I've never tried to grow watermelon before. It looked invitingly healthy as a tiny plant at the nursery. Although I was there for other things, you might say the purchase of a watermelon seedling was an impulse buy. Now you must realize that our yard is taken up with a cement patio, a gazebo and a few hedges, and consequently there is very little space for the planting of crops. Between the edge of the gazebo and the cement patio, where I had an exotic Mexican weed removed, there seemed a sufficient space to house this tiny plant. I enhanced the soil with "Black Forrest Compost" which seemed so helpful to our happy fig tree and the flourishing tomatoes. There were two stems of the nascent watermelon, which looked promising. But in a couple of days, when I inspected this baby sprout, a disgusting snail had eaten one of the stems with fatal damage. Remedial steps were taken, and the product I had chosen made quick work of the rest of the snail family.
That one stem, however, proved to be quite virile. I had no idea how far one watermelon plant would send its runners. They are under foot. They have invaded the gazebo and the yard to the distance of 20 feet or more! I was impressed. But when we left for a week in Sedona, we asked our friend, Jennifer Kooi with her children, to water our plants while we were away, and Jen's own admitted personal pledge was that nothing was going to die for lack of water on her watch. When we left there were a few tiny melons about the size of a small plum. "How cute" I thought. And while we were away we received a report by way of Face Book that the watermelons were getting large. How large can they get in just a few days? I will be happy on my first attempt if I can grow a watermelon the size of a cantaloupe. But when we returned home we found the melon bigger than two cantaloupe. I went to the store and happened to notice that the watermelon there were all smaller than ours in the garden.
My new problem was simply, when do I know it is time to pick the thing? I went to the Internet and got conflicting advice from the "experts". Jack Harvey, our long time friend in the church, was a Nebraska farm boy. But he was no help. He said that at home they didn't plant watermelon until after barley harvest. Then when the vines began to die and subside, the whole field was populated by melons. As a boy he said they would pick one up, drop it, and then just eat the heart out of it and leave the rest. Then our friend, Fred Alexander, was passing through and he thumped the melon and checked it's belly and told me that it had plenty of water (little wonder after all the exaggerated watering it had received by Jennifer and myself) and that it was ready for harvest. Fred is a bit of a farmer from Paso Robles, so I took him at his word.
It seemed to be the logical progression of events to invite the Koois over for lunch, and ceremoniously open the watermelon for dessert. I hope the pictures tell the story.