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 more...>Agriculture & Natural Resources>News Articles>

Grow Your Own Watermelons

New Article for June 27, 2011:

The Fourth of July is a great celebration of the independence of our nation. More than 230 years ago, our forefathers decided to dissolve their political bonds with England and made a bold stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Today we celebrate that freedom with traditions such as fireworks, barbecue and fresh watermelon. I have had the opportunity to taste several watermelons this year and they have been extra sweet. The early spring brought the crop in early.

My grandfather was a good producer of watermelons and he would always say that he wanted it dry as it got close to harvest. The absence of rain helps to concentrate the sugars and make the melons sweeter, so they should be extra sweet.

With watermelons it is truly the early bird who gets the worm. If you are a grower, being in the market in time for July 4th sales is critical. Usually we think about watermelon as being seasonal but they can be grown from March until frost which means you can have fresh watermelons from now through the fall.

It takes so much room to grow watermelons that many of us leave it to the professionals, but there are alternatives. One of the standards in watermelons is the Jubilee type, which is a standard diploid watermelon. They are oblong, green striped and will produce watermelons that average 20 -30 pounds although some will grow larger. They will require 85-95 days from planting to maturity. They need room to grow so they are planted every 6-8 feet within the row and then you have to skip every other row to allow for the vining. My personal favorite of this type is the variety Starbright which is very sweet.

There are also triploid watermelons, which you probably know as seedless. They are much trickier to grow. They are actually sterile hybrid watermelons that do not produce viable pollen. If you grow triploid watermelons you will also have to grow some diploid varieties (regular) to get viable pollen. The result will be a watermelon with a few immature white seeds that are edible and maybe an occasional mature black seed.

What may be a better option for the home gardener are the ice box type watermelons. These are the small watermelons that easily fit in your refrigerator. Ice box varieties are a less expensive American option to the square watermelon. The ice box varieties are usually less than 15 pounds and many are only 6-8 pounds. Sugar Baby is a very popular ice box variety that is mature at 6-7 pounds. It is dark green and round with crisp red flesh that is very sweet.

Another space saving option is the variety Bush Sugar Baby. This variety has small compact determinate vines giving it a bush growing habit for those with limited space. It will produce a 7 pound dark green melon that is about 7 inches in diameter in only 65 days.

Growing your own watermelons is definitely possible and has the added benefit of frequent wildlife observations. Coons, opossums, coyotes and deer will thank you for growing the sweet treat!

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

Last Updated: 7/2/2013 2:49:40 PM

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