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[EDITOR’S NOTE – We asked Clemson University Extension expert Tony Melton to take a look at South Carolina’s two-part watermelon season. We welcome your input as well — hit us up at info@southeastproduceweekly.com if there’s an article or idea you’d like to share.]

Clemson University Extension’s Tony Melton

Southerners have taught the entire nation that it’s not the 4th of July without a good, crisp, sweet watermelon. And while that market is usually good, many times it gets a little crowded with South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia competing for the same customers especially when the Florida/Georgia farmers are delayed by weather.

That’s why South Carolina has two watermelon and cantaloupe seasons (at least! Maybe more, depending how you count).

The southern part of South Carolina aims for the “Before-July 4th Market” for watermelons and cantaloupe.

The farmers in the lower part of South Carolina use black plastic, transplants, and early planting to push for the 4th market. There are many advantages to early watermelon and cantaloupe production in South Carolina including missing the heat, less insect and disease pressure, and most of all missing out on the dreaded Chemical Resistant Downy Mildew which usually moves into South Carolina in late June or early July.

The northern part of South Carolina has mostly given up trying to compete in the “Before-July 4th Market.” They have discovered that after the “Post-July 4th Market Slump” the market tends to pick back up. It is usually just a few days then until the market turns around because people love watermelons and cantaloupes.

The Commodity Boards and Associations have done an excellent job of pushing the healthy aspects of watermelon and telling folks it is not only a great treat, but a terrific hydrator and source of nutrients.

But to bring people those watermelons and cantaloupes, farmers have to deal with heat, humidity, diseases, and insects that make you think of Biblical plagues. The heat and humidity of late July and August in South Carolina is tough on people and tough on plants but many diseases and insects love it.

Many farmers in both sections of the state and most buyers have realized that South Carolina is a great all summer/fall supplier of watermelons and cantaloupes. In fact the market usually has a resurgence nearing frost when more northern supplies are cut short — you could really think of that as a third season.

It is of critical importance throughout the seasons that growers rotate chemicals and do everything possible to protect the efficacy of the few weapons available to control Chemical Resistant Downy Mildew.

You know you are in a Southern, watermelon-loving state when you have not one, but two major watermelon festivals. The first festival of the year is in the southern part of the state in June in Hampton, SC. The northern part of the state has its own festival in Pageland, SC in July. Plan to come up next year and join us for a slice.

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