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black thunder seeds

Gardeners in warm climates will be able to direct sow watermelons as soon as the soil temperature reaches at least 75 degrees F, planting six seeds per hill with 6-8' of space in all directions. Thin to the strongest two or three plants as soon as the seedlings appear. Watermelons should be planted in full sun and rich, loose soil. Young seedlings may benefit from black plastic to warm up the soil.

In cool climates, watermelon seeds should be started indoors, but no sooner than a month before transplanting; plant three seeds per peat pot, 1/4" deep. Provide heat to keep the soil at least 80-85 degrees F. Cut off all but the strongest seedling as soon as true leaves appear, and transplant about a week after frost; put two or three plants in each hill with a 6-8' space in all directions.

Gardeners use many different methods of testing whether their watermelons are ripe, but knowing the approximate mature size of the melon helps to determine when it is nearing ripeness. One test is to knock on the watermelon with your knuckles, listening for a dull thump rather than a hollow ring.

Germination

Another method is to check the underside of the melon where it rests on the ground; the skin should be a rich yellow. Also, the curling tendril closest to the stem of the melon often indicates ripeness when it begins to turn brown. Watermelons usually keep for several weeks in a cool place.

Ukrainian Heirloom Watermelon «Prince of Thunder»

Black thunder seeds

Culture: May be direct-seeded or transplanted. Minimum germination temperature 60°, optimal temperature range 70–90°. Direct seeding: Sow 4–5 seeds per hill when weather has warmed after danger of frost. Allow 4–6′ between hills. Thin to 3 best plants. Transplanting: Start indoors three weeks before setting out. Do not disturb the roots. Transplant bush varieties 18" apart, vining varieties 30" apart. For either method, use wire hoops and row covers to hasten maturity and reduce insect damage. Tender, not frost hardy. Heavy nitrogen feeders. Excessive heat and/or drought can prevent blossom set, reduce yields. Winter squash can take one or two light frosts on the vine. To improve flavor and storage, field cure for at least 10 days after harvest, covering if hard frost threatens. Store under proper conditions, at least 50° and 60–70% relative humidity in a place with good air circulation. Do not pile up squash. Inspect periodically and be sure to use damaged, stemless or small fruit first. Acorns have the shortest storage time before getting stringy, followed by delicatas, buttercup/kabochas.

Pest: Squash Vine Borer
Cultural controls: butternut squash is resistant, maximas & pepos susceptible; rotation, plow in squash vine debris soon after harvest, use floating row covers, watch for wilting plant parts and destroy borer within.

Kabocha group

Saving Seed: Saving squash seed is challenging! We list three species of the genus Cucurbita: C. pepo, C. maxima and C. moschata. Varieties of the same species will cross readily, but crossing will not occur between the different species. You must isolate varieties of the same species by half a mile if you want true-to-type seed. This is difficult for most gardeners—you may have to communicate and collaborate with neighboring gardeners, or exclude insects from blossoms and hand-pollinate. If you can pull off the variety isolation, processing the seeds is easy: rinse seeds from the guts of fully ripe and cured squash. Dry and store.

For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.

Winter Squash

Cucurbita maxima
(85 days) F-1 hybrid. Our taste testers greeted this kabocha/buttercup hybrid with thunderous applause. They found the taste of its dry sweet flavorful dense 2" thick flesh enlight’ning. After growing them this year, Joanna still prefers Burgess. Gardeners will also like its productivity of 3–4 uniform 3½ lb fruits per plant. The 7×4" squash with no cup has jade sutures with jade splotches over forest green skin. Very early maturing for its type and, with long corky stems, easy to cut from the vine. Add a little boom to your winter storage fare. ②