Scientists believe the watermelon originated in tropical Africa, although it was found cultivated in Italy, India and Southern Asia. Europeans introduced the watermelon into America and it is now cultivated from Chile to the United States.
Watermelon comes in many sizes, shapes and colors. Some are red inside; others are yellow. Some have seeds; other do not. The watermelon is the fruit of a large vine which grows flat on the ground. The watermelon, with vines which grow from twelve to fifteen feet, is part of the same family as Pumpkins, cucumbers and squash, although the watermelon fruit is larger than any of these plants.
The stem or vine of the watermelon plant branches in many directions, with leaves that are large and numerous, developing several inches apart on alternate sides along the stem. The watermelon flower is not very showy and must be pollinated, generally by honey bees, to produce fruit.
Watermelon varies in size from the 5 pound 'Sugar Baby' to the 'Jubilee' which can weigh as much as 40 pounds. The fruit is round, oblong or elliptical, with the outside color varying from solid dark green to mottled or striped green, to nearly white. The color pattern is inherited and typical of a particular kind of watermelon. Different kinds of watermelon have different colored seeds (ranging from white, brown or black) and different colored pulp.
Watermelon fruit is about ninety percent water and the pulp is sweet. There are many varieties of watermelon, and when growing watermelon it is best to choose a variety adaptable to your particular area, although some varieties grow well in all areas. Watermelons require a good soil, with well-fertilized sand or sandy loam being the best. Watermelons require a warm soil for growth and should be planted ten to twelve feet apart in rows ten to twelve feet apart. They also need to be planted in beds raised six to twelve inches to allow for drainage from rains and irrigation, which should be done by soaking, not sprinkling which damages the leaves. It takes the watermelon plant eighty to ninety-five days to become full grown and it is ready for harvest when the part of the rind touching the ground changes from white to pale yellow.
Produced by the National Watermelon Association, Inc., 5129 South Lakeland Drive, Suite 1, Lakeland, Florida 33813.