We spend so much time planning and prepping and coddling our crops so they give us that incredible harvest but sometimes, just sometimes, it's hard to know when that perfect moment is for harvesting.
So. How do you know when a melon is ready to harvest? Much of this depends on the variety but here are a few ways to get close to that long awaited moment.
Step 1. You could be and should be incredibly diligent and do a countdown on your calendar. After you start your seeds or transplant your seedlings, count forward the amount of days (listed on seed pack) until it's ready to harvest. This is often noted as Days to Harvest. This is the vision seed companies have to help you know about when your plant will be rewarding you for taking care of it. This is a general guide but a good one, to get you on the right track. Once you get to your projected harvest date -- write it in your calendar, make a note in your phone, set an alarm -- tie a string around your finger and keep it there for 3 months. That way, you'll be ready for these next actions steps!
Step 2. As the weeks dwindle away, and you're getting close to your 'scheduled' harvest date, like 3 weeks close, start micromanaging your melons. You don't want to burden them with your anticipation but you definitely want to get in their business. At this point you're going to be checking for size, color and shape. They may not be ready at this point but if you notice that your melon has a lovely uniformed shape, the color is right and it's in the right weight class for it's kind, you may be on your way to a fruit salad.
Step 3. (only applies to muskmelons) Start smelling. If you can smell your melon when you pick it up it's ready. If you have to really get in close and nuzzle your nose to it and just can't pick up it's scent -- take a deep breath, and step away. It's not time.
Step 4. Check on your melons every day. You're going to be using your keen observation skills at this point. Check out the melon's belly button -- more technically known as the blossom end, the place where it's flower was once attached to the fruit. If the flower is completely dry and has fallen off, that melon may very well be ready.
Muskmelons are beige with a grey-tan netting, the flesh is orange. When ripe, they will be surprisingly heavy for their size and the fruit will easily detach or "slip" from the vine, if it hasn't already.
Check the bottom of the melon! If it has a yellow-white spot where it was resting, that's a good indicator the watermelon is ready for you. I wouldn't rely on that entirely but add it to your clue book. Give it a thump. It's only been recently (like today) when I honestly was able to hear an obvious thud telling me it was ready. It's really hard to describe because it does sound hollow when you knock it but I think that if you don't know what it sounds like you could knock an unripe melon and think your hear a thud. Anyway, knock on a couple of melons and see if you can hear the difference. The most hollow sounding melon is the winner. If the stem of your watermelon has died back that means that the plant has stopped supplying nutrients to the fruit, which indicates it's finished it's job for you.
Step 5: Once you're 92% certain it's ready, harvest one! Might as well test your produce before a big harvest. And don't forget to share it with your neighbors.