How to Tell if a Watermelon is Ripe

Ripe watermelon are piled on top of each other. One watermelon is cut in half to show its red flesh and black seeds.

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Want a juicy watermelon for your summer snacking? Here’s how to tell if a watermelon is ripe to get the sweetest, juiciest fruit.

Watermelon is one of my absolute favorite items to grow in my home garden. There is something truly special about being able to grow your own sweet, juicy fruit! And watermelon is so simple to get growing!

But what isn’t so simple? Knowing when it’s time to harvest! Nothing is quite as heartbreaking as watching your watermelon grow for weeks, thinking it’s ready, and then cutting into it to find it pale, watery, and inedible. No worries! We’ve been growing watermelon for decades and are going to give you the exact tips you need to harvest your watermelon when they are ripe, sweet, and perfectly red every single time. Let’s get harvesting.

A halved ripe watermelon sits on top of other whole watermelon

How do you know if a watermelon is sweet?

A ripe watermelon is a sweet watermelon. Watermelons don’t continue to ripen once they are picked, so make sure to use all the tricks we mention below—give it a plunk to listen to the sound, check the field spot on the rind of the melon, and look for that brown tendril. For a sweet watermelon, you want a melon as close to its peak ripeness as possible!

The kind of watermelon you choose can make a difference, too. And if you’re growing watermelon, you have lots of options! For the ultimate in watermelon sweetness, consider growing the Sugar Baby variety—it also comes in a bush variety if you have limited garden space!

Can you eat an unripe watermelon?

Underripe watermelons are safe to eat, but they aren’t particularly enjoyable. Unripe melon tastes diluted and watery, instead of sweet.

Growfully Protip

Did you know the riper the watermelon, the more nutritious it is? That added color is a sign of a ton of nourishing antioxidants

Hands harvest a ripe watermelon from its vine

What color is a ripe watermelon?

Though it can vary slightly depending on the kind of watermelon, a ripe watermelon generally has a deep green rind, with one exception. The side of the watermelon that was touching the ground should be golden yellow.

Can you ripen a watermelon after it’s picked?

Unfortunately, no. Unlike some other produce, watermelons do not continue to ripen once they are picked. So whether you are shopping for watermelon at the grocery store or farmers’ market, or harvesting them from your own garden, you want to make sure you are bringing home a ripe melon.

Wedges of ripe watermelon

Can you let a watermelon sit on the vine for too long?

It can—the sugars start to develop so much in an overripe watermelon that the flesh starts to turn mealy and mushy. Eventually, the flesh will start to ferment and rot—not good eats! The good news: this process happens relatively slowly. So if you leave a ripe watermelon on the vine an extra day or two, you aren’t going to ruin your crop.

How do you tell if a watermelon is ripe?

When do you pick a watermelon? Judging ripeness is one of the harder parts of growing watermelons, but luckily there are a number of clues to tell when a watermelon is ripe. Here’s what to look for:

  • Check the field spot: The field spot is the part on the underside of the watermelon that has been touching the ground. Check its color—you want it to be a golden yellow. If it is that bright yellow color—your watermelon is ready to harvest! If it is any other color, like pale yellow, white, or green, it needs a bit more time on the vine.
  • Give it a knock: A good way to know when a watermelon is ripe is by listening for a hollow sound. Knock on an UNRIPE watermelon with your knuckles in the middle of the watermelon, and then thump on the one you think might be ready. A ripe watermelon will sound hollow in comparison to the unripe one. This one can take some practice to nail down, but your ears will learn to tell the difference!
  • Look at the tendril: Look for the tendril and leaf that is closest to the stem end of the watermelon. If it is brown or yellow, then the watermelon is probably ready to harvest.
  • Feel its weight: A ripe watermelon will feel heavy for its size—that’s a sign that there is lots of sweet juice inside! This can be a bit hard to tell—especially if you don’t have another watermelon to compare it against.
  • Check the estimated days to maturity: Check that seed package and do some math! If you’re growing a melon that takes 100 days to maturity and it’s only been 70 days since planting, it probably isn’t ready yet.

We prefer to use all five methods when determining if one of our precious melons is ready to harvest—when a melon checks all five boxes, you know it’s time to enjoy!

A watermelon grows in a field. The vines grow in the background.

Can you tell if a watermelon is ripe by smell?

In general, no, the sniff test doesn’t work for watermelon. The thick rind of uncut watermelons aren’t nearly as fragrant as a honeydew or cantaloupe where a good sniff will tell you if it’s ripe or not. We recommend checking the five methods above instead of using your nose.

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Cassie is a Certified Master Gardener and the founder of Growfully. She's been gardening organically for over two decades, and she's so excited to answer all the questions you have about gardening!

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1 Response
  1. Jessica

    This is great, it is so disappointing to buy a bad or un ripe watermelon. These tips are awesome.

    Thank you so much for this article!

Meet Cassie
Meet Your Guide

Hi! My name is Cassie.

I’m a Certified Master Gardener and founder of Growfully. I’ve been gardening organically for over two decades, and I’m so excited to answer all the questions you have about gardening!

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