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How to Grow Orange Tendersweet Heirloom Watermelons

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Our five year old enjoys the fruit of his labor. A crisp, ripe, Orange Tendersweet watermelon.

Our five year old enjoys the fruit of his labor. A crisp, ripe, Orange Tendersweet watermelon.

Why Grow Watermelons?

Watermelons originate in Southern Africa. Technically, the fruit of the watermelon is a berry. The watermelon “berry” has a very thick rind and a fleshy interior, and prefers hot, dry climates for growth.

All watermelons have a diuretic effect, which helps to flush water through the body. Watermelon also contains vitamin C, citrulline, and beta carotene (an antioxidant). Watermelon is rated as an excellent food for those trying to lose weight: It is nutritious and adds few calories to the diet.

Why Grow Orange Tendersweet Watermelons?

  • The Orange Tendersweet watermelon has an orange fleshy interior, and is extremely nutritious.
  • It also has a tough rind, which makes it suitable for short-term storage and for selling by the roadside.
  • The flesh of this heirloom watermelon is a pastel orange color, and has a subtle, honey-like flavor.
  • The Orange Tendersweet is not as “heavy” in flavor as other watermelons, but the fruit is definitely sweet and has a bright, crisp flavor!

How to Plant Orange Tendersweet Watermelon Seeds

  • Keep Track of Time: The Orange Tendersweet takes approximately 90 days to mature from the time the seeds are planted. Mark the date the seeds are planted on the calendar, to keep track of when the fruit should begin to ripen.
  • Use Spacious, Raised Garden Beds: Planting seeds in raised garden beds is beneficial for watermelon plants, as the soil warms faster than the surrounding ground. Be sure to provide the plants with plenty of room: The vines will sprawl and smother anything in their path!
  • Plant After Frost: Watermelon vines don’t like to be transplanted, so it is best to sow the seeds outside once the danger of frost has passed.
  • Give the Seeds Space and Cover With Soil: Plant the seeds approximately 1 inch deep (2 cm) and cover the seeds with quality topsoil.
  • Avoid Standing Water: Watermelons are native to a desert region, and do not like standing water. Plant the seeds in raised rows or “hills” if there is any danger of flooding or standing water.

Our family planted Orange Tendersweet watermelon seeds directly into raised beds. (We are in Zone 5, in the Great Lakes region of Western New York.) The seeds were planted in late May, after the danger of frost had passed. We were not terribly particular about the planting method: our five year old planted the seeds himself, with no adult interference. By August 24, we had mature, ripe watermelons, ready for eating!

Our son, planting Orange Tendersweet watermelon seeds.

Our son, planting Orange Tendersweet watermelon seeds.

Watermelon Nutrition Facts (for 1 Cup of Fruit)

Nutrient% Daily ValueQuantity

Vitamin A






Vitamin C












Total Carbohydrate






Dietary Fiber



How to Tell When a Watermelon Is Ripe

There are several ways to determine if a watermelon is ripe:

  • Check the “spoon leaf.” This is a very small, oblong leaf near the watermelon. When this leaf dries and withers, the watermelon is close to being ripe.
  • Check the tendril closest to the watermelon: this should be dry and brown.
  • Turn the watermelon over: the pale, white patch on the bottom of the watermelon should be a yellow color.
  • Scratch the watermelon rind with a fingernail. A ripe watermelon will be hard and resistant to scratching.
  • The watermelon rind will become dull in color when it is ripe.
  • Some people insist that tapping the watermelon will produce a hollow sound when the watermelon is ripe. This test is very subjective, however, and it is best to rely on the tendril/spoon leaf/yellow patch signs.

Is Your Watermelon Ready to Pick?

Harvesting Orange Tendersweet Watermelons

When the watermelon is ripe, cut it from the vine. There is no turning back now! Cut the watermelon open. The flesh of the Orange Tendersweet watermelon will be very pale, so do not panic when the color does not resemble the watermelons in the grocery store. If the seeds inside the melon are mature, it is ripe! Take a taste test to be sure: the flesh will be crisp and sweet.

When we harvested our Orange Tendersweet watermelons, I let my son have the first bite. He had, after all, planted the seeds to begin with! He has planted, raised, and eaten organic fruit entirely on his own, and he is only five years old. His watermelon growing has been a wonderful learning experience, and we have a lot of fresh, organic watermelon to eat as a bonus!

Orange Tendersweet watermelons grow quickly to create a delicious snack!

Orange Tendersweet watermelons grow quickly to create a delicious snack!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Should you only allow one watermelon per plant?

Answer: To obtain larger watermelons, pruning the plant to contain one fruit per vine is recommended. I have grown smaller varieties (like Sugar Baby) and managed to leave two fruits per plant, but my Tendersweets were pruned to have only one melon per plant.


Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on October 06, 2011:

I should post a few more of our garden - this was our first year gardening, too. We have three of those 4x4 raised beds, made of landscaping timbers (they were cheap). We get ambitious with the gardening, but with our weather we only have to do it for about 3 months! The rest of the year is too cold to garden - soon we will have several feet of snow on top of those gardening beds, lol! I canned all summer, but I'm a bit tired of it now. Fortunately, the first frost has come and killed off the remaining tomatillos - so I am done canning for this year! I'm sure I'll be ready for it again in the spring!

Our gardens did get overgrown this year - we used a mushroom compost that a gardening supply man suggested. The plants grew like crazy, so the dirt must have been good, lol!

grace on October 05, 2011:

you sound ambitious! i am kinda lazy w the garden lately, mostly still waiting for that one watermelon to ripen ;) i am lookin forward to it though. i need to go thru the seeds i have in the fridge and just make up a mixture and throw them in the ground. ha, probably i shouldn't do it that haphazardly, but i do like it when the garden gets overgrown and looks jungle-y. as this is my first year gardening i can't say that's happened to me yet. Do you have more photos of your garden somewhere?

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on October 05, 2011:

Those sound really fun! I want to try the purple (or blue) potatoes one of these days, too - I really like growing things you can't find in stores! I made watermelon jelly this year, too - it is pretty good, and it isn't in any grocery store! I have two jars of it left, and I'm saving it for the winter when we wish we had fresh watermelon!

grace on October 05, 2011:

you should try the heirloom purple carrots, they're pretty cool since they are still orange on the inside, just the skin is purple!

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on October 03, 2011:

I haven't researched the types of pumpkins we'll grow yet - the boys and I will have to look online and see what they want to grow. We won't be able to plant until next spring, since we've already had our first frost - we'll be buried in snow in about another month! I'm definitely growing tomatoes again, probably pumpkins, and hopefully some carrots, too!

grace on October 02, 2011:

ooo cool, pumpkins! do you know what type? maybe i should try that too. It's time to start planting the fall garden here, but I haven't been able to get to it yet. soon, soon. ;)

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on October 02, 2011:

We gardened with both of our boys this year. Matt had the Orange Tendersweets, and Nolan grew Sugar Baby watermelons. They were both so excited to see them cut open, and to eat the watermelon! They really love the outdoors, and have learned the names of several plants. It is a joy to garden with children - next year, we are going to grow pumpkins!

grace on October 02, 2011:

Also, I love that you taught your 5 year old boy to grow them all by himself. It is my hope that more parents would teach their children the joy and rewards of gardening in their formative years so that they can become lifetime gardeners, thereby appreciating the land, tending to it and understanding the bounty that it can give back to us. Thank you for doing that with your son.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on October 02, 2011:

Grace, I am so glad your watermelons did well this year! Ours did really well, and we have a difficult growing season in Zone 5 (it is a bit of a race to get the seeds into the ground so that we have watermelon before the first frost comes)! I have family near Austin and they grow watermelons almost every year - I also like to grow the heirloom watermelons, because you can't find them in stores. It does give people a bit of a shock when you serve orange watermelon, though!

grace on October 02, 2011:

I also chose this type of watermelon to grow in my garden. It's the first watermelon type I have ever tried and it really is easy! I love the vine that it has created and I am currently waiting for the second watermelon to ripen enough to harvest, thanks for the tips to check for that. I prefer to grow things you can't buy in the store and this one is a winner. I'm in zone 8, Austin, Texas and we have had a very hot summer but this plant THRIVED in it.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on August 25, 2011:

It is fun to grow the heirloom stuff - I let Matt (my five year old) pick out the seeds and he was excited to grow an orange watermelon. We also grew some sugar babies - they're red and look more like what you would find in the store. The orange tendersweets are pretty good - they do have a lot of large, beige colored seeds. My kids were a little taken aback with the seeds, since they are so used to the seedless types in the grocery store!

cardelean from Michigan on August 25, 2011:

I was drooling as I read this hub! They look delicious. My father in law grows regular watermelons but I think that we will have to request these next year. Thanks for the great information and I loved the pics to go with it.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on August 25, 2011:

Watermelons are really fun to grow. It is a little nerve wracking when you harvest the first one and are worried that it might not be mature, though! Fortunately, all of ours have been delicious!

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 25, 2011:

Yum, yum. These look amazing enough to make my mouth water. I will grow some next summer. I am already planning my garden. Thanks so much.

Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on August 25, 2011:

We are fairly "northern" (in Western NY) and managed to grow them. We were lucky with a VERY hot July, though. I've heard that some of these melons will get to 35 pounds with the right conditions - ours never got anywhere near that size. The picture of my son holding the one in the picture strip is a full-sized one from our garden.

moonlake from America on August 24, 2011:

I would love to grow these but don't think I can in the north. Enjoyed your hub.