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The 4th Annual Watermelon Breeding Post

Time to assess this year in watermelons! As it should surprise no-one to hear, this was an excellent year for watermelons, mostly. It would have been nice to have had what rain we had earlier in the summer while the fruits were forming, rather than later when they were finishing ripening, but whatever. We had a few moments of fear and frustration in the beginning, when many of the seeds failed to germinate. We did a second planting but no further attempts at coaxing them to sprout. Do or die; that’s the breeder’s motto.

Consequently we got going with fewer plants in the beds than we had planned, but enough to go on with, as it happened. The ones that grew, grew. I’m going to spend less time describing individual watermelons than I have in past seasons, because I think this year has marked a turning point. We are still eliminating at least half the watermelons that we get from next years planting, but we are also seeing a consistency in quality that just didn’t used to be there.

You can see the reports for 2015, 2016, and 2017 at the links. It is really encouraging to me to see how much the watermelons have improved over the last 4 years.

I’ll start with the Golden Rind project (melons who’s rinds turns yellow when they are ready to be picked).

GR02-0815 was the second watermelon we picked, but it would have been ripe at the same time as the first one. At just under a kilo, we would have liked it to be a little larger, but it was a decent size. We scored it a 7 for flavour; a fairly typical score this year and anything that scored lower is not going to make the cut next year. This one is in, though; decent flavour, earliness, adequate size.

This look – oval, with thin stripes, was one of three styles that seemed to predominate in the watermelons which turned yellow when ripe this year.

Here’s how it looked when cut. Colour a little pale but okay, a reasonable number of reasonably sized seeds, rind a little thicker than I like but not too thick; again all good enough to go on with.

GR04-0820 shows the second distinctive style we were seeing in this patch. At over 1.5 kilos, it was a much better size than GR02-0815, and only a few days later. In spite of being a little watery (I believe it had just rained the day before we picked it) it scored an 8 for flavour. Most of the others of this type did not score so well. This one is definitely in for planting next year.

Dang! Forgot to photograph this one before we cut it. GR08-0820 was in many ways the best of the Golden Rind project this year. I consider the size (over 2.2 kilos) to be just about perfect, and it scored an 8 for flavour.

The colour is a little pale and the seeds, while small, seem a bit all over the place. However the good flavour and texture, combined with a nice thin rind, desirable size, and earliness (it may be melon number 8, but it was picked the same day as melon number 3, which is not shown as it was not a keeper) mean this is probably the top Golden Rind melon of the year. 
Or maybe this was the top Golden Rind watermelon of the year. GR12-0918 was a hair overripe, but sweet and tasty, rating a 7.5 for flavour. The rind was also thin, the seeds seemed a bit better organized, and the colour was a bit stronger. At 2.56 kilos it was the second largest of the year for this set. It was an example of the third style of watermelon in this group – neither quite round or quite oval, but somewhere in between, with little in the way of stripes. Most were much smaller, though.
There were a number of other Golden Rind watermelons besides these, but they were just not that different from those I have already shown. There were still quite a few melons which did not turn yellow when ripe, but most of them were later to ripen and not significantly better in quality than most of the yellow ones. Therefore, next year will be the first year for this project where we do not intend to plant ANY seeds from watermelons that did not turn yellow. This is a real and encouraging turning point. 

The other project, for orange-fleshed melons, also had the same frustrations starting out but went on to produce numerous, good quality melons, with more consistency than we have seen until now. In spite of how much larger these melons are in general, they are only a few days later to ripen.

This melon, PJ01-0818, scored a 7 for flavour – pretty typical, the lowest rating for this project this year was 6, and only one managed to score an 8 – and had a slightly pale colour but was within the acceptable range.

PJ03-0827 had a rather thick rind, but good colour and at 5.588 kilos was the largest of the year. Maybe a bit too large, but eh, I’ll take it. It held well in the fridge too.

PJ04-0827 was a bit on the red size but again, acceptable as an orange melon, and scored an 8 for flavour in addition to having a nice thin rind. It could have held a bit better but still, it’s in for next year.

PJ09-0904 had a thicker rind than I like, but good flavour (7) and excellent colour. It too is in.

There are still a few melons left to be picked in this batch but they have been considerably more consistent than the Golden Rind project, which in addition to more melons scoring 8, also had melons scoring as low as 2, so I am not expecting anything much different from what we have seen thus far.

Mr Ferdzy is chaffing at being restricted to these 2 watermelon projects, so this one may be dropped next year to give him more scope with other watermelons, but it remains to be decided. If we go ahead and replant them, I think we can hope for continuing progress next year.

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