Wild watermelon also known as melon or egusi is one of the most useful or important melon, more especially in Africa because it is used for many things which I will explain later in this article. But many people think that this type of melon is either hard to grow or they simply don’t know how to go about it. Actually it’s very simple to do.
Prepare a land, make holes of 5 inches deep into the soil, then get the wild watermelon seeds and sow them 3 or 5 in each hole and cover them with the soil.
Wild watermelon is very suitable to be grown in the garden, this is due to the fact that it requires a place where there are trees which will shelter it and also where it will climb.
When fully grown and harvested, it can be very profitable due to the level of it’s demand and what it could be used to manufacture. ( will explain this later).
This type of crop is in the family of Cucurbitaceae, just like fluted pumpkin, bitter yam, watermelon and yam etc has stem that could climb on anything.
Wild watermelon (egusi) is exactly like watermelon, ” round and dark green and white”, but it is smaller than watermelon and also not edible, unless the seeds which must be cooked!, unlike watermelon which is eaten raw.
Enough of introduction, now let’s dive into the main topic of how to grow wild watermelon or egusi in the garden and it’s importance/Uses.
We all know that before any type of gardening/planting will take place, there must be a land and it must be prepared!.
Based on the nature of this crop, like I have mentioned, it does require a place that has other plants such as trees, cassava, which will shelter it, this is the main reason why it is not okay to plant wild watermelon on an open field, they will not do well.
So a good shelter must be in place in the garden before this crop will be planted. Although it requires access to sunlight, but on a minimal level.
The garden should be very penetratable by by good amount of rain, and also both the organic content of the soil and the hardness of the soil should be checked, as this crop does not dwell very much on hard soil and also the soil pH should be between 5 to 7.
Now you have an idea on the nature or growing conditions of this crop, lets dive into the land preparation process.
To prepare the land, tools such as tractor is needed or manual tools such as Cutlass, shovel, rake and wheelbarrow.
Use these tools to cut down unnecessary trees inside the garden and uproot the grass in the garden with shovel and hoe. Then rake the dirt’s, place them into the wheelbarrow and dispose them off!.
Pretty simple right? it depends on the size of the garden and the amount of wild watermelon you want to grow. Small tractor is advisable though, to make everything very simple, easier and faster.
When the garden is cleared, if the soil is hard, it should be soften up with water. ( although this crop should be grown during the rainy season and on loamy soil, so the soil could hardly get hard).
Wild watermelon do require good amount of soil nutrient, so it should be improved with the help of organic manures such as animal dungs or compost.
In my own case, I prefer animal dung such as cow, goat, sheep, fowl and pig dings because they are easy to decay and absorbed by the soil than compost which takes time to decay.
Apply any of these manures on the empty garden by spraying or scattering good amount of it on every Coner of the garden, then leave it for rain to do the decaying and mixing for you. 2 or 3 weeks is okay before the manure could be totally absorbed into the soil.
When it does, go and make farm beds in the Garden. The farm beds should be half a foot in height and 4 feet and above in width. Growing this crop with farm bed is the most advanced and effective method of growing wild watermelon in the garden.
Now make holes of about 5 inches deep on the farm beds, and give space of about 10 to 15 inches gap per hole, so that the crops will have enough space to grow on the ground ( if you ain’t adding where they will climb). That’s it! you are done with land preparation, the next phase is to get the seeds and sow.
PLANTING OF WILD WATERMELON SEEDS
After the land preparation, the next thing to do is to get the seeds and sow.
To get the seeds, you can buy from my recommended seeds store,CLICK HERE TO BUY. You will get good quality seeds there, or you can get from the local markets.
If gotten from my recommended seeds store, just go straight and plant them, as they are already okay and in good farming condition. But if you buy at the local market, it’s usually not dry, so you need to dry them yourself, or they won’t germinate if they still wet.
If they are still wet, don’t sow them, place them on a tray and expose them to good amount of sunlight, till they become dry, but not too dry, then go and sow them.
To sow egusi seeds, 3 to 5 may be sown in one hole, then cover with sand and pour water on the soil, or leave it for rain to do the work.
It takes about a week or a little bit earlier before the seeds could germinate and start sprouting out from the ground, and when they do, keep watering them, that’s if the rain is not very constant.
Apart from sowing wild watermelon directly into the garden, they could also be grown indoors with the help of pot or any container that is large enough to contain them, then transplant into the garden when they must have grown enough to be transplanted.
CARE OF WILD WATERMELON CROPS
To be honest, the process of preparing the land to grow wild watermelon ( egusi) is the hardest, that’s why I said “growing this crop is not hard at all.
After planting, there is a little more work to do before they will mature and be harvested, which is to take care of them.
In order to take care of wild watermelon plants in your garden, there are few tasks involved which are:
Applying Manure/Fertilizer: When growing this crop, Fertilizers or Manures are very necessary and Important.
As I have mentioned earlier in this article, the process of fertilization starts immediately after clearing the garden or after making the farm beds. ( at least for me).
The manure appropriate for this method is organic manure ( animal dungs) such as cow, goat, chicken, sheep and pig dungs.
To apply this, take large quantity of any of them, pour them in larger amount in the empty garden after clearing it or on top of the farm beds after making them. Allow them rest and be broken down by the rain and absorbed into the soil. This could take at least 2 weeks, depending on the amount of rainfall though.
This method of application of manure is very important and effective because it helps the soil greatly by boosting it’s fertility which gives the crops that first boost which does determine the overall growth and development of the plants.
After the first manure, the second manure application should be about a month or 2, by this time, the plants must have grown to a certain level, then apply either chemical Fertilizer or organic manure again.
To apply chemical Fertilizer, make a circle around the wild watermelon plants ( the round circle should be at least 2 or 3 inches far from the plants) then fill each of the circles with at least a tea spoonful of Fertilizer and cover slightly with sand.
If you are to continue with organic manures, you can either use animal dungs again or compost this time. Although I do advise the continuation with animal dungs or chemical Fertilizers because compost takes alot of time to decay and turn into manure, am sure no body wants their manure to take much time before being effective on their plants.
But nevertheless, compost could still be used if you want, mainly as a mulch, though this plant doesn’t require mulch unless when they are still tender.
To apply any type of animal manure, it is very simple to do.
Just get at least a handful of them and pour at the bottom of each of the plants, that’s all!.
A third manure or fertilizer could be applied before the harvest of the melon plants.
This time, it should be applied about 4 to 5 months, and I strongly recommend chemical Fertilizer or organic manure also, other than compost, as it is not necessary this time.
Use the same method I explained above to apply Fertilizer or manure on them again and leave the rest of the work for the rain.
This last Fertilizer is very important because it facilitates the overall growth and size of the melon gourds and the quality of the seeds too.
Watering: Water is the most important factor or care required by this crop.
Water is very important that this crop can hardly be grown in the dry season. So it requires alot of water, that’s why it is always advisable to be grown during the rainy season, in order to reduce drastically the work force involved with watering.
The watering process, just like the manure also starts before the seeds germinate.
Immediately the seeds are sown, it should be following with water because it increases the rate of the seeds germination and decreases the level of them not germinating.
At this period, at least the soil surface where the seeds are down should be watered once per day with about a quarter litre of water.
If everything goes well and smooth, they will take between a week or few days before they will germinate and start spouting out of the ground one after the other, when they do, keep on watering them and also increase the quantity of the water a little bit.
If you are growing indoors to transplant later, the same process of watering is also applicable to you too.
And immediately they are transplanted into the garden, follow them up urgently with water, as they need the water to settle down in their new home.
When the plants have grown up to some certain level, ( about 2 months) increase their quantity of water to a litre per plant and water 2 times a day, morning and evening or once, depending on the weather condition of the place involved.
To water wild watermelon garden, it really depends on the size of the garden. If the garden is not very big, use watering tools and water the plants manually or use a good irrigation system or hose channelled to a stready source of water to water the garden if it is big.
The application of water is not necessary if there is enough rainfall because the rain will completely take care of them, and they will be just fine.
Application of Stalk/Stake: Stalk/Stake is a necessary care required by wild watermelon plant (egusi plant), although it is very necessary, but it is not as important as water and manure because it could be ignored and the plants will still do just fine.
The overall need of Stalk and Stake is to provide support for the plant, either for the vines to climb up on or for the gourds to rest on.
To provide a support that will help the plants to climb on, use cutted branches of trees or dry bamboo trees right in front of the plants for them to climb up.
Note – Avoid using a live or newly cut bamboo trees as they are very likely to sprout and start growing on your garden, which am sure you don’t want. Before using a bamboo for this, make sure they are totally dry or burn them before using.
To support the gourds alone, when the wild watermelon plants have started growing gourds (fruits), get some dry leaves together and place the gourds on top of them.
This method of supporting the gourds is very important too because they might contact diseases or could be easily attacked by insects and worms when left on direct contact with the ground.
Weeding: Weed is a great disturbing factor in that affects wild watermelon plants at young age and thus should be taken care of in order to give the plants the chance to develop at their full potential.
Although melon is one of the plants that do kill or resist weed, but this does happen when they have grown and so could be affected by weed when they are still small, so they need to be taken care of at their early stage.
To control the weed, there are two methods of doing it, they are:
The use of Chemical method. This method involves the use of herbicide to kill and curtail the growth of the weed, thereby allowing the plants to grow freely.
Herbicide could be applied on the empty garden before sowing the seeds or could be applied when the seeds have germinated and are growing, with which ever method that is applicable to you, carry on with it.
The second method of weeding is the traditional method ( manual weeding).
This method involves the use of weeding hoe, rake and wheelbarrow.
The hoe is used to uproot the weeds, the rake is used for raking them and the wheelbarrow is used for it’s disposal.
This manual method of weeding is very time consuming and requires alot of work and energy to do, and so I do recommend the chemical method.
NOTE – weeding is unnecessary when this plants have grown up to some extent, their leaves do cover the ground, thereby making it nearly impossible or totally impossible for weeds to grow.
Infact this plant is also used as a strategy to curtail weed growth on cassava garden, okra garden, pepper garden, etc.
Pests and Disease Control of Wild Watermelon Plant: Wild Watermelon Plant is one of the plants that are very special, in the sense they are not easily attacked by diseases or pests, in fact, there is no known disease that do attack this plant, it is very resistance to diseases.
It only has a few number of pests which do attack it, but it is very minimal and ineffective to this plant. Some of them are:
Fowl, which do attack the fruits ( gourds) of this plants at their small stage or when they have decomposed.
This attack normally happens when the gourds are not well kept at their young stage or old stage.
Some insects and worms do feed on the seeds when sown, making them not to germinate and causing alot of loss of the seeds. To prevent this from happening, fumigate the land with insecticide or apply them on the seeds before sowing them, this will reduce the attacks on the seeds and there by allowing them the chance to germinate.
fungal is one disease this plant have, although very rare. It do attack from the disease-causing strains of the Penicillum and Aspergillus species. These attacks might cause the reduction in the seed germination process and increase the seed discoloration. They also reduce the nutritional benefits of the plant and produce toxic metabolites and aflatoxins.
HARVEST OF WILD WATERMELON GARDEN
After planting and taking care of the egusi plants, the next step which is the most exciting part is to harvest them.
This plant does take about 6 months to grow, develop gourds and mature.
To know when they are matured enough and ready for harvest, the vines or stems will start getting old or wilting, the gourds will turn from Green to light green or white, depending on the variety.
Also the gourds could be tapped with a finger, if they sound very thick, they ain’t ripe, but if they sound light, they are ready for a harvest and they should be harvested!.
To harvest them, tools such as sharp kitchen knife or sickle is needed to cut the gourds off the stems ( vines).
Note – don’t try to harvest them by pulling them out with force from their vines, or they might get wounded, which will aid to breed diseases to the plants or it could spoil their market values. ( they will be underpriced if they have wounds on their body).
After harvesting, they could either be sold or be eaten by you. One fact about wild watermelon ( egusi) is it is not like Watermelon that could be eaten raw, this type of melon need to be cooked before it could be consumed, and there is a process to it’s preparation, before it could be cooked.
If you are to consume them, they need to be prepared, by cutting them open and leaving them for at least 2 weeks or more to decompose ( decay).
This type of melon is very smelly and so should be kept either inside the garden or far from the house when decaying.
When they have fully decayed,then proceed. The whitish membrane inside it is what decays, and when this happens, the melon seeds could easily be gotten out one after the other with bare hands.
On average, one gourd of wild watermelon could give up to 200 seeds or above, depending on the size.
After getting them out, they could be boiled and eaten or used to prepare soup or sold to industries.
If they are to be used for soup, they will need to be placed in a tray and put under hot sun to dry. Dry them for at let 2 or 3 days, then remove their shells, Ground them and cook with them.
STORAGE OF WILD WATERMELON AFTER HARVEST
After harvest and getting the seeds out, you might need to store them for future use etc, to store the seeds, dry them for 2 or 3 days under hot sun, then place them in a dry air tight bag and store in a dry and we’ll ventilated room.
With this method of storage, it can land for as long as you desire.
Another method to store egusi seeds is to remove their shells, dry them and also store in a dry air tight bag also and keep in a dry and we’ll ventilated room.
This method of storage is not as long lasting as the former one, so they could last for a few months before spoiling.
USES/ IMPORTANCE OF GROWING WILD WATERMELON
One of the importance of growing this plant is because it could be used as a natural alternative to curtail the growth of weed in your farm or garden.
The seeds have large amount of oil, which bus used by many oil industries to produce cooking or vegetable oil which is one of the best cooking oil because it has been proven to have very low or zero cholesterol.
It is a great source of income. Based on it’s Hugh demand, it could make alot of money for the gardener or farmer when grown on a commercial quantity.
It is proven to have good amount of protein, vitamins and oil which is very important to the body.
It serves as a great source of food, because the seed is used to prepare the most popular and the most acceptable food in Africa known as egusi soup. Infact this food has no boundary as it is eaten by almost all the nationalities in Africa and even in America, Asia and Europe.
Apart from it’s edible importance, this plant is one of the easiest plants to grow because it is both disease and weed resistance, making it to require less care,. unlike other crops.
Apart from the popular egusi soup, the seeds of this plant is used for making many different types of delicacies, depending on the nation, one of them is egusi cake, Which when prepared very well is very rich, and it contains many of the 6 classes of food, making it very healthy for consumption.
I hope you understand all the explanations and informations I gave above, if you have any question regarding to it or for any other enquiry, don’t hesitate to contact me through email, detains Below.
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