Seed Saving Time: Watermelon

Saving watermelon seeds. Image copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress.comJill HendersonShow Me Oz
Whether you like it seeded, juiced, sliced, cubed, or just straight off the rind, there’s almost nothing better on a hot summer day than a big ‘ol chunk of juicy-crisp, sweet-ripe, just-from-the-garden watermelon. M-mmm.  Of course, if you grew that melon in your own garden, the level of satisfaction rises even higher.  But if you really want to reach gardening nirvana, try harvesting a watermelon that you not only grew, but grew from seed you saved yourself.  And the best part? Saving your own watermelon seed is soooo dang easy!

I am here to tell you that if you have never saved a seed in your life, you are in for a huge treat, because watermelons are among the easiest seeds to save.  I also think you might be surprised by how much seed you can actually save from even a small crop of watermelons.  I mean, if you’ve ever eaten a watermelon you know they come ready-made with quite a few seeds. Can you guess how many seeds are inside of just one medium-sized fruit?  Me either, but suffice it to say it’s a lot!  And if you save even a fraction of those seeds…well, that’s an awful lot of seed to tuck away for your arsenal of self-sufficient food production – and all in a single season.

My feeling is that learning to save seed is a wonderful hobby and very (very) rewarding. But it’s also about survival and self-reliance.  In fact, the seed you can save from just a few watermelons would be enough to last you, your entire extended family, and all the friends and neighbors you can count at least a couple of years! And the best part is, it’s super easy to do and you won’t have to pay a dime for watermelon seeds ever again.

Now, I know it’s pretty tempting just to spit those seeds out of any old watermelon and “save” them, but hold on just a second… There are a few things you ought to know before going gang-busters.

Rule Number One:  Never save seed from hybrid watermelons.  If you don’t know the difference between hybrid and open-pollinated seeds (and GMO’s for that matter), hop over to the article below and give it a read before coming back here. It’s OK, I’ll wait.

Saving Seeds: Open Pollinated vs. Hybrid

Now, that should have you on track as to why you don’t want to save seed from melons whose origins you do not know, and more importantly, why you can’t save seeds from “seedless” watermelons.

The Garden Seed Saving Guide by Jill Henderson   The Garden Seed Saving Guide

Save money, become more self-sufficient and avoid GMO’s by saving seeds!  This excellent resource for beginning and hobby seed savers takes you step-by-step through every aspect of saving your own seed in plain English.   Look inside!

Rule Number Two: If you’re garden is located in close proximity to another garden (like right next door or across the street) that has watermelons growing in it, you might need to take some precautions when saving the seed from your watermelons. This is because when insects move pollen between two or more varieties of watermelons, the resulting seed are a hybrid of those two varieties.  And as we just learned, hybrids are not the seed-saver’s friend.

In the case of neighboring gardens containing a different variety of watermelon than you are growing, you will either need to work with your neighbors on growing only one variety of melon in the hood, or you will need to hand-pollinate your own plants.  For that, you should read more about the role of flowers and pollination.

Seed Saving Time: Flowers and Pollination

Basically, all of the different types, or varieties, of watermelon and citron melons belong to the botanical species Citrullus vulgaris.  Therefore, all varieties of watermelon and citron melons will cross-pollinate with one another.
Male watermelon flower. Copyright Jill Henderson showmeoz.wordpress.comFemale watermelon flower. Copyright Jill Henderson





However, they will not cross with Cucumis melo, which includes cantaloupe, muskmelon, honeydew, Crenshaw, casaba, vine peach, Armenian cucumber, melon apple, as well as Persian-, pocket-, Asian pickling-, orange-, mango- and lemon melons, among others.

So, basically, if you’re only growing one kind of watermelon in your garden  and your close neighbors are not growing watermelon or another variety of watermelon (country folk, you’re exempt if your neighbors are at 1/4 mile or more away…), then read on!

Harvest Away!

If you’re all clear and ready to harvest watermelon seeds, it couldn’t be much easier. Simply pick watermelons at the ripe, edible stage and set the seeds from those aside for cleaning and drying.

Of course, picking a ripe melon is harder than saving the seed! Various methods used to determine melon ripeness include:

  • the yellow ground spot softens in color
  • the tendril closest to the stem may dry up
  • the stripes on the rind turn from solid to broken
  • when thumped, the melon sounds hollow.
  • the rinds of excessively ripe melons often lose all sheen and will flex with firm pressure.

2014 Saving Watermelon Seeds Copyright Jill Henderson

Whatever you do, don’t wait too long to harvest seeds, as they may actually sprout inside an overripe fruit.  Once picked, all you need to do is scrape out the seeds, rinse them several times in a colander, pick out any undersized or unripe seeds, and dry on coffee filters out of direct sun until brittle (about 10 days to 2 weeks) before storing in a paper packet in a cool, dark location.

Of course, you don’t have to save every seed you harvest (‘cause that’s a lot of seed!). But do save at least a few seeds from more than one melon from more than one plant.  One melon from four or five plants is good – but more is better to avoid genetic bottlenecks in the following years. Once you’ve got what you need, mix all the seeds together before discarding the portion that you don’t want to keep.

So, now you know how to save your own watermelon seeds and it couldn’t be much easier than that! Imagine the satisfaction you’ll have next year, when you proudly show off the melon that you not only grew, but save the seed of, as well!

And if you’re a veteran watermelon seed saver, feel free to share with us your favorite watermelon varieties and any tips or tricks you have for saving seed!

Until then, happy gardening!

© 2016 Jill Henderson  Feel free to share with a link back to the original article.

The Garden Seed Saving Guide by Jill HendersonThe Garden Seed Saving Guide
Seed Saving for Everyone!

Save money, become more self-sufficient and avoid GMO’s by saving seeds!  This excellent resource for beginning and hobby seed savers takes you step-by-step through every aspect of saving your own seed in plain English.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore
Look inside!

Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore.  Jill is a contributing author for Acres USA and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac and her work has appeared in The Permaculture Activist and The Essential Herbal.

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