Summertime – and especially July – is a time for enjoying the harvest from the spring garden. I have 20 family members and we have a family garden, now named the “256 Garden”. My brother, Allen, and Mom organized the spring garden this year and, as usual, we had the soil tested and prepped. The soil report came back with a pretty low pH and some additional deficiencies so we brought in lots of lime and a balanced fertilizer to address the issues.
Our crop of choice this spring…watermelons. My kids (and probably most kids) LOVE watermelons, but, in addition to certain soil nutrients, they take time. Fortunately our 256 Garden is located in Foley, Alabama, which with its hot temps and balanced rains, is prime for watermelon success. We planted the watermelons in raised rows or “hills” and we used black plastic to help keep down the weed growth and hold moisture. As the watermelon crop grew, we made sure to encourage pollinator activities to help with all the cross-pollination that needs to occur. We have beehive colonies on property and attract the natural pollinators with some of their favorite vegetation. Our 256 Garden relies on a balance of soil nutrition, water, sun, pollination, good seed genetics and some good ole’ fashion farming passion.
As I prepared for my July 4th plans and grew impatient waiting on the watermelon harvest, I learned what a tendril is and how it signals harvest time. I went out to check on the 256 Garden and Allen gave me a good lesson on harvesting the MUCH-awaited watermelon. Allen explained that you need to check the tendril just right next to the main stem. Make sure it is brown, he said, then roll the watermelon over and make sure the bottom has a yellow color marking. After thumping to test the internal sound it makes, it is time to cut and harvest. It doesn’t hurt to do a quick taste test in the garden too! Next time you are watching for your ripe watermelon – check the tendril!
How did the watermelon turn out? In our house, watermelons are preferred to be eaten straight and cold. But, since our July 4th was spent in a heat wave with all the kids running everywhere, this year’s favorite watermelon recipe was WATERMELON INFUSED WATER. No need for a secret family recipe here…it’s so simple. Just put water in a pitcher, cut up and add the watermelon and keep it nice and cold in the refrigerator. What a refreshing way to enjoy the fruits of our labor, all while staying hydrated.