Picking Melons – Harvesting the perfect Melon

Picking melons can be tricky some times. Here a guide to picking the perfect melon every time. How to harvest watermelon or cantaloupe from the garden!

Picking melons

August is our favorite month in the garden.

Why?  Because here in Utah that means it’s time for the melons to be ready!!  Since we started growing our own melons several years ago we have decided there is nothing better than home grown vine ripened melons.   We wait all year for this 4 week period where we can snack on melons any time we want.  We love home grown melons so much that the grocery store melons no longer appeal to us.  They just can’t stand up to that home grown taste so we have pretty much quit buying them.  We just gorge ourselves for 4 weeks and then do without for the rest of the year.


This post is for those of you that are fairly new to growing melons and picking melons.  One of the hardest things to figure out is when to pick them. I remember one of the first times we grew water melons, we saw this beautiful sugar baby melon and waited patiently for it to ripen.  But I really didn’t know what I was doing and picked it too soon.  It was still white all the way through and we wasted it!

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So now that I’m a pro at it (no I am not prideful), I thought I’d pass along what I have learned on picking melons.  We only grow Watermelons and cantaloupe so I will pass along what I have learned on those and ask my readers to add some input on other types of melons.

Picking Melons – Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe (or muskmelons) are actually fairly easy to pick at the right time.  Mainly because they pick themselves.  You will know it is time to start watching your cantaloupes when they lose their green color and start to get a pail orange color.  The “netting” will also become more pronounced.

Notice the cantaloupe on the bottom is starting to loose its green color and get a pale yellow/orange

When this starts to happen keep an eye on them.  Where the vine attaches to the melon will start to separate.

Notice the vine is starting to separate from the melon

The melon is ready when you give a gentle tug and the vine pulls free.  If you tug and the vine holds on then give it another day and try again.

A gentle tug will cause the vine to separate from the melon when its ready to pick

The key is that the vine slips off with just a gentle tug.

Picking Melons

At this point I usually then bring the melon inside and let it sit for a day or two on the counter and then it’s perfect!

Picking Melons – Watermelon

Watermelons are much harder to tell when they are ripe!

Watermelon is much harder to pick.  There are several ways folks will tell you to go about picking melons but for most of us those methods just don’t work.  But there is a simple trick.  Let’s talk about some of the “wives tales” first before we get to sure method:

1.  If you tap on the melon with your knuckles the “thunk” will sound similar to the sound you hear if you do the same thing to your chest.  Professional melon growers use this trick to pick ripe melons but over their life time they have tapped on thousand of melons.  Us gardeners just don’t have the experience (or practice) to reliably pick a ripe melon by sound.

2.  When the spot touching the ground turns from white to yellow.  I will admit that this is a good indication that the melon is getting close, but it is just not 100% reliable.  When you see this color change then you know it’s time to starting watching for our main method.

So here’s the trick:

If you look closely at a water melon you will notice that there are little curly tendrils all along the vine.  A water melon is ripe when the tendril closest to the melon dries up and turns brown.  The tendril usually looses it’s curly end and what’s left becomes dry, straight and stiff.  It will slowly dry up and turn brown all the way up to the spot where it attaches to the vine.  It’s important that you wait until it dries up completely.  Once that tendril is dry the watermelon will hold on the vine for at the very most a week so but don’t leave it too long or it will get over ripe and mushy.  But once that tendril has dried you need to plan on getting it harvested.  Here are some photos:

Here’s what the tendril will look like before the melon is ripe

Here’s a tendril on a melon that hasn’t started ripening.

This one is starting to ripen, notice the curly part has fallen off.

Again this one is getting close but it’s not ready yet.

This one is getting close but it’s not ready yet.

This one is ready!!

The tendril on this one is perfect, its ready to pick and eat any time.

Here’s another shot of the tendril, the melon is in the top right corner of the picture. When the tendril looks like this the melon is ready to eat.

A mistake many new comers make is to pick the watermelon to soon and then think they can leave the fruit sitting out and it will ripen. Watermelon just doesn’t do that.  Once you pick a watermelon it won’t ripen any more unlike other melons and other fruits.  So be sure to wait for the tendril to dry up!

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Here’s a photo of that perfect melon from above right after it was picked.  It tasted awesome!!  So the tendril rule works on any melon that is considered a watermelon, no mater the variety or size.

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So here’s my call out to my readers to help others with picking melons.  I know many of you grow other types of melons.  Please send me a few photos and a quick description of how to pick a ripe melon, what ever the type and I will put these together in another post that we can share with other growers.   Or just all a picture of you picking melons in the comment section below.  Send your photos to rick@ourstoneyacres.com.  Thanks!!

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  1. Nancy Davis August 25, 2012 5:34 pm Reply

    Lucky you! I would love to grow melon but we just don’t have room for it. I am stretching it by trying to grow a butternut squash! Enjoy! Nancy


  2. Holly Osborn August 25, 2012 11:14 pm Reply

    Thank you so much, I was just wondering today when the cantaloupe would be ready!!!

  3. Jenny August 26, 2012 12:11 am Reply

    Awesome! My melons are just starting to ripen so your advice is just perfect in timing.


  4. Emily Saddler August 30, 2012 3:56 pm Reply

    Love the pics! It really helps with identification! You are a fantastic teacher! Thanks for your posts!

  5. Tessa July 22, 2015 3:57 pm Reply

    I never, ever knew that – thank you for sharing! Now I feel all watermelon wise. I guess I should get better at growing them, huh? 🙂


  6. Tamara July 9, 2017 7:28 pm Reply

    Thank you for the writing this article. I have always struggled with getting under ripe or over ripe fruit. I didn’t plant any this year, but will keep this for next year to ry my hand at it once again.

  7. Myra August 30, 2017 6:58 pm Reply

    My son, Michael, planted watermelons for the first time and are turning green, your advice is very timely, thank you and for the pictures they are a great help.

  8. Vonnie rhoads September 11, 2017 8:07 pm Reply

    We planted honey dews,never did get a ripe one.but my chickens were happy .how do you pick a honey dew

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