Heirloom seeds can be finicky. A friend once gave me some of his family heirloom butter beans from the Dutch Fork area. He told me how to plant them, which I did. Nary a seed came up. I told him my experience with his bean, and he didn’t understand why. However, as fall approached, the seeds all began to pop up! That was well over 4 months after planting them. I expect temperature had a big part in it, but perhaps soil did too.

Although our seed germination test came back at 90 percent, not everyone is having an easy time getting their seeds to germinate. Our Bradford watermelons have been growing open pollinated in the same area now for over 170 years. They have become so site specifically acclimated to our soils, climate, fungi, bacteria, humidity, and many other factors, that they just aren’t going to perform identically everywhere they are planted the first year.

They can grow throughout the US as history has documented, but those seeds were shared, passed around, adapted to other sites over many decades. Our Bradford seed strain, the original, the Bradford Family strain of Bradford Watermelons has only been grown in Sumter, SC. Nowhere else. So it is expected that it will take some effort and persistence to get our strain used to other locations.

It’s necessary and important to do this. This is how agriculture should be. Seeds should be grown as local strains of common varietals. Folks would have better success with anything grown in this way, as opposed to modern agriculture which, taking corn for example, most of the world’s seed supply is grown in Iowa, then planted by the millions of acres all around the world expecting the same performance. That’s one reason these non site specific crops need so much life support.

Well, our Bradfords have not been sprayed with fungicides, insecticides, or any other biocides ever. They are tough, heat tolerant, drought tolerant, disease resistant, pest resistant, easy to germinate, fast frowning, good performers in Sumter. They love, love, love Sumter, as I do, too. They may need a little coaxing, a lot of love, and patience to persuade them on to new horizons. And if you do, you will, will, will experience the best watermelon you’ve ever eaten in your entire life.

Good luck! Happy planting!

Nat Bradford

Bradford Family Watermelon