Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for June 25, 2018
The official start of summer for the northern hemisphere is on the summer solstice, which occurred on June 21, 2018. We have certainly already had summer temperatures, but the summer solstice is the day with the longest period of sunlight and the least amount of darkness. We refer to it as the longest day of the year.
The summer solstice also represents the day that the sun will be at its northern most path as it travels across the sky. From June 21st until December 21st, the sun will start to move a little more south in the sky each day. You will find the most sunlight now on the north side of your house, especially your foundation plantings. This extra sun can cause some problems for shade loving plants that are normally in the shade of your home.
Our first celebration of summer starts with Independence Day, on July 4th.It is traditionally when watermelons are available and their added hydration is a welcome relief from the intense sun.
It appears to be a good year locally for watermelons. They seem to be ready in time for July 4th festivities. I have been able to sample a few and it has been dry enough to yield a sweet watermelons.
The key to a good watermelon is sweetness and there is an art to picking the right melon. Those farmers who grow them are very good at harvesting them at the right time and when possible, I get them to select for me. Many watermelons make it into the local retail markets and they do not have an experienced farmer on hand to help you make your selection. There are a few tips that can help you make your choice.
If you have ever been around anyone who could pick watermelons, you have seen them either slap or thump the melon. They are listening to the sound the melon makes to see if it sounds hollow or solid. As the melons get ripe they will have a more hollow sound and the less ripe will be more solid. If you slap a few melons you can definitely hear the differences but it takes some practice and experience to tell which is ripe enough and some can even be too ripe.
There are also indicators that farmers use while in the field, but for the vast majority of us, we are not picking melons from the vine, so shriveling tendrils and changes in gloss of the rind will not help us much.
Another physical trait that you can look at when making your selection is the ground spot. This is the side of the watermelon that was lying on the ground while it was growing. Roll the watermelon over and you will see that the ground spot is not the normal green color. It will start off white and as the melon gets ripe it will change to a cream or yellow color.
It is possible to get melons too ripe, but this time of year farmers are pushing hard to get melons on the market so it is less likely they are leaving many melons in the field too long. Do not be intimidated if you have to pick your own watermelon.Give the melon a gentle slap or thump and then turn it over and look at the ground spot. At the very least you will look like a seasoned veteran.
While we think about watermelons for July 4th, you can grow watermelons through the summer. If you want to try your hand, Star Bright and Summer Flavor 720 are two very sweet varieties that are grown locally. If space is a problem, try the icebox types such as Sugar Baby which will only get 6-7 pounds.