This is Watermelon farming guide full guide to enable you start and grow your watermelon farm. Whether for commercial or domestic purpose, we intend to answer all the questions regarding water melon farming in Kenya in this guide. Watermelon is a flowering plant species of the Cucurbitaceae family and the name of its edible fruit. A scrambling and trailing vine-like plant, it was originally domesticated in Africa. It is a highly cultivated fruit worldwide, with more than 1,000 varieties. Wikipedia Before venturing into watermelon farming in Kenya there are some of the questions you usually ask yourself some of these questions regarding watermelon farming include:
- How profitable is watermelon farming in Kenya?
- How long does watermelon take to mature?
- How do you harvest watermelon?
- What is the best fertilizer for watermelon
- What diseases affect watermelon?
- Watermelon yield per acre in Kenya
- How to grow Watermelon?
HOW TO PLANT WATERMELON
Watermelon fruit is a warm-weather crop, with the optimal temperature being 22 degrees Celsius and 28 degrees celsius. Lower temperatures result in lower yield and quality. The watermelon crop does well in loamy, well drained soils, rich in nutrients and slightly acidic. If grown in heavy soils, the crop grows slowly and fruit size are usually of low quality. The watermelon crop flourishes in regions with an optimum rainfall of 600mm per cropping season. Irrigation is important in order to ensure consistent moisture availability.
In order to get excellent results from your watermelon plantation, the choice of seeds is very important. Some of the commonly used varieties include Sukari F1, Zuri F1, Kubwa F1, Sugar Baby, Crimson Sweet, and Sweet Rose F1. Hybrid seeds are preferred for production of quality fruits. These are available in agrovets/agro dealers’ shops. 500g of seeds is required for direct sowing of watermelon in a one-acre piece of land.
Ensure land to plant watermelon is prepared properly, Water melon is spaced at 1.5metres between the rows and 1 meter from one crop to the other. The vines require enough space for their spreading. Apply DAP or TSP fertilizer at the rate of 80 kilograms per acre. This is equivalent to one teaspoon per planting home. DSP is recommended for watermelon because it’s higher amounts of phosphorus. Phosphorus is used for proper root development in watermelon. 2 watermelon seeds per hole, at a depth of 2 centimetres to 4 centimetres is recommended for planting.
After planting watermelon on the farm, regular farming practices continues. These farm practices include;
Mulching: This is done by adding materials such as grass waste beneath the soil to ensure the watermelon plant conserve moisture and also the weeds are suppressed.
Irrigation: this is done by application of water to the plants mainly in the evening to ensure frequent and adequate moisture supply to the watermelon to grow with enough moisture to increase productivity
Weeding: this is done by uprooting unwanted plants that grows with the watermelon to ensure that pest and diseases are prevented and also competition for nutrients with plants are reduced and discouraged.
Pruning watermelons includes the removal of leaves, vines, and fruits. This ensures that the vines focus all the energy on the few remaining fruits. When pruning watermelons, remove:
- Dead shoots and leaves
- Shoots and leaves that are turning yellow
These should be removed at the junction where they connect to the main vine. Make sure you do not prune when the leaves are wet so as to prevent spreading watermelon diseases. Prune your watermelon vines, leaving a maximum of 3 vines per plant. If you need to harvest bigger watermelons, remove deformed and tiny fruits, leaving a maximum of 4 watermelon fruits per vine.
Watermelon yield varies according to the variety and general maintenance of the crop. However, an acre of land, in favourable ecological conditions and under good maintenance can produce 20 to 35 tonnes of watermelons.
PESTS AND DISEASES AFFECTING WATERMELON
Aphids are a major pest, causing leaves to curl and become unattractive to customers. Aphids feed by sucking plant sap. Small aphid populations may be relatively harmless, but heavily infested plants usually have wrinkled leaves, stunted growth and deformed pods. Plants, in particular young plants, may dry out and die under heavy aphid attack. Heavy attack on older plants may cause crop loss by decreasing production. Damage may also reduce seed viability.
The plant’s leaves and growth tips are susceptible to mites (very small, sucking arthropods) that result in twisted growth and low productivity. Generally, spider mites feeding may cause reduction in plant growth, flowering, number and length of berries, and number of seeds per berry. Damage is most severe when mites attack young plants. Mite damage may be particularly severe during the dry season.
Both organic and inorganic pesticides can be used to control pests and diseases on your watermelon vegetables, seek advice from an agriculture extension worker on pest and disease identification and management.
HARVESTING OF WATERMELON
Harvesting of watermelon starts about 3 to 4 months after planting depending on the variety and the ecological factors. Harvesting is best done early in the morning when field heat is low and the fruits are most turgid. Depending on the variety of the seeds planted your watermelons will be ready for harvesting in 80 to 120 days. Before you harvest your watermelon fruits you need to determine if they are mature and ready for harvesting, as harvesting immature fruits will lead to losses.
- dull hollow sound when the watermelon fruit is tapped with the knuckles
- cracking of the stem near the mature fruit
- skin colour change from white to cream or pale yellow where the fruit has been resting on the soil
- breakup of green bands at the blossom end of the fruit
- death of the tendrils near the fruit as it reaches maturity
- skin gets resistant to penetration by the thumbnail and is rough to the touch
Harvesting is done by cutting the vine near the fruit. Please note that you should not pull, twist, or break the watermelon vine. Make sure you leave the stalk attached to the watermelon fruit. watermelons fruits do not continue to ripen after harvesting. If harvested when they are immature, watermelon fruits will continue to develop the red colour of the flesh, but there will be no increase in the sugar content. This means for you to harvest quality watermelons you need to be sure that they are ready for harvesting
Watermelons fruits should not be transported in closed trucks or stored with ethylene-producing produce like bananas as this causes them to break internally, the flesh becomes water-soaked and soft and losses its sweet flavour.
High demand for watermelon has provided ready market for this kind of fruit. Watermelons can be sold in;
- Open air market
- Hotels and schools
- Groceries and supermarket
- Consumers market
- Export market
INFOSPACE.CO.KE MEDIATEAM will keep you updated concerning watermelon farming by updating this article to cover several other areas which include:
- Frequently asked questions
- Climate Requirements for watermelon farming
- Health benefits of watermelons
- Watermelon market for farmers
- Areas where watermelon farming does well
- Irrigation practices in watermelon farming in Kenya
- Pests and Diseases in watermelon farming in Kenya
- Harvesting of watermelon in Kenya
- watermelon grading pricing and profitability
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