Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners. To submit a question, send it to email@example.com. For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit www.pcmg-texas.org.
Why do my watermelons split while growing on the vine?
Inconsistent watering is the enemy of fruit about to mature. It will cause melons and many other fruits to split as they ripen. Excess water will cause excess nutrients to enter the fruit, which makes the flesh grow much faster than the skin leading to cracks. This can be the result of inconsistent irrigation or drought followed by a heavy rain. Consistent, even watering is important for any fruit, particularly during the last two weeks of growth.
Deer are eating my watermelon crop; how can I prevent this?
Deer, as well as raccoons and coyotes, are highly attracted to ripe watermelons. The only way to keep deer out is with a tall fence. If threatened or very hungry, deer can clear up to an 8-foot fence. You might also try a single-wire electric fence. If they get close enough to touch it, this may be a deterrent.
Should I stop watering melons for a short period before harvesting? How can I tell when they are ripe?
About a week before a melon is ripe, water only as necessary to keep vines from wilting. Withholding water causes sugars to concentrate in the fruit, yielding a sweeter melon. There are several clues that tell you when the melons are reaching maturity. The curly tendrils near a watermelon will turn brown.
The underside of the melon will begin to turn creamy. The green skin will become dull and rough to the touch. When you begin seeing these clues, test the melons by lifting and thumping them. A ripe watermelon will be very heavy and will have a dull, hollow sound.