One of the South's favorite late-summer treats. World records for size of melons have been held by families in Arkansas and Tennessee. Needs a long growing season, more heat than most other melons, and more space than other vine cropsabout 8 feet by 8 feet for each hill (circle of seed). Other than that, culture is as described under Melon. Unlike other melons, watermelon does not grow sweeter after harvestit must be picked ripe. Three tests for ripeness: thumping the melon produces a thunk; underside has turned from white to pale yellow; and and the closest tendril has browned.
Large selections such as 'Ali Baba', 'Carolina Cross #183', 'Charleston Gray', 'Congo', 'Crimson Sweet', 'Dixie Queen', and 'Fairfax' may need as many as 85 to 95 days of hot, sunny weather to mature. If your summers are shorter, choose a smaller, earlier-ripening icebox type that will produce in 70 to 75 days, such as 'Minilee', 'Sugar Baby', or yellow-skinned 'Golden Crown'. 'New Queen' is an icebox type with orange flesh. Seed companies also offer yellow-fleshed kinds ('Golden Honey', 'Yellow Doll'), seedless types ('Crimson Trio', 'Queen of Hearts'), and heirlooms ('Moon and Stars', 'Georgia Rattlesnake', 'Orange Tendersweet', 'White Sugar Lump'). Dwarf-fruited types are also available.