Expect early start to Mid-Atlantic melon deal

06/02/2011 01:25:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

A warm, dry spring could mean an early start to the season for Maryland watermelon growers.

“They were early in Florida and South Carolina, so that seems to be the trend,” said Kay Harding, vice president of B&K Farms LLC, Rhodesdale, Md. “I think last year we started July 15. This year it might be July 10, barring any bad weather. They’re looking good so far.”

Harding said May 20 that B&K planned to plant its third stage of watermelons May 23.

“If it’s wet in August we’ll go into September,” she said. “If it’s hot and dry, we’ll be done. We try to plant for Labor Day, but the last three years we haven’t made it.”

Will Hales, president of Coastal Growers LLC, Salisbury, Md., was more optimistic. He said Coastal typically ends harvest in mid-September.

“We have a big push for Labor Day,” he said.

Hales, like Harding, said his crop was primarily seedless watermelon with seeded melons accounting for only 5% of Coastal’s volume.

“It’s lopsided — big time,” he said. “There’s not any one market in particular that wants seeded. It’s a hit-and-miss deal. There’s not huge demand for it any more. Everybody quit growing them and went to pollinizers.”

Hales said that as of May 20 growing conditions had been excellent.

The USDA reported May 17 from Florida that red flesh seedless 35s in 24-inch bins were $11 cwt., while 36s were $12 cwt., 45s were $12-13 cwt. and 60s were $14-15 cwt.



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