This article is to provide the full guide on how to profitably invest in watermelon. The article was put together using the field and practical experience gathered in the above organization.
Step 1. Select a good site for cultivating watermelon
The first step in this watermelon cultivation guide is to choose a good site for cultivating the plant. A good farm site for the cultivation of watermelons must meet the following criteria:
- The site must have a flat topography and not sloppy.
- Also, the soil must be fertile well-drained sandy loamy soil that is rich in organic matter.
- Ensure the soil has a good pH level. Watermelons, prefer to grow in slightly acidic soil just like other members of the melon family. Specifically, they thrive well in soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.8.
Watermelon farming requires a long period of heat, just as it is for okra farming, to be able to produce sweet fruits. Specifically, it requires a long and warm growing season of at least 70 to 85 days.
As a result, the site must have enough sunlight with a minimum temperature of 18°C and a maximum temperature of 35°C for optimum growth and fruit yield.
Step 2: Prepare the land for watermelon cultivation
Land preparation for watermelon farming involves a series of steps including cutting, tilling and treating the soil.
Here are the steps to follow when preparing the land for planting:
- Cut down all vegetation, trees, and shrubs that could obstruct sunlight from reaching the watermelon plant.
- Ensure you bury all plant residues properly with soil or burn them. You can preserve some of the residues and use them as mulching material for the plant.
- The best form of tilling the soil for planting watermelon is to use conservation tillage.
- Forming raised beds is the best especially when the soil is of sandy loamy texture class.
- In farm sites where the soil is clayey or hard, a little ploughing and harrowing may be necessary to loosen the soil. It also helps to facilitate deeper rooting and create room for better penetration of water.
- In addition, treat the soil with chemicals to destroy disease vectors or pests which may be present in the soil.
You can also use the method of solarization to threat the soil.
Finally, apply preemergence herbicides for weed control prior to planting the watermelon seeds.
Step 3: Select a viable watermelon seed varieties for planting
When you are done preparing the soil for watermelon farming, it is time to get your seeds ready for planting.
Planting of watermelon seed begins with the selection of a good variety that will produce a high yield
Also, the variety you choose should be such that will produce large watermelon fruits that will command a high price in the market.
There are many varieties of watermelon seeds suitable for commercial watermelon farming.
You can get quality watermelon seeds from local seed shops or government agricultural agencies.
Some of the best variety of watermelon seeds for commercial watermelon farming include:
- Black Diamond
- All Sweet
- Royal Sweet
- Crimson Sweet
- Moon & Stars
- Charleston Gray and so on.
Note that it is not advisable to plant seeds you got from previous watermelon fruits after consuming. If you plant such, the watermelon plant will have a high risk of disease infection and the yields will be very poor.
Step 4: Irrigate the watermelon farm
Since watermelon is a heat-loving plant, you’d expect that the best time to plant would be at a time when there is low rainfall.
As a result, you have to water the watermelon seeds for the first three weeks after planting if there is no rainfall.
You must do this twice a week without waterlogging the plant.
When the seeds start sprouting, reduce the frequency of watering to once every 10 days.
But as soon as the vines begin to spread out, you can stop watering altogether.
By this time, there should be rainfall at least every two weeks, if not, then you must water the plants according to schedule.
As the fruit begins to get large, you can stop watering the plants even if there is no rainfall.
This will allow the sugars in the fruit to concentrate and make the flesh stay crisp, producing better tasting watermelons.
If you can afford it, the best way to irrigate your watermelon farm is to use drip irrigation method.
Step 5: Control weed development in the watermelon farm.
Weed control in watermelon farming begins from the time of land preparation.
This is necessary because weeds compete with watermelon plants for available space, water, and nutrients.
So, it is important to ensure that the land is weed-free.
To use herbicides for weed control prior to planting, apply the chemical just before planting the watermelons. This will hold back the weeds from growing until your watermelon seeds germinate.
Once the watermelon plants have three or four leaves, some weeds may also begin to emerge.
At this time, shallow hoeing and an application of a post-emergence herbicide such as sethoxydim or clethodim may control the weeds.
Step 6: Apply fertilizer Application – Watermelon Cultivation Guide
Watermelons respond favourably to manure and chemical fertilizers.
Feed the plant with well-rotted manure to provide nutrients for growth and yields.
If you are going to use a chemical fertilizer, then use a nitrogen-based fertilizer.
Apply the fertilizer 2 – 3 weeks after planting the watermelon seeds.
By this time, the watermelon seedlings must have sprouted.
Be careful not to apply phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizers in the early stage of planting.
This will affect the good quality of the fruit and hasten it to ripen.
As soon as the plant begins flowering, you should reduce the use of nitrogen-based fertilizer and increase the use of phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizers.
This will ensure that the plants are getting ample nutrients for the optimal production of high-quality fruit
Step 7: Care for the watermelon fruit
Watermelon is a crawling plant like every other vine crop, you’d expect that the fruit will develop on the soil.
So, to grow great watermelons, you will need to prevent the fruits from making direct contact with the soil.
Put a good barrier like straws between the watermelons and the ground to reduce the risk of rot and diseases.
Straw is an agricultural by-product consisting of the dry stalks of cereal plants after the grain and chaff have been removed.
Ensure that the straws are dry before you place them under the fruit so that they will not cause more harm than good.
Step 8: Control Watermelon Pests and Diseases
The most common pests that affect watermelons are spider mites and aphids.
Spider mites thrive in the hot, dry season and they feed on the plant’s sap causing the vines to defoliate in a short time.
On the other hand, aphids are common after cool seasons.
Other watermelon pests are beetles, melon worms, leaf miners, melon, maggots, as well as thrips.
To control these watermelon pests, spraying Acetamiprid, Deltamethrin, Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam, Lambda-cyhalothrin, or Methomyl according to the prescription.
How to control the spread of diseases in a watermelon farm
- To manage the spread of diseases in your watermelon farm, use the following tips:
- Do not overcrowd the plants
- Also, ensure you remove old plant residues or bury them completely in the soil.
- Make sure you follow a good crop rotation plan with maize plants and other non-cucurbits.
- You can also use the soil solarization technique to curb diseases from spreading.
- Ensure you expose the plants to adequate sunlight and good air circulation.
- Also, avoid the use of overhead irrigation methods.
- Finally, use chemicals to deter the buildup of diseases.
Step 9: Harvesting of watermelon fruits
Like most other fruits and vegetables, timing is very important when it comes to harvesting watermelon. If you harvest the fruit too soon, it won’t be sweet and the market value will reduce. In the same way, if you wait too long before harvesting the fruit, it may be mushy and unappealing. But, you must start keeping an eye on it from 75 days after planting. it is best to harvest.
ODELANA, Oluwatomi Joshua
Intern Student at MyAgricWorld Agribusiness Consulting Firm, Akure.