Frequently Asked Questions

 

Please see the questions we get from our customers. If you have any other questions related to our products or services, please contact us.

Can I start my Bradford Watermelon in pots?

We don’t plant them in pots to start with. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. When Nat was at Kennett Square for his internship in ’98, he started his in a greenhouse because of the shorter season. He had no problem getting them to germinate. However, remember they prefer mid 80s as an ambient temperature, and the soil needs to be warm too.

It’s also very easy to overwater seeds. They only need to be moistened. If it’s staying too wet, and the soil is too cool, they will rot.

Nat’s suggestion would be to soak the seeds overnight in water. Fill the pots with soil the day before and water them until they are thoroughly saturated. Let the pots drain completely after watering. Then add the pre-moistened seeds to the pots. Lightly water them at the time of planting. Then wait to water them again until they germinate. As long as the soil does not dry out completely, they won’t need watering until they are actively growing.

Where do I plant my Bradford Watermelon?

Bradford Watermelons prefer a sandy loam soil that is high in organic content and drains freely. Choose a location that best fits that soil condition in all day sun.

When do I plant my Bradford Watermelon?

The Bradford Watermelon is a late summer watermelon, and for good germination, temperatures need to be consistently in the 80s (Fahrenheit) before planting. In Sumter, SC where I’ve always planted our Bradford Watermelons, the ideal time to plant is mid June. It’s good and hot by then and still plenty of time before cold weather. If I had to suggest a formula for determining the right planting time for different locations, I would say to count back 105 days minimum from first frost in the fall, and count forward 30 days minimum from last frost in the spring. The balance between the two is your planting range of dates. If there is less than 105 frost free days after the 30, cheat toward the 30 days, but not too much. Otherwise start them in pots indoors to make up for the short growing season.

How do I plant my Bradford Watermelon?

Cultivate the soil for the watermelon patch allowing approximately 40 square feet of growing space per plant. I prefer to lay out my patch in rows of hills spaced 8 feet apart on center from hill to hill and spacing between rows 10 feet apart on center. Each planting hill supports 2 plants.

To create your hills, dig a shallow hole about 6 to 8 inches in depth by about 18 inches across and fill the hole with well composted stable manure. Create mounds or hills over the manure using excavated soil from the hole about 8-10 inches high by 3 feet wide and flat on top.

Place 12 seeds in the center of the mound about a half inch but no more than one inch deep. Make sure seeds are spaced out about an inch or so apart in the mound. Lightly tamp the soil over the seeds to settle out the soil and carefully water them in if desired to speed germination.

My watermelons have sprouted. Now what?

Once the seeds have germinated, monitor them for vigor. The first five or six plants to achieve their first set of true leaves are keepers. Cull the rest. The next thinning will be to choose the strongest and most vigorous vines once the flop over and begin to vine across the ground. Cull the others by snipping them off at ground level rather than pulling them out and disturbing the keepers.

At the time of the choosing the last 2 vines per mound, side dress the mounds with well composted stable manure at a rate of 4 rounded shovelfuls per mound along with one round shovelful of well composted poultry manure. Do not place on the mound! Scatter around the perimeter of the mound.

Should I weed my watermelon patch?

Tilling for weed control is good as long as there is access in the patch. Hand weed everything else. Limit walking and compacting the soil. Limit handling and disturbing the vines. Once the patch is covered with vines stay out. Resist the urge to walk through the vines and even pull weeds. Some weeds in the patch will not affest the melons at all. Compacting the soil will.

What do I do about blossom end rot?

BlossomEndRot_03Blossom end rot is a dark, rotten spot that occurs at the end of a fruit. Usually this occurs as a result of inconsistent available water supply. When the soil becomes too dry for a period of time, calcium becomes bound in the soil and is unavailable to the plants for fruit development. But if your soil ph is off, calcium may be unavailable even if the water content is good. Or maybe there simply isn’t enough calcium in the soil to begin with.

First, be sure you only have 2 plants per hill per 80sf. If you have more than that, thin them down to 2 or 3 at the most of the strongest vines. This will take pressure off the vines competing for available nutrients. You will have better fruit development.

Assuming you have thinned to 2 or 3 vines:
1) If you have been in very dry conditions, provide consistent irrigation at a rate of 1 inch per week. That will free the calcium up and your vines can reset new healthy fruit.

2) If your ph is off, add dolomitic lime at 5 pounds per 100 sf to raise the ph one point in loam soil. Double it for clay. Halve it for sand. Dolomitic lime adds calcium. You can’t have too much calcium in the soil, so don’t worry. The plant will only use what it needs even if there is “too much.” If you can gently scratch it in without disturbing the plant too much, that’s a good thing. Then water it in liberally to make it available to the roots.

3) If there isn’t enough calcium, add dolomitic lime. Follow steps above, although calcium shouldn’t be low if you used the stable horse or cow manure as recommended. Pluck all the diseased fruit and dispose of them away from your field. Your plants should refruit.

And don’t feel bad! I’ve used the same remedies in my field because of drought that resulted in blossom end rot.

How do I tell when my Bradford Watermelon is ripe?

When Bradford Watermelons reach full size and a rich lustrous solid green, begin checking for ripeness. In South Carolina, it’s about 85 days from planting. There is a small tendril just opposite the stem. When it turns brown, and withered, it is a few days of being ripe. The thump test is the best way to tell after the tendril turns. It should sound solid when thumped. Immature melons have an echo sound like ping-ping. Ripe melons have a dull flat sound like punk-punk.

Where can I buy a Bradford Watermelon?

Genuine Bradford Family Watermelons will be sold in limited supply in late summer in upstate South Carolina, Sumter, and possibly the Charleston area. An exact date is not available since it depends upon when the harvest is — most likely late summer. All proceeds from our fresh watermelons sales go to support our mission Watermelons for Water. If you subscribe to our newsletter, you will be notified of updates to the site that will include dates and locations of the sales.

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