If there’s a single fruit that will instantly remind you of sweet summer days, it’s the watermelon.
This refreshing low-calorie snack comes in many varieties, but Sugar Baby watermelons are the most popular to grow in home gardens.
When to harvest Sugar Baby watermelon? Compared to their full-sized counterparts that take 120 days to mature, smaller Sugar Baby watermelons ripen in just 75 days. Also called icebox or picnic watermelons, they often grow eight- to 12-pound fruits.
How Do You Know When Sugar Baby Watermelon Are Ready to Harvest?
When it comes to growing watermelons, timing the harvest is of the utmost importance.
Like other melons, they won’t continue to ripen once you’ve picked them off the vine.
If you don’t take the time to learn when to harvest them, you might end up with inedible fruits and a lot of wasted time.
So, how can you tell if your Sugar Baby watermelons are ready for picking?
Checking Sugar Baby Watermelons for Ripeness
Here are some reliable signs that indicate when these sweet and juicy fruits are fully ripe:
Days to Maturity
One of the best ways to tell if a Sugar Baby watermelon is ripe is by counting the days before it reaches maturity.
As mentioned, this watermelon variety needs anywhere between 60 and 90 days to grow 10-pound fruits.
It would be best if you start seeds indoors a month before the last frost date.
If you do this, you can expect the fruits to mature as early as late May to June.
You will want to be ready two weeks before it reaches 90 days of growth, as that is when the fruits ripen.
Color of the Skin
Another reliable way to tell a ripe melon apart is by inspecting its rind.
Experienced gardeners know this by heart, but as a newbie home gardener, you would want to watch out carefully for any color changes.
As it nears maturity, the fruit’s rind will change from bright to dull green and will grow harder that you won’t be able to pierce through it.
The area that touches the ground will also turn yellow or cream from light green.
Tendrils are the thread-like strands you will often find in vining plants, which they use for attachment and support.
By looking at the tendrils nearest a Sugar Baby watermelon, you’d be able to determine if the fruit is ready for picking.
A green tendril indicates the fruit needs more time to mature. Once it turns brown and dry, then you’ll know it’s time for harvest.
Do not wait for it to fully dry, as that could mean the fruit is nearing over ripeness or is already overripe.
Slightly Sweet Smell
If you trust your sense of smell enough, you’d be able to know if a watermelon is ripe based on its aroma.
Move your face near one and try to smell if it has developed that familiar sweet scent of a ripe watermelon.
If it does, then you’ll know it is ready to be harvested.
You can also use this technique when buying watermelons from your local produce store.
Hollow “Muffled” Sound
If you’ve been around long enough, there’s a good chance you’ve seen someone knocking on a watermelon to check if it’s ripe.
Although not as reliable as the other ripeness indicators, many watermelon gardeners swear by this method.
What you’ll want to listen for is a low-pitched hollow thud when you thump the rind with your knuckle.
Be careful with this technique, though, as some believe it ruins the quality of the fruit.
Others warn that the muffled sound can sometimes indicate a mushy, overripe watermelon instead.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Sugar Baby Watermelon?
Given the right growing conditions, you can expect around two to five fruits for every vine.
If you’ve run out of ideas on what to do with your Sugar Baby watermelons, is it possible to leave them in the plant in the meantime?
What will happen if you don’t harvest them?
Sugar Baby watermelons are easy enough to grow, but the catch is that they have a shorter harvest time than most.
As such, you will want to pick them off the vine once they are ripe or risk having them go overripe.
Unfortunately, overripe watermelons become mushy and slimy.
Some even give off a funky, sour smell that is not only unpalatable but also unsafe to consume.
How to Harvest Sugar Baby Watermelon?
Once you’re sure your watermelons are ripe enough for picking, you can go ahead and start harvesting.
Compared to other fruits, they don’t necessarily fall off the plant once ripe, so you’ll have to time it right.
By following the ripeness checking techniques we shared, you’re more than equipped on this concern.
To harvest a Sugar Baby melon, here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Pick which fruits to harvest.
You probably planted several plants, so the first step is to find the watermelons ripe enough for picking.
Again, each plant will have around two to five fruits.
Check each one to determine which are ready to be harvested. Any fruit that isn’t ready yet should be left on the vine to mature further.
Step 2: Cut the stem.
Using a sharp pair of garden shears or a clean blade, cut the fruit from the vine, leaving at least two inches of the stem.
Doing this will protect the fruit from rotting too soon.
Step 3: Store them properly.
While they won’t continue to ripen after picking, you can store watermelons for around two to three weeks unrefrigerated.
You’ll want to keep them in a cool area for extended storage.
For cut watermelons, it would be best to refrigerate the unused portions, but don’t expect them to last long.
If you want, you can cut or dice the flesh and freeze it for even longer storage.
Step 4: Save the seeds.
Sugar Baby watermelons are an excellent variety to grow year after year.
They don’t require special growing conditions, except for a regular watering schedule.
Plus, in just a few months, you will have sweet and juicy fruits to share with friends and family or sell at the local produce market.
For this, you’ll want to learn how to save the seeds.
More than anything, you must save only the seeds of ripe, healthy watermelons.
Stay away from the seeds of those growing from wilting, dying, or spotted vines and leaves, which could mean diseases.
You can collect the seeds after eating the flesh.
Then, allow the seeds to sit in a container filled with water for two to three days to give them a good rinse.
Any seed that floats to the top should then be removed.
Give the healthy seeds another rinse and allow them to dry on top of a clean paper towel.
Once dry, store your Sugar Baby watermelon seeds in an airtight container, making sure you label them with the correct date
When done correctly, these seeds will stay suitable for planting for up to five years.
Should You Wash Sugar Baby Watermelon After Harvesting?
No idea what to do with Sugar Baby watermelons after picking? Don’t worry; you’re not the only one.
A lot of new home gardeners wonder if it’s right to wash a watermelon after harvesting.
After all, the fruits can get dirty after sitting on the ground for weeks.
Similar to any product, you shouldn’t wash watermelons if you’ll be storing them for a while.
Instead, only wash them if you’re ready to consume or process them.
The reason behind this is that excess moisture can hasten spoilage, as you’ll be promoting an environment for bacteria to grow.
Rather than washing them with water, you can wipe the dirt away using a piece of clean, dry cloth.
Can You Eat Sugar Baby Watermelon Immediately After Harvesting?
Like honeydew and cantaloupes, watermelons are non-climacteric fruits.
Basically, they won’t turn sweeter or become tastier after being picked, as bananas or peaches will.
That said, your best chance of eating the watermelons at their best state is if you pick them at the right time.
Good thing, there’s no waiting time required before you can cut watermelons up and serve them as a refreshing snack.
However, you will want to make sure you wash the skin thoroughly before cutting.
This way, you don’t risk transferring dirt from the knife and onto the flesh inside.
Sugar Baby watermelons, in particular, are very sweet, so they don’t need much preparation before you can serve them.
You can chill watermelon slices in the fridge hours beforehand for an even more refreshing bite.
Then again, you can also turn it into a smoothie, make watermelon icicles, mix it with salsa, or shake it up in a cocktail.
Because of their sweetness and crispiness, it’s easy to love Sugar Baby watermelons.
They are also easy to grow and won’t take up much of your garden space as a full-sized variety would.
Regardless if you’re new to gardening or not, there isn’t anything that should stop you from growing these summer fruits.