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Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Watermelon Dreaming (page 2 of 2)

by Susan Littlefield

Special Tips for Seedless Watermelons

No matter where you garden, start the seeds of hybrid seedless varieties indoors in peat pots, ideally on a heat mat. They need very warm soil temperatures to germinate and rarely make a good stand if direct seeded.

The seedcoat of hybrid triploids is more likely to adhere to the developing seed leaves, injuring them. Sowing the seeds with the pointed end up at a 45 to 90 degree angle usually prevents this problem.

Seedless hybrid triploid varieties don't produce sufficient amounts of viable pollen, so a seeded watermelon variety should be interplanted with the seedless ones to ensure adequate pollination and good fruit set. In a home garden, plant one seeded vine for every two seedless ones.

Harvesting Watermelons

Many of us have heard that we should thump on our watermelons to tell if they're ripe. Supposedly a dull, hollow sound rather than a ringing tone indicates a melon ready to pick. The trouble is that the difference between "dull" and "ringing" isn't always clear.

Instead look for these clues that your watermelon is at its peak of ripeness. The curly tendrils on the stem near where it attaches to the fruit should have changed from light green to dry and brown. The spot on the bottom of the melon where it rested on the ground should be yellow, not light green or white. And the skin should have turned dull and be tough enough that it's hard to dent with a thumbnail.

Question of the Month: When and How Do I Harvest Brussels Sprouts?

Q: This is the first year I have planted Brussels sprouts. I am unsure when I should pick them. How can I tell if they are ready to be harvested?

A: Usually Brussels sprouts are picked from the bottom of the stem working upward. They can be picked as soon as they are large enough to eat (about 3/4-1" in diameter, with tightly curled leaves). As you harvest, remove the leaf associated with the sprout. To harvest, cut the little heads off with a sharp knife. If your sprouts are starting to "unfurl", they may not taste as good. Harvesting them should encourage the plants to continue producing more sprouts. Harvest regularly to keep the plants in production. Most often Brussels sprouts are planted about four months before the first expected fall frost so they ripen in fall as the weather turns cool. The reason for this is that the sprouts taste sweetest after they've been touched by frost.

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