Watermelon-Charleston Gray

  • Sun: Full Sun
  • Harvest Size: 25 pounds
  • Days to Harvest: 85
  • Plant Size: Long vine

Nostalgic for a big, old-fashioned watermelon with plenty of seeds for a spitting contest? Charleston Gray is it. This oblong-shaped watermelon has the sweet, red, fiberless flesh you remember from childhood. Thick, gray-green rind makes it a great variety for watermelon rind pickles.

Melons demand 2 to 3 months of heat, making them challenging in northern regions but not impossible; use black plastic or landscape fabric to warm the soil, then plant through holes cut in the cover. Set out plants 2 weeks after the last frost date in spring for summer harvest. In the far South, another crop can be planted midsummer for a fall harvest.

Plant spacing: 36-60 inches apart. Plants per person: 2 to 4.

Secrets to Success »

Prepare soil with several inches of compost or manure; some gardeners even grow melons atop their compost pile! Feed at planting and throughout the growing season with Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Plant Food. Provide a steady supply of water, keeping soil constantly moist but not soggy. Water vines early in the morning to prevent fungal disease.

Watermelon needs plenty of room to roam. Plant in wide rows, and mulch to keep weeds down. Keep ripening fruit off the soil for pest and disease prevention; place melons on a bed of straw, cardboard, or aluminum foil, which reflects sun to speed ripening.

Harvest and Use »

Watermelons ripen over 2 weeks. About a week before ripe, reduce watering to ensure the fruit’s sweetness. When ripe, watermelon skin turns from bright to dull green; the area touching the ground turns from whitish to rich, creamy yellow. Some gardeners swear by the thumping method—ripe watermelon makes a low-pitched thud when thumped (under-ripe fruit gives a tinny, high-pitched sound).

Loaded with nutrition, a sweet slice of watermelon includes vitamin C, beta carotene, and lycopene. Melons keep for 2 to 3 weeks in a cool spot, such as basement. Chop for fruit salads; dice and freeze for smoothies, slushies, or sorbet. Serve slices for healthy dessert at summer barbecues.

Try These Garden Companions »

  • Honeydew and cantaloupe.
  • Strawberries.
  • Bee balm, lavender, marigolds, zinnia, lemon balm, oregano, basil to attract bees for pollination.

From Our Library