Watermelon is a popular type of melon in the family of vine crops which is known to be grown in the warm weather climate and contains about 95 percent water, which is why it is given the name “watermelon”
It is native to Africa, especially west Africa, although it is cultivated all over the world, for the fact that the weather and the soil condition is very suitable for it.
Have you ever wondered how to grow watermelon in the garden and in the dry season? if you have, then read carefully and slowly as you will learn how to be a successful watermelon farmer before the end of this article.
Note this article is going to be long, read carefully or skip to the subheading that is mostly needed by you, see the table of contents below.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What is watermelon
Varieties of watermelon
Preparation for watermelon for cultivation
How to grow watermelon in the garden
How to plant watermelon in dry season
How to care for watermelon plants/farm
How to know if watermelon is ripe and harvest
How to store watermelon
Uses/ benefits of watermelon fruits/plants
WHAT IS WATERMELON
Watermelon is a round and sometimes oval shaped fruit grown from a watermelon plant, also known as Citrullus lanatus by it’s botanical name.
Both the fruit and the plant is green in colour and it has a life span of about 70 to 90 days, making it one of the shortest life spanned crops.
It is filled up with water which consists of about 90 percent of the inside of it, although sweet when grown very well.
Watermelon is a warm weather crop which could although survive in rainy season, but not waterlgged soil and cold, so it does well in a well drained soil and on a warm temperature of about 80°F.
It is a type of melon that requires a rich soil with organic matter, the soil pH to cultivate watermelon should be between 6.5 to 8 and it is grown on a sandy loam or loamy soil.
Watermelon plant, just like other types of melon grows on the ground and yields fruits on the ground without having any atom of height.
And the fruits could vary in shape and sizes, depending on the variety and care given, but on an average, a watermelon fruit weighs up to 1kg and have a height of about 15 inches tall.
When ripe, it has a red and watery interior with about more than 100 seeds per one watermelon fruit which is used for many types of natural cure in many places.
VARIETIES OF WATERMELON
Just like every other melon crops or crops in the vine family has different types or varieties, watermelon is not an exception, some of the most popular varieties of watermelon are:
Sweet Beauty: Thus variety, just like the sugar baby also has 80 days to reach maturity and harvest.
Sugar Baby: This variety of watermelon has a short time of 80 days to reach it’s maturity and harvest stage.
It yields about 10pound fruits with bright red flesh.
This variety of smaller fruit can be sown just 4 feet apart from each other.
Golden Midget: Golden Midge variety has 70 days to reach maturity and harvest stage.
It has petite, yellow-skinned 3-pound fruits with a pink flesh.
Other Varieties includes:
Moon and Stars
Charleston Gray etc.
PREPARATION FOR WATERMELON CULTIVATION
To grow watermelon, wether in a commercial quantity, in the garden or during the dry season, there are certain preparations to make before this crop is grown, they are:
Siting/getting a good land
Land is the first and the most important thing to have before talking of any type of farming which watermelon crop is among.
Like i have mentioned above, this type of vine crop is susceptible to waterlgged soil and it is a warm temperature crop, so while trying to site the farm or garden, these things should be checked and considered, if you want to become a successful watermelon farmer.
Apart from the climate condition, there are other things that are also very important to consider while trying to get/site a land to grow watermelon, such as the fertility of the soil and the shape of the land.
The watermelon crop requires at least about soil pH of 6.5 to 7.5 and the land shape should be level, it is better not to site the farm on a sloppy land or rough land as it might affect the health and the growth of the crops.
For dry season watermelon farming, it is best to site the farm on a level land that is closer to a water body such as river, lake or stream, so that it will be very easier for you to irrigate the crops without much resources and energy.
Preparation of land for watermelon cultivation
Once the farm land that meets the above requirements has been sited/chosen, the next step is to prepare it for the farming.
The best time to prepare the land and sow the watermelon seeds is February, March and April, when the rain is not heavy.
For dry season farming, the best time to sow the seeds during this period of time is late October, November and December.
Now to get the land ready to sow the watermelon seeds, cut down the trees in the farm, uproot the grasses and weeds there too.
If you plan on commercial production, there are some machines you could use to do the work easily.
When you have successfully cleared the land, rake the soil in order to remove some certain harmful objects in the soil that could be very harmful to both you, the crops and the equipments, such as iron, razor, broken bottles etc, ( who knows, such things might be in the soil and could cause serious accident).
Watermelon is a kind of plant that could be easily affected by diseases, so it is very advisable to try as much as possible to disinfect or fumigate the soil, especially if it was previously used to grow other crops such as onion, garlic etc.
This act is very healthy, in order to get rid of any disease that might be in the soil and also reduce the insects in the soil which might attack the seeds when sown.
Also it is good to apply herbicide to the empty land, in order to curtail some prospective weeds that might sprout out to compete and harm the crops, chemical such as clethodim is good and could control the weed.
Also Manure/Fertilizer could be applied on the empty land before the crop could be sown, in order to improve the soil fertility and for the crops to do fine.
I am a good fan of organic manure, but in watermelon farming, the manure should be tested and disinfected, so that it won’t breed diseases to the soil and crops.
Spray the manure all over the land and apply small irrigation, so that they could be dissolved into the soil and provide it with nutrients.
After applying the manure, give it a small time, like few days, then proceed to make farm beds, where the crops are to be sown.
The farm beds should be about 1 or 2 feet or even less and with a width or wideness of about 4 feet or more.
Then make some holes of about an inch or an inch and half and give a space of 5 feet or more from one hole to another. ( this is to provide enough space for the crops).
Getting and preparing watermelon seeds for farming
After the preparation of land, the seeds should be take to the farm or garden and sown, but don’t just do that!, there is a process to go before sowing, in order to help the seeds to germinate and quickly too and also reduce the level of un – germinated seeds and maximize good quality yields.
To get the seeds, go to any good seed stores, ( Check at the end of this content to see my recommended seed store).
Many people do the mistake of getting their watermelon seeds from the watermelon fruit they consumed, this should be avoided as the seeds are not treated, unfit foe farming, it could be diseased and also when grown does not give a sweet fruit.
So it is advisable to order from seed stores. When the seeds arrive, don’t proceed to sow them immediately, this is the very error, many farmers make.
First get the seeds into a container, pour in warm water into it and leave them for a period of 12 to 15 hours, get them out an place them under the sun to dry.
When it dries, then proceed to sow them.
HOW TO GROW WATERMELON IN THE GARDEN
Once the watermelon seeds are dry, go and sow them in your garden or they can be left to germinate in a container inside the house and later are transplanted into the garden.
To sow them directly in the garden is very simple, take them to the garden, and sow them into the holes which you made earlier, sow them on a row of 2 or 3 seeds per hole and cover with earth.
After a while, they will start germinating and sprout out from the ground and start growing.
To grow in a container and transplant to the garden later, get some flower pots, fill them up with a well treated loamy soil with rich organic contents, get them inside a warm place in the house where the sun can reach them, for at least a few hours a day.
Leave them to germinate, and when they do, transplant them to the garden.
To transplant, it is not wise to pull out the crops from the container and transfer to the garden, if the container has a removable bottom, open it and pour both the soil and the crops into the holes you made in the garden, or pour in the soil in the hole and the crops will follow, then arrange them carefully and cover the holes with the soil.
Immediately they have been transplanted, pour them a small amount of water and leave them. ( this is for the roots of the transplanted crops to start growing in the new place).
HOW TO PLANT WATERMELON IN DRY SEASON
To plant watermelon in the dry season is a little bit different.
in this method, when clearing the farm, it is not advisable to cut down the trees around the farm, this is because during the dry season, the wind is so much. Although it could hardly destroy watermelon, but could dry the land in totality and dehydrate the crops, despite they don’t require much water, this is how severe the wind can be to them
Apart from leaving trees around the farm to protect the watermelon crops, also growing in between a hill is also great as the hills or mountains will reduce the air pressure on the crop and the soil.
Making of farm beds in this period of time is not advisable, but sow the seeds on a level land.
Growing watermelon in this time of the year is not suitable for transplant and also the hole in which to sow the seeds should be a bit deeper than when doing same in a non dry season time. 2 or 3 inches deep is okay. ( this is to give the crops the chance to grow deeper in to the soil and have more stamina in the soil).
HOW TO CARE FOR WATERMELON PLANT/FARM
After planting the watermelon seeds or transplanting and they sprout and start growing, the work has just begun as you need to take care of them if you want to become a successful watermelon farmer by having them yield good fruits and selling them and having huge profit.
To take care of the watermelon plants, here are things to do and how to do it:
The directions below is for both dry season watermelon farming and growing watermelon in non dry season.
Irrigation: Irrigation is one of the most necessary cares to give to this type of vine crop, this is because they still need water, despite that they don’t like too much water.
Irrigation is very much needed when growing watermelon in the dry season because the land this time is droughted and very hard, and there is no rainfall.
So the watermelon crops grown during this period of time needs to be irrigated more frequently than in ordinary season.
Watering up to 4 times a week is good in the dry season and water 2 times in a week is okay for non dry season watermelon farming.
To irrigate, the farm, channel a pipe or host into a water body near the farm ( as i recommended earlier) use it to spray water on the farm at the appropriate time.
You can also get a water tank, fill it with water and use it to be spraying on the crops also.
Another method of irrigation is using watering can or bucket to spray water on them too. this method is very appropriate for small scale watermelon farming, like in the garden.
Keep irrigating them till they start developing fruits, when this happens, the level of Watering should deplete from 2 and 4 times a week to once a week.
For the dry season watermelon crops, half a liter of water should be applied per crop and for non dry season, a glass-full cup of water should be applied per crop. This is to avoid waterlogging which has negative effects on the crops.
Applying Manure/Fertilizer: Manure and Fertilizer are very important when growing watermelon, and thus should be applied when necessary.
Like u have explained above, the application of manure or fertilizer should begin even before the crops are planted.
This is to boost the soil fertility and give the crops a healthy head start even before they germinate.
After the farmland is cleared, dump good amount of animal dungs on the farm or Fertilizer if you like, allow it for some days will watering the land, so that they could break down and be dissolved into the soil which will boost the soil.
When the crops have germinated and start growing, apply another round of manure/ Fertilizer after about 2 or 3 weeks, on them which is the last.
This last manure will keep them growing till they start bearing fruits, if the soil is not good enough in terms of nutrients, apply another manure this time when they have fruits as this will strengthen them and the fruits to be more healthy and good looking.
If you are using non organic manure, (Fertilizer) ensure the Fertilizer has some good amount of nitrogen and also be careful not to apply phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizers in the early stage of planting, as it’s not good.
Apart from applying Fertilizer for the growth of the crops, it could also be applied to protect the seeds from being attacked by insects, fertilizers like the 10:10:10 can repel insects, so applying it to the seeds will help curtail the menace of the insects.
Weeding: Wedding is very important for watermelon farm, as it pose a great danger to the crops if left unchecked.
If the land is not properly checked of weed, and the crops are planted, within a few weeks, they will sprout out from many directions in the farm and start growing.
If unchecked will put the watermelon crops in danger by growing ahead of them and competing with them in term of sucking of the soil nutrients which the crops need to grow this and infecting them with diseases and also harbouring pests which will in turn destroy the crops.
So it is very important to checkmate the activities of the weed.
Like i have mentioned earlier, it is very necessary to apply herbicides such as sethoxydim or clethodim on the empty farm, before the crops are planted, may control the weed growth.
Also the weed might still grow later in the farm or the chemicals might not control the weed entirely, so weeding tools like hoe is highly needed to remove the weeds.
Once the weeds are removed, it is very necessary that they are disposed off from the farm because if left there, they might re-grow.
Note – Weeding is not that necessary for this crop in dry season due to the fact that during this period of time, the land is very dry and the sun is very hot, especially in the African continent, this will hinder the growth of weed to some level.
Although small amount of weed might grow up due to the irrigation water, to control this, remove them also with weeding hoe.
Mulching: Mulch might be applied to watermelon farm, this is mainly Important if this crop is grown during the dry season, this is to protect both the soil from being droughted by the hot sun and the wind and also to protect the roots of the watermelon from being harmed by the hot sun and also to control the weed from growing around the crops.
Also in non dry season, watermelon farm does require mulch, but not as important as in the dry season, this is due to the fact that above mentioned factors are not present at this period of time.
Applying mulch on watermelon farm in the non dry season is mainly to control the weed.
To mulch, get a large amount of green leaves, cut them into sections and place them at the bottom of each crop.
The best time to mulch is when the crops have grown to a reasonable height.
Pruning: Pruning of watermelon plants is a good and healthy act which many watermelon farmers neglect, Some of you reading this article will be like ” what! how can you prune a watermelon plant?.
Yes! like i have mentioned, it is a healthy act!.
When the watermelon have grown and have started developing fruits, check for the under – growing fruits amongst them and dying fruits also and remove them, including the dying parts of the crops.
This is to remove or lessen the burden on the crop/crops and also for it to concentrate on the healthy fruits and parts.
This is also very necessary for the watermelon crops grown in the dry season.
Applying of Straw: Straw is an act in agriculture, where crops like vine crops, (which watermelon and melon are involved) which crawls on the ground and yields fruits on the ground are protected and shield from direct contact with the ground.
The sole purpose of building the straw is to protect the fruit of the crop from resting on the bare soil which could have some negatively effects on the fruit.
To apply straw on watermelon farm, when they start yielding fruits and the fruits might have started growing larger, get some dry leaves and arrange them on the ground in large quantity, then place the watermelon fruits on top of the straws, and leave them to mature there.
PEST/DISEASE CONTROL OF WATERMELON FARM
Watermelon just like other agricultural crops is not free from pests and diseases, some of them an how to prevent them are:
The most common pests that do attack watermelon crops are spider mites, aphids,beetles, melon worms, leaf miners, melon maggots, and thrips.
Spider mites thrives in the hot, dry season and they feed on the plant’s sap, causing the vines to defoliate in a short period of time.
On the other hand, aphids are common after in the cold seasons.
In order to control these watermelon pests, spraying Imidacloprid, Acetamiprid, Deltamethrin, Thiamethoxam, Lambda-cyhalothrin, or Methomyl, according to prescriptions.
This will kill the pests and also prevent them from harming the watermelon crops.
Some of the diseases that do affect watermelon crops are: Powdery mildew, Gummy stem blight, Anthracnose, Mosaic virus,Fusarium wilt, Downey mildew, etc.
In order to control and. manage the spread of these diseases on your watermelon farm, here are the tips:
Avoid overcrowding the plants, this is why it is recommended that a gap of at least 5 feet shine given to them when planting.
Crop rotation could help to limit the level of diseases in the plant. Like i mentioned earlier in this topic, avoid land that was recently used to grow onion and garlic.
Also plants with non-cucurbit crops if you want.
Soil solarization technique could also be applied to curb diseases from spreading.
Ensure the plants are expose to adequate sunlight and good air circulation.
Also, avoid the use of overhead irrigation method.
Use chemicals to prevent the buildup of diseases.
Also, make sure you remove old plant residues or bury them completely in the soil.
HOW TO KNOW IF WATERMELON IS RIPE/ HARVEST
On an average, watermelon crop takes around 70 to 90 days Before they could mature and the fruits will also be matured or riped.
Watermelon fruit is green, from small to maturity stage, therefore this made it difficult for so many people to determine if a watermelon is ripe for harvest or not.
To know this, there are some signs that is used to check.
According to Dr Bill Rhodes, a professor of horticulture at Clemson University, to check if watermelon is ripe,
Thump it and If the watermelon sounds hollow, it is ripe.
Check the color on the top.
If the watermelon is ripe, there is little contrast between the stripes.
Look at the color on the bottom, an immature watermelon will have a white bottom, where as a ripe one will have a cream- or yellow-colored bottom.
Press on it, and If the watermelon sounds like it gives a little, it is ripe. ( This method is risky as it could ruin the fruits)
Check the tendril, and If it is green, then leave it, and If it is half-dead, the watermelon is nearly ripe or ripe.
If the tendril is fully dead, it is ripe or overripe, it is not going to get any riper, so you might as well be harvested.
To harvest a watermelon plant is very simple, get a sharp kitchen knife, use it to cut the fruit from it’s plant.
HOW TO STORE WATERMELON
Watermelon could be stored for about 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the variety.
If cut open, wrap it tightly in plastic or thick nylon and Store in a refrigerator.
An opened watermelon can last for about 4 days in this condition.
If the fruits are to be transported to a distant market, store them in a refrigerating van at a temperature of about 7.2°C with 85-90% relative humidity.
However, holding watermelon at this temperature for too long will induce chilling injury to the fruit.
Avoid storing with apples and bananas as they produce ethylene while in storage which softens and changes the flavour of watermelon.
USES/BENEFITS OF WATERMELON FRUITS/PLANTS
It contains many kinds of minerals and vitamins.
It could be used to supplement thirst.
It is used to prepare many kinds of delicacies, such as the fruit salad, salad etc.
The seeds is used as a natural cure in many places
It is used to make juice and fruit drinks
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