CITRULLUS lanatus 'Moon and Stars'
Plant Common Name
Moon and Stars Watermelon, Watermelon
The dark-skinned, yellow-spotted fruits of 'Moon and Stars' watermelon are decorative as well as tasty. The large, ribbed, oblong to spherical melons are blackish green with numerous small yellow dots and one to several large yellow blotches. The foliage is also yellow-flecked. This heirloom melon typically has sweet, coarse, light-red flesh and dark brown seeds, but one strain of 'Moon and Stars' contains yellow flesh and white seeds. Fruits can weigh as much as 30 pounds (13 to 14 kg). Time from seed to harvest is about 90 to 100 days. Introduced in the 1920s, 'Moon and Stars' was lost to horticulture for many years before being reintroduced by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in 1987.
Watermelon is a tender annual tropical vine that needs a long, very warm growing season to produce its famous fruits. Yellow, bee-pollinated flowers appear among the attractive deeply lobed, gray-green leaves throughout the growing season. On 'Moon and Stars', the leaves are splattered with tiny yellow dots. Some watermelon flowers are male and others female. Female blooms have a bulbous ovary at the base, which will eventually become the fruit, and the males only have pollen-laden anthers.
Watermelons do not become sweeter after being harvested, so they must be picked when ripe. It is tricky to know when to harvest—especially considering the fruits take a while to mature and patience can wane. The best means is to monitor the tendril closest to the developing fruit. Once the tendril starts to turn brown, the fruit is ready. Another method is to keep an eye on stem health. When the stem is green and firm, the melon is still ripening; a soft withering green stem is an indication of ripeness, and a dry or unattached stem can mean over-ripeness. Finally, check the underside of the melon and give it a light knock. If the underside of the melon has turned from white to pale yellow and a hollow sound emanates from the fruit, it is probably ripe. When harvesting, cut the melon from its stem. Tearing the stem can lead to vine rot.
Full sun and fertile, crumbly-textured sandy loams are perfect for watermelon culture. Watermelon plants appreciate sharp drainage, so it is best to sow seeds in low mounds of soil - called "hills." Seedlings do not transplant well, so sow them where they are to grow. After the threat of frost has passed, plant as many as three seeds per hill and keep the soil evenly moist but not wet (wet soil can induce seed rot). Once the small plants have emerged, keep them lightly moist and feed them regularly. Provide ample room for the plants to sprawl across the ground. The sheer weight and size of the melons precludes training the vines on trellises. This variety demonstrates limited disease resistance and drought tolerance.