The Q&A Archives: Watermelons are bland, not sweet

Question: The last few years my watermelon plants have grown well and produced good sized fruits. They're slow to ripen, however, and the flesh is pink and not sweet. If I leave them on the vine longer, they rot. What's wrong? Josie Toole Topeka, KS

Answer: A week or two of cool weather when the fruits are ripening is all it takes to turn watermelon flavor bland, says Chuck Marr, vegetable specialist at Kansas State University in Manhattan. Watermelons need an average day/night temperature of 75oF to ripen and sweeten to their fullest. For the last three summers we've had cool weather in July and August the critical time for the fruits to size up and the sugars to develop, says Marr. Lack of full color can also be due to the variety you're growing. Many of the varieties adapted to this area, such as Crimson Sweet, ripen to a pink color, not the blood red color you see on watermelons in grocery stores, says Marr. If you want a deep red flesh, try the varieties Minilee or Mickeylee, he says. Also, watermelons don't like high soil fertility. If you have too much nitrogen in the soil, the plant will set few fruits and those that are produced will be bland and have poor color. Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 10 10 10 only once at planting time, Marr recommends.

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