Watermelon with cracks inside

ED ASKS: I had a watermelon sitting on the kitchen table when all of a sudden it split and began to squirt its juices as far as seven feet. What would cause this?

Wow. That sounds pretty bizarre, Ed. So bizarre, in fact, that if I found myself in that situation, I’m not sure if I would find it funny or if I would run screaming into the other room.

I’ve heard of watermelons splitting open and spewing juices and/or foam before. I’ve even heard of watermelons “exploding.” For some reason, whenever I read stories about watermelons doing these types of things, I get the same feeling inside that I do when I read stories about encounters with ghosts.

For an answer to your seemingly supernatural question, I turned to an expert in weird watermelon occurances, Dr. Penny Perkins-Veazie. She’s a plant physiologist and professor who’s pretty much seen it all when it comes to the strange things that fruits and vegetables do.

A breeder once described a scenario in which visitors were so enamored with these cute little watermelons that they loaded up the station wagon, only to have them explode (and I do mean explode!) all over the car.

Watermelon splitting (or exploding) can be caused by the “exploding gene,” which is found in many of the heirloom varieties, or from increased water turgor in the watermelon. Sometimes just placing the fruit on a surface, bumping it, or touching it with a knife will cause an immediate pop on the side.

Of course, the other reason watermelons can split is because of bacterial infections inside the watermelon. Like many fruits, watermelon are susceptible to certain decay organisms and wild yeast. When this happens, it can lead to a fermentation process inside the watermelon. Pressure can build inside, causing the watermelon to split and erupt like a volcano or to foam uncontrollably.

So there you have it, Ed. You’ve either got a watermelon with an “exploding gene” or a bacterial infection. I asked Dr. Penny if ghosts could somehow be responsible for your watermelon’s bizarre behavior and she stood by her previous answer. I’m not saying your watermelon was haunted, but I feel compelled to offer to that as a possible explanation.

Homegrown Watermelon Splitting: What Makes Watermelons Split In Garden

Nothing beats the cool, water-filled fruits of watermelon on a hot summer day, but when your watermelon bursts on the vine before you’ve had a chance to harvest, this can be a little disconcerting. So what makes watermelons split in gardens and what can be done about it? Keep reading to find out.

Causes of Watermelon Splits

There are a few causes of watermelon splits. The most common cause for a bursting watermelon is erratic watering. Whether it’s due to poor irrigation practices or drought followed by heavy rain, excessive accumulation of water can put the fruit under a lot of pressure. As with tomato cracking, when the plants absorb too much water too fast, the excess water goes straight to the fruits. Like most fruits, water makes up a large percentage of the fruit. When the soil becomes dry, the fruit forms a tight skin in order to prevent moisture loss. However, once a sudden surge in water returns, the skin expands. As a result, the watermelon bursts.

Another possibility, in addition to water, is heat. Water pressure within the fruit can build up when it gets too hot, causing the melons to split open. One way to help alleviate splitting is by adding straw mulch, which will help retain moisture in the soil and insulate plants. Adding shade covers during excessively hot periods may help too.

Finally, this may be attributed to certain cultivars as well. Some varieties of watermelon may simply be more prone to splitting than others. In fact, many thin-rind types, such as Icebox, have even been nicknamed “exploding melon” for this reason.

MARK M. ASKS: I’ve seen a lot of people making videos where they put rubber bands around a watermelon until it explodes. I’m thinking about giving it a try, but I don’t know how many rubber bands I’ll need. Any ideas?
I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I’ve spent WAY too much time watching those videos, too. I’m talking hours. Like, so much time that you feel slightly ashamed when you’re done. But that’s what YouTube and Friday nights on the couch are for, right? (That’s one of my favorite videos above, courtesy of The Slow Mo Guys.)
I’ve considered attempting the Exploding Watermelon Challenge myself, but I never got up the courage (and the rubber bands) to make it happen. However, those hours of video-watching have taught me a few things you’ll need for your own exploding watermelon attempt:

  1. 1. A PARTNER – It’s much easier to stretch out the rubber bands and slip them over the watermelon if you have a buddy to help with the task. Plus, when the watermelon goes kaboom, the shrieking and jumping out of your seat is more fun with a friend.
  2. 2. A WATERMELON – This is obvious, but your choice of watermelon is important. I’ve seen videos using watermelons of all sizes, but a good old-fashioned, medium-sized melon should do the trick.
  3. 3. GOGGLES – Exploding watermelons can send rinds, seeds and watermelon fleshing flying in all sorts of directions, so some eye protection is definitely recommended.
  4. 4. RUBBER BANDS – Finally, the answer to your question. Some videos I’ve seen have exploded a watermelon with 482 rubber bands while others, like BuzzFeed’s recent attempt, required 690 rubber bands to turn the watermelon into two fractured halves.

Hopefully, I’ve helped arm you with the necessary insight you need for your own attempt. It’s not on the list, because it’s not really required, but don’t forget a camera to record the action. You’ll definitely want to watch your reaction again and again and share it with friends.

Why Do Watermelons Split on the Vine?

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Vine-ripened watermelons are a clear confirmation that summer has arrived. Plant stresses such as pests, leaf diseases and poor nutrition will affect the health and taste of watermelons. According to the University of Minnesota, irregular watering patterns alter the quality of sugar and cause watermelons to split on the vine before maturing.

Water Melons Deeply

Watermelons need large drinks of water, at least 1 to 2 inches deep, weekly. Shallow watering that only wets the soil can cause fruit rot and other unsightly blemishes. Watermelon deprived of sufficient water when fruits are young may develop blossom end rot or end up small and malformed. Blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency. Maintaining water levels frees calcium to be used by the plants. Drip irrigation is recommended to deliver water to plants without leaving the soil soggy.

Water Melons Infrequently

No matter how hot the weather gets, daily watering is counterproductive to watermelon production. Watermelon roots reach far into the soil, which makes them a drought-resistant fruit. Native to Africa, watermelons do best in dry and warm weather. After the crop is established, watermelons can go for weeks without watering. At times, this is done purposefully to encourage deep root growth in younger plants.

Mulch to Conserve Moisture

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Mulch prevents weeds and conserves moisture during drought periods. Apply mulch before watermelons appear, to avoid handling the small fruit. Spread hay, straw or crushed leaves 6 inches thick over the whole watermelon plot. Pile mulch around the base of each plant. Melons consume a great deal of soil nutrients. Compost mulch helps supply additional nutrients. A good time to mulch is when the ground is warm and the soil recently soaked by irrigation or rainfall.

Water Reduction Prior to Ripening

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Timing is crucial when growing melons. Water can be the enemy of fruit about to mature. Consistent, even irrigation is crucial in the last two weeks of watermelon growth. Over-irrigating before fruits become ripe can cause watermelons to split on the vine. Heavy rain just before harvest is also a reason watermelons crack. According to the University of California Extension, as watermelon start to ripen they attain better flavor when watering is reduced.

Watermelons explode ‘like land mines’ after farmers in China lace them with chemicals

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What Is Causing Watermelons To Crack And Split Open While On The Vine?

Answer #1 · Gardenality.com’s Answer · Hi Ashley,
Irregular watering patterns or heavy rains just before watermelons ripen can cause them to split while still on the vine.
Water watermelons heavily on a once a week basis. Make sure to water enough to soak down deeper in to the soil. Apply at least an inch or two of water each time. Watermelons are deep rooting plants and if watered only at the surface during drought times, will not root deeply. If Watermelons are not watered properly when the fruits are young they may develop blossom end rot or may result in immature or malformed fruit. Blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency. Proper watering levels will allow the watermelon plants to absorb calcium.
Do not water Watermelons daily. Watermelons do best in dry hot weather. Infrequent watering, one good soaking a week, is the best way to promote deep rooting. Watermelon roots reach far into the soil, which makes them a drought-resistant fruit. Watermelons do best in dry and warm weather. After the watermelon plants are established they can go for weeks without watering.
Mulching plants is also a good idea. Mulching prevents weeds and conserves moisture during drought periods. Apply mulch before watermelons appear. Hay, straw, or crushed leaves are the preferred mulches. Pile mulch about 4-6 inches deep over the entire Watermelon plot and around the base of each plant as well. Watermelons consume a lot of soil nutrients. Compost mulch helps supply additional nutrients. A good time to mulch is when the ground is warm and the soil recently soaked by irrigation or rainfall.
Many areas of the country have experienced drought this season (2012) and are now experiencing heavy rainfall. If this is the case in your area, it very well may be why the watermelons are splitting.
Hope this helps you out.
Brooks Wilson))

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