Author Topic: Watermelon Landrace (project)  (Read 307 times)

Lauren

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Watermelon Landrace (project)
« on: 2019-08-14, 05:12:13 PM »
Parents of the project:

Ali Baba
Traditional (grown in my yard forever, I have no idea of variety)
Hopi Red
Sugar Baby

Joseph Lofthouse Landrace, Congo and Jubilee will be added in future years, since I have seeds for them.

The problem in my area is water, so I'm trying to breed for drought tolerance. Since watermelons were originally bred in deserts, I started with them. Last year I planted my watermelon landrace (2nd year seeds, third year planting) in a dry, sandy area that got overspray from the lawn sprinklers but not much more. I babied the plants for a month or so and culled those that struggled until they started to sprawl. Ended up with 15 plants. Most of them either didn't fruit or had small fruit the size of a Sugar Baby (which unfortunately was one of my first generation parents). I took seeds from the largest.

This year I planted the 3rd year seeds in another dry area but with better soil (in a sense). I didn't baby them, just kept an eye on them. With no additional water until mid July, I ended up with 8 plants. Since then they've been watered once a week. We now have two baby watermelons, which if they follow last year's patterns should be ripe by mid September, as all of the watermelons last year were 40 days or less from pollination to ripe. Other plants have female blossoms.

The goal of this project is a medium to large, red, sweet watermelon that is cold, heat and drought tolerant. So far we have two confirmed winter survivors. The winter survivors didn't come up until mid June in one case, and mid July in the other. One of the two was killed by a bird and the other now has male blossoms (a descendant of one that survived the least water last year). Heat doesn't seem to be an issue, so working on drought and in future years I'll be planting in the fall for spring emergence.

I think it'd be fun to have watermelons volunteering all over my yard in the spring. :)

ImGrimmer

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #1 on: 2019-08-15, 02:36:12 AM »
Where do you live?

edit: I just found out :)

Ellendra

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #2 on: 2019-08-15, 06:26:34 AM »
I wonder if "Art Combe's Ancient" watermelon might be a good addition to that mix? Its descended from seeds found in a cave in Arizona. Supposedly it can be grown in desert regions with little or no irrigation.

ImGrimmer

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #3 on: 2019-08-15, 06:33:48 AM »
"In the early 1920s, Art Combe, a Southwestern plant expert and amateur prospector found a small woven pot filled with bright red watermelon seeds in an abandoned sandstone cave"
sounds like good advertising.
"Art grew this ancient Native American watermelon for several decades,"
couldn`t be older than 1500 AD (even that is highly questionable)

Are there any obvious helpful traits other than the proclaimed age?

Lauren

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #4 on: 2019-08-15, 07:37:55 AM »
It is grown with a "handle," like a gourd, presumably for ease in carrying. The trait is apparently a recessive, as it disappears when mixed with other watermelons unless those watermelons have the same genetics. The drought tolerant genes might be a benefit, if they still exist after generations of careful cultivation. I have Hopi Red in the mix already, so we'll see if more is needed.

I remember reading something a while back but I can't find it now, about genetic testing which indicated that this watermelon and the Asian version normally grown, while in the same family, are actually only distantly related.

The seeds are sold at Rareseeds and a couple of other places, but at this point I'm working with the seeds I already have.

Lauren

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #5 on: 2019-08-18, 10:19:43 AM »
So I actually ended up with 6 plants, not 8, but 3 of them aren't blooming yet. The two watermelons I mentioned before are now 4 inches long and developing nicely. Others are still coming on, which is unusual with fruit so far along.

The best plant was the first to come up, has survived with very little water, sprawled first, got both male and female blossoms first, and has half a dozen fruit on it. That will be my seed watermelon for this year.

I had intended to add in another variety (Jubilee) this year, but none of them survived the conditions. Next year I'll either attempt Jubilee again, or reinforce Traditional by using it as the primary female parent.

William S.

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #6 on: 2019-08-18, 09:52:28 PM »
Depending on when the frost falls, I may get some watermelons. Have one very impressive plant. Probably Andrews seed.
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A

Lauren

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #7 on: 2019-08-18, 10:01:58 PM »
Does it have female blossoms on it yet?

William S.

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #8 on: 2019-08-18, 10:27:17 PM »
Yes last weekend it had teeny tiny melons. This weekend they are much bigger.
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A

spacecase0

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #9 on: 2019-08-18, 11:52:52 PM »
I grew 7 watermelons this year (and let them all cross)
Art Combe;s watermelon is the only one that seems to have failed entirely.
after testing them all, I am going to go back to my version of the sugar baby.

Lauren

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #10 on: 2019-08-19, 07:11:11 AM »
William, I tested the pollination-to-ripe time last year and every melon was within 40 days. The smaller ones were closer to 15 days. If they're a week old already, small melons should be ripe around the end of the month.
« Last Edit: 2019-08-19, 07:17:55 AM by Lauren »

William S.

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #11 on: 2019-08-19, 07:42:51 AM »
I hope they are small then!
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A

reed

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #12 on: 2019-08-19, 07:51:45 AM »
I didn't plant water melons this year but have two small, softball sized fruits on a volunteer vine growing in the weeds outside the garden. Just found them a couple days ago when mowing and luckily saw them in time not to mow them down. I have a nice landrace of small melons but the drought may also be responsible for the very small size. Sure hope these are good, if so I'll definitely be adding their seeds to my jar. 

Lauren

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #13 on: 2019-08-19, 10:14:51 AM »
If I remember correctly (working from memory here, as I can't find my notes) the fruit reaches its full size about ten days before full maturity, then spends the rest of the time ripening. This was regardless of eventual size. So even with the small ones (again, this if from memory re: what happened in previous years) you have about ten days once they stop growing.

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Re: Watermelon Landrace (project)
« Reply #14 on: 2019-08-19, 01:06:15 PM »
I go by the little curly tendril on the stem. If it is dry and brown the melon is ripe. Works every single time for me. If you pick em while that tendril is green they won't get ripe and if you leave them after it turns brown they get an unpleasant texture, then rot.  A nice faded white/yellow on the bottom is also a pretty good sign.