SOON IT WILL BE watermelon planting time again. So we are taking the liberty of sharing with our readers some practical tips in growing watermelon from Known-You Philippines. Watermelon is one high-value crop that has made many farmers rich.
PREFERRED SOIL – Watermelon will do best in fertile sandy loam soil with good drainage and a pH level of 5.6 to 8.0. The crop thrives best at temperatures ranging from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius.
VARIETIES – Watermelon hybrids are recommended for planting because they are more productive and have other desirable traits like sweetness and juiciness, good shipping quality, reasonable shelf life, resistance to diseases and pests and so on. .
Three of the varieties recommended by Known-You are Diana, an oblong variety with yellow rind and red flesh; Buffalo, a hybrid with jumbo round fruits weighing 12 to 15 kilos each, with good eating and shipping quality; and Tiffany with dark green fruits that have creamy yellow flesh, each weighing 2-4 kg each.
SEEDLING CARE – Soak the seeds in clean water for 30 minutes to one hour and wrap them in a wet cloth or towel. Place the cloth in an improvised or covered container which can keep the temperature within 25 to 30 degrees Celsius until the seeds sprout. Twenty four to 30 hours is enough to germinate the seeds. Plant one pre-germinated seed in each hole of the seedling tray with 104 holes. Make sure that the root is facing downward. Cover with moist soil and water the seeds once or twice a day. If damping off occurs, apply systemic fungicide for seedlings. Seedlings must be exposed to sunlight 6-8 hours daily.
LAND PREPARATION – Plow and clean the planting area. Use 1-meter bed, 0.5-meter canal, and a crawling area of 4 meters. The planting bed must be 15-20 cm high above the fertilized level. Use plastic mulch to prevent weed growth, conserve moisture and avoid soil erosion.
TRANSPLANTING – Watermelon can be planted directly to the field or grown in seedling trays before being transplanted in the field in 12 days after sowing or when the seedlings have developed 2 to 4 true leaves. Transplanting should be done late in the afternoon.
FERTILIZATION – For 20-meter linear bed, use 2 sacks of organic matter like processed chicken manure or any commercially available organic fertilizer; 150 grams boron, 4 kilos of complete fertilizer (14-14-14), 1 kg calcium nitrate, and 150 grams magnesium. Practice drenching for additional support of fertilizers for growth boosting and easy absorption by the plants.
IRRIGATION & DRAINAGE – Irrigation should be applied frequently to prevent the plant from injuries in very dry soils. Water consistently as soon as the flower buds start to form. Observe drainage during the wet season. Withhold the water supply as soon as the female flower appears in order to improve fruit setting. When the fruits start to develop, more water is required to produce good-sized fruits. It is best to withhold or reduce irrigation when fruits reach their full size during the ripening period.
PRUNING, FRUIT SETTING, POLLINATION – Watermelons require pruning to improve fruit setting and harvest. Cut the vine on the fourth true life to develop laterals or three secondary vines. Remove the flowers and vines in each primary vine from the 5th node below.
Manual pollination is required during unfavorable weather conditions or rainy season due to the absence of pollinators. Maintain one to two fruits per plant, depending on the size of fruits you want to produce. Retaining just one fruit per vine will result in bigger fruit.
HARVEST – The grower must be familiar with the variety that he is planting to determine the best stage for harvesting. The pointers below will serve as reference for watermelon ripeness.
1.Count the number of days after flowering.
2.An unripe fruit is heavy while a ripe fruit is lighter; an overripe fruit is lightest.
3.Tap the watermelon on the center with your knuckle – if it sounds like you are tapping your forehead, it is unripe; if it sounds like your chest, then it is ripe; if it sounds like your stomach, it is overripe