A ripe time to pick watermelon, and a weed that's just dandy

Question: I have a plant with five round watermelons growing from it. They are all dark green. How do I know when to pick them?

Martha R. Sklar
Los Angeles

Answer: That's a question that someone recently asked us at the counter of our nursery. Here are three easy ways to tell when watermelon is ready to pick:

1. The tendrils closest to the melon turn from green to brown.
2. The ground spot on the belly of your melon turns from white to yellow.
3. The old-fashioned thumping technique yields a hollow sound.

— AU


Question: What is this weed (pictured here) eating up my food garden? Is it edible?

Michel Selim
Via email

Answer: The foliage looks like dandelion to me. Great nutritional greens — and you can make wine!

— YS


Question: I was wondering if I could plant a lemon and a tangerine tree about 10 feet apart and not have one fruit affect the other? I had been told that if I plant an orange and lemon tree too close together, that the tastes will "bleed" through and give me sour-tasting oranges.

Roger Cranmer
La Verne

Answer: Planting fruit trees close together is fine, as long as each of the trees is given enough space to fully expand to its mature width. This enables the trees’ foliage to branch out completely and their roots to expand and fully partake of the nutrients in the soil.

"Bleeding" of flavors is a function of cross-pollination. This will happen only if the trees are closely enough related genetically and blossom at the same time. If you plant trees that are more closely related, choosing varieties that blossom at different times will eliminate this possibility.
— YS


Our experts

The answers this week come from Alan Uchida, a third-generation nurseryman at Bellefontaine Nursery in Pasadena, www.bellefontainenursery.com; and Yvonne Savio, manager of the UC Cooperative Extension’s Common Ground Garden Program for Los Angeles County, who oversees the training of master gardeners.

We welcome questions from readers. Send them to home@latimes.com. Please put "SoCal Garden Clinic" in the subject line and include a photo if you’d like. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we cannot respond to all questions.


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