Plant of the Month: Watermelon
By Jennifer McDonald
For many Alabamians watermelon is one of the highlights of summer. The scrambling and trailing vine is grown for its large edible fruit and it is a popular choice in home gardens, especially homes with children. Mature melons can range in size from small personal watermelons you can hold in your hand to edible giants, such as the state record melon grown in 2018, weighing in at 288 pounds. The sweet and juicy fruit, often a staple at summer barbeques and picnics, has numerous health benefits including providing hydration, vitamin C, and other important nutrients.
It can be tricky to tell when a watermelon has ripened to peak sweetness and ready for harvest. A few tips include listening for a hollow sound (as opposed to a dull thud) when thumping the melon with a knuckle, watching for the bottom of the melon (where it touches the ground) to turn yellow or cream, and waiting for the curly tendril at the top of the melon to dry and turn brown. Picked at just the right time, a sweet homegrown watermelon can rival even the fanciest desserts.