might imagine, smaller watermelons will ripen before the larger ones, but this isn’t always the rule.
There are early watermelons that weigh two to four pounds that mature in 65 to 70 days, such as the “Early Midget” or “Little Baby Flower.” There are small melons, such as the “Sugar Baby” that mature in 75 to 80 days. If you select breeds like “King and Queen,” expect a minimum of 90 days to pass before harvest.
Signs that The Watermelon is Ready to Harvest
Watermelons show signs that they are ready to be picked. Melons grow along green tendrils. As they near ripening, they begin to turn yellow. Eventually, they will turn brown with a crumbly texture. The changing colors happens because the plant isn’t providing food to the watermelon. It is time to pick!
Have you ever noticed people at the grocery store repeatedly thumping on watermelons?
These people aren’t insane; there is a real reason they do this. If you pick up a watermelon and give it a good knock with your hand, it should make a hollow sound. Hearing the hollow sound is another sign that the watermelon is ready to be picked.
However, just because your watermelon doesn’t make that noise doesn’t mean it isn’t ripe.
The best sign is the tendrils combined with the dates of planting. If both of those are telling you the watermelon is ready, it is time to harvest.
You should also look at the color because a ripe melon develops a dull surface. You might notice the bottom is light green or yellow.
Tips for Properly Harvesting a Watermelon
Watermelons don’t get any sweeter once you pick them, so you need to pick the right time for harvesting. You want to make sure to do so correctly to avoid changing your delicious fruit.
Here are some simple tips.
A week before your watermelon ripens, you should water only as necessary to prevent the vines from wilting. This process causes the sugars to concentrate into the fruit. If you overwater an almost ripe melon, you reduce the sweetness of the fruit.
If harvesting by hand, gently twist the watermelon. A dead tendril typically breaks when force is applied. Don’t pull on it! You can rip out the roots or damage parts of the living tendrils.
You can use a sharp knife to cut the tendril as close to the fruit as possible.
How Long Does a Harvested Watermelon Last?
If you can resist cutting into the delicious watermelon, you will wonder how long does watermelon last once harvested. Typically you can store a watermelon in a refrigerator up to a week once cut. You should wrap it in foil or place the cut melon in an airtight container.
If you haven’t cut into the watermelon yet, you can leave it on your countertop. They will last two to three weeks before going bad, so long as it is kept in a cool place. Some people opt to keep their melons in their basement to prolong its life.
The life of a watermelon depends on it was picked. Also, watermelons won’t stay good forever if you leave it on the vine. There is a window of time that a ripe fruit remains the same before it becomes overripe and dies.
You want to pick it within days of reaching its peak. If you leave the watermelon on the vine longer than two weeks, your fruit has lost its sweetness and won’t be nearly as delicious.
If you are wondering how long does a watermelon last, the answer is simple. On the vine, you should pick within two weeks of ripening. Once harvested, the time frame is between 7 days and three weeks depending on storage method and if you cut it first.