Watermelon , botanically known as Citrullus lanatus, is one of the world most consumed fruits. Healthwise, it is very valuable by the virtue of the nutrients and minerals one derives from it.
Also, its market value is unfathomable, especially during the dry season. Watermelon is a tropical plant, which requires a lot of sunlight and water for its growth and development. Below are all you need to plant and have a good yield.
Type of soil to plant watermelon
Watermelon requires a well-drained, deep and friable soil which is rich in organic matters. Water melon does not grow well on a water-logged soil as this can cause the emergence of fungal diseases but the soil must be wet.
Weather conditions that favour watermelon
Watermelon requires a lot of sunlight, the dry season is the best season to plant watermelon. In cooler climate condition, it requires about three months of constant hot, sunny weather to grow and ripen well. Watermelon grows in full sun; abundant supply of water and nutrient is also essential to enhance its growth.
Land preparation for planting watermelon
Conventional tillage practice is needed to enable good root development and also absorption of water. The land should be ploughed and harrowed to make it suitable for the planting condition. A long ridge or mould of 6 feet by 6 feet can be made or planting directly into the soil. Organic manure, such as poultry waste can be incorporated into the soil at about two weeks before planting to supplement essential nutrients that enhance the growth of the plant.
Planting watermelon seeds
Watermelon seeds can be planted at a rate of 2-3 seeds per hole and the most vigorous stand is left on the field while the weak and unthrifty ones are eliminated. The depth of the hole is about 1.5cm and the spacing 6 feet by 6 feet, watermelon needs a lot of space as well.
When does watermelon germinate
Watermelon germinates quickly, the leaves appear at about 3 days after sowing.
Management practices of watermelon after germination.
Watermelon requires a lot of care, starting from the day of emergence to harvesting.
- Watering: Watermelon should be watered daily until fruit develops. In a commercial scale of production, a drip irrigation system can be installed to supply the plant water regularly. Apply water at least once a day.
- Mulching: This is done in order to conserve moisture and control weeds, this can be done with straws or polythene nylon or black plastic.
- Fertilizer Application: Nitrogenous fertilizer is needed at the early stage of this plant but when fruit develops, phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizers are needed most as these will enhance the growth and development of the fruit. Apply NPK 15:15:15 after 10 days of planting and SSP and NPK at about 40 days after planting.
- Weeding: Weeding should be done before the application of fertilizer to discourage competition among the plant and the weeds, this should be done every two weeks.
· Pest and disease control:
Just like all plants, watermelon has insects and pests that do attack it, however, several measures have been suggested to tackle this threat. Laraforce and cyberfore can be used every month to be on the more safer side. The main threat of watermelon is mildew, this is a fungus disease. The leaves appear as if there is whitish powder on it, it best thrives in a damp and humid environment this is why the farm must not be damp. However, organic pesticides can be prepared using neem plant leaves to control the mildew and pests. It is cheap and very effective.
Sweetening of watermelon:
The taste of watermelon can be improved by stopping the supply of water at about 10 days before harvesting, this will make the watermelon sweeter.
Watermelon matures at about 80- 90 days of planting. Ensure ripening watermelons are not in direct contact with the soil to prevent rot and protect fruit from pest and rodents, as the size of the fruit increases, place it on a bed of straw or other mulching material.
How to know a ripe or matured watermelon
There are three approaches to know when the watermelon fruit is ripe or not;
The first sign is that the curly tendril at the stem tends to dry up, once it has totally dried up, then the fruit may be said to be ripe. Another sign is that the light coloured patched at the bottom of the fruit, it is normally green but when the fruit ripens the green colour disappears and it becomes yellowish. The most popular way is thumbing the fruit, if it makes a higher pitched sound, it means the fruit is unripe but if it makes a dull, hollow sound it means the fruit is ripe.
Watermelon cultivation is a very lucrative agribusiness, it has a short gestation period and can be planted at any time of the season provided there is irrigation facility in place to supply water always.