Sunday, June 5, 2011

Watermelon Elementary: Puttin’ on the Melons

The watermelons are transplanted as baby plants.

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In their new plastic covered home, they get all warm and happy, and start growing. They actually start “running.”

watermelons 11 (53)The plant in the middle is running.

watermelons 11 (55)The little vines creep out over the dirt, while underneath the roots stay toasty warm and grow.

watermelons 11 (54)Lots of growing, running watermelon plants!

A month or so after planting, the watermelon puts on yellow blooms.

watermelons 11 (15)watermelons 11 (19)Bloomin’ away!

watermelons 11 (20)This is a good picture of the blooms, buds, and the end of the vine with its little curls reaching out.

To have fruit a watermelon plant has to be pollinated. For a seedless watermelon plant to be pollinated it has to have two things: bees and a pollinator plant. Because of the makeup of the seedless plants, they cannot pollinate themselves. We used to grow a lot of the long, seeded Sangria melons, and they took care of the pollination. Now, since there is not a big market for the Sangria, we don’t grow many of them. Instead, we use pollinator plants. A pollinator plant makes what one might call a “dummy” melon. The melon is pretty plain on the outside and yellow on the inside with big black seeds. It tastes just like a watermelon, but we don’t sell them.

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The other integral players in the making of the watermelons are the bees. We have a bee man who places his bees adjacent to our watermelon fields. They live there usually for a year or more – until he has to move them elsewhere. Watermelon is a rotated crop, so we don’t grow watermelons in the same fields each year. But if we use part of a farm for watermelons one year and the other part of it for them the next, the bees may stay on that farm the whole time.

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We get fresh watermelon honey from our bee man. I love me some honey on a big fat homemade biscuit. (We call those biscuits “catheads”!)

So after the all of the pollinatin’ we finally get some melons on the vines! The melons grow at the base of the bloom. In this picture below, you can see the bloom on the end of the baby melon. After the bloom is pollinated, the watermelon will be ready in about 4 to 6 weeks.

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In a normal world, from seed to watermelon takes a total of about three months (we let the greenhouse handle the seed part). But the farming world is never normal. This year, with the weather so super hot and almost no rain, the watermelons are growing at record speed!

We are supposed to start harvest on Monday, which is VERY early, but the watermelons are the boss! We can’t let them sit out there and get sunburned. Yes, watermelons get sunburned! I guess you might say that watermelons are a bit sensitive. There are all types of things that can go wrong with the plants and the watermelons both. Enough of the negative though!

Blair and I ate our first from-our-farm watermelon today, and it sure was yummy!

Want to learn more about your watermelon? Check out my other Watermelon Elementary posts!


Candi James said...

So interesting! Do you sell them locally?

Steph said...

Way before I came to the farm, they used to plant a few acres of watermelons to sell here. Our chicken houses actually sit on what used to be one of the biggest watermelon fields. Now we just plant a few rows for ourselves and to give away. Do yall have a problem with coyotes eating your melons? We do, lol.

AA said...

Soo cool!! I love it....never thought about the pollination and the bees. Hope harvesting goes well!!

LeAnna said...

This was absolutely fascinating! I had no idea...but I can say I'm itchin' to taste me some watermelon honey!