Southern gardeners know that compost is both wonderful for the soil and good for a laugh. It’s amusing to see what unexpected thing sprouts in a garden enriched with composted vegetables and fruit. Will it be a volunteer cherry tomato? A sweet potato vine? A cantaloupe? 

This year’s pop-up plant was an obvious member of the cucumber family. The leaves were bigger than a cucumber plant, but it trailed and put out climbing tendrils like a cucumber. The flowers didn’t look like a cucumber plant–they were much bigger, and the petals more deeply divided. And it had a big central pistil or stamen. It looked more like a yellow hibiscus. “Well, more’s the surprise,” I thought, “if I don’t know exactly what it is.” 

Mostly I ignored it. Then, on a little trip to the garden for chives, I spotted a little polka dotted something under its leaves. The shape, size and color whispered “watermelon.”  

Melon under leaf

See the little polka-dotted melon below the cucumber-y leaf?

Well hey there! A watermelon! And the critters didn’t eat it–must be my lucky year.

It was a little thrill, like winning a lotto scratcher. Just a moment of grace, something received that I didn’t work for. After all the laboring in the garden, it was about time. So I got a little closer for a better look, and….ewww! It’s covered, all over, with prickly hairs. I don’t even know what this alien UFO is. I’m scared of it. And I can’t pick it up. 

And I’m sure as hell not throwing it into the compost.

The hairy melon that grossed out my garden

The mystery melon–is HAIRY. It’s about 10 inches long and 5 inches high. And HAIRY.