A watermelon -- one of the sweet tastes of summer -- is about 90 percent water, but too much rain while its growing can be too much of a good thing.
The early and frequent rains this spring and summer slowed down the harvest of most commercial watermelon growers in Georgia by at least two weeks, said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Watermelon Association.
While some smaller farms in the state are still harvesting watermelons, the large commercial producers are done for the year, he said.
In talking with a grower recently, he said he normally started his harvest June 2 to (June) 5, and this year he started June 15, Hall said. Our window for marketing the product ... is leading up to the Fourth of July. ... So, we were squeezed with the window we had to get melons on the market.
Also, wet conditions caused disease to develop on some melon plants, which sometimes couldnt dry off. More sun would have killed the disease and prevented it from spreading to other plants, he said.
During the first six months of the year, the state received about 35 inches of rain, which is more than it got for all of 2012, according to Georgia Automated Environmental Monitoring Network at the University of Georgia.
But watermelon supplies improved during the first week in July with higher volumes in Georgia, Florida, Texas and Alabama in the South, according to a Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
With a boost in supply from imports -- more than 90 percent of watermelon imports come from Mexico -- average consumer prices for watermelons at the grocery store actually have been lower than last year almost every month during the first half of this year, the USDA reported.
Georgia-grown watermelons had a farm gate value -- the value when it leaves the farm -- of $98.7 million, according to the 2011 Georgia Farm Gate Value Report.
Christy Barnett, a worker at Camerons Produce stand at the State Farmers Market in Macon, said that early in the season, the business had to charge a little more for its melons -- from $8 to $10 each -- because it was harder to get them. But now prices range from $6 to $8 each.
We dont have any trouble selling them, Barnett said.
All the melons at Camerons Produce are from the Cordele area, which bills itself as the Watermelon Capital of the World.
Camerons Produce, one of several vendors at the farmers market selling watermelons, has two varieties available now -- seedless and seeded. Earlier this summer, it had yellow watermelons and small round melons called Sugar Babies, but those sold out quickly, Barnett said.
Dean Jackson, manager of Marks Melon Patch in Dawson, said the wet conditions this year made things challenging for the farm.
Everything was cool (this spring) and it seemed to postpone a lot of the crops, Jackson said.
But the farm ended up having a good crop of watermelons this year.
They taste great, he said.
Marks Melon Patch is one of a few Georgia certified farm markets that still have yellow-meat watermelons available, Jackson said.
The farm sells regular red seeded and seedless melons as well as yellow seed and seedless varieties. It also has the small Sugar Baby variety.
Even though yellow melons have been around a long time, they still surprise some customers, Jackson said.
They are so rare. ... You dont come by them much any more, he said. They (taste) a little different, but they look the same on the outside as a red melon.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.