Watermelon farming is the growing of watermelons starting from the planting stage to the harvesting period. Watermelons are green in colour on top and on the inside it has a lush red colouring. They are climbing fruits which are cultivated using their seeds. Watermelons in Uganda are grown in different parts of Uganda and in this article; we are going to look at how they are grown, care and management, harvesting, marketing and the variety of watermelons that are grown in the country.
This is one of the most profitable farming ventures in the country and this is because it has a large and ready market, one plant can produce more than three fruits and yields fruits in a very short period of time. Watermelons can be eaten as fruits whereas others can eat them as food. There are a few things that you need to know about watermelons before you start planting them and these are the fruit is round or oval depending on the variety grown and they weigh about 1 to 1.5 kilograms each or more. Watermelons are mainly grown in Luwero, Kayunga, Mpigi although they can also be found in other parts of the country.
Varieties of watermelons in Uganda
There are four main watermelon varieties that are grown in the country and these include the following:
- Sukaali F1 Kenya locally known as Zebra and this is the most grown variety of watermelon.
- Sukaali F1- Africa
- Raha Uganda
Watermelons require a lot of space because they are climbing parts and for this reason they should not be planted in relatively small gardens. The site where you plan on planting the watermelons should be able to receive enough sunlight and the sandy loam soils should also be well drained. The land should be prepared at least four weeks to planting, adding compost manure to the soil because this allows the previous crops that were in the field to decompose well.
If the site selected for the planting of watermelons has a lot of shade, it is advisable that you first clear everything that brings shade plus other vegetation surrounding in the area and then spray the area with a herbicide in order to control the wild growth of weeds and shrubs. Farmers should prune all the trees and anything that will bring shade to the watermelons as they grow.
Planting of watermelons
watermelons grow well in flat land areas and relatively hot areas which receive enough sunshine throughout the year. After preparing the land, make sure that there is a six feet distance between the plant holes and also cover the spaces with polythene bags to keep the soil warm. The watermelon vines produce both the female and male flowers on the same plant and all you need to do is make sure that pollination takes place in order for the watermelons to grow. Bees can help with pollination however if it fails, you can also carry out artificial pollination on the flowers by transferring the pollen grains into the stamen.
Once the seeds are planted, apply manure to keep them moist and do not over water because of excess water. At the initial planting stage, watermelons need fertilizers that are high in phosphate for the base dressing. After base dressing, the next fertilizers should be high in nitrogen because these improve on the size of the leaves. After this you can add fertilizers that are rich in calcium as these reduce the diseases that attack the watermelons and also reduce rotting.
Watermelon seeds are highly sensitive and should be treated with enough care so that they do not rot after planting. The seeds can either be planted directly into the plant holes, this is where you do not need seedlings or seedbed. The only problem with direct plantings is that some of the seeds might fail to germinate. It is however the cheapest way in which watermelons can be farmed because if you use a nursery bed first, the overall cost of farming watermelons goes higher but it is safer because in a nursery bed, most of the seeds grow well.
Irrigation is extremely important in watermelon farming even if you have planted them during the wet season. The best irrigation system that can be used is drip irrigation because this system allows for fertilization to be done to the crops.
Methods for growing watermelons
Organic watermelon farming
this is where the watermelons are grown using natural inputs in the form of fertilizers. The organically grown watermelons are on high demand due to the fact that there are no chemicals used.
Greenhouse watermelon farming
this might be the best way to grow watermelons but the only problem is that it is expensive. The crops will need to receive sunlight, enough water and other nutrients should be provided by the farmer which increases the amount of money that is used in caring for the plants.
Watermelon pests and diseases
the most common types of pests that attack watermelons include beetles, fruit borers, thrips, grasshoppers, aphids, whiteflies and many more others. These pests can easily transmit diseases from one watermelon to the next and therefore should be dealt with immediately. The best way to avoid pests is by use of pesticides like bactericides, fungicides, inoculants and acaricides among others.
The diseases that affect watermelons include bacterial fruit blotch which affects the watermelon fruit, downy mildew which affects the leaves and later on affects the fruits, gummy stem blight, anthracnose, Fusarium wilt and powdery mildew among others. If the plants are already infected, it is advisable that you uproot and burn the infected ones.
Harvesting of watermelons
watermelons are ready for harvest after 90 days or more depending on when they were planted they are always ready during the dry season and one of the best ways in which you can tell when they are ready is when the bottom part of the fruit is lighter and when tapped, it makes a hollow sound. Watermelons should be sold at least before two weeks after harvesting because they go bad easily
Market for the watermelons
there is a growing market for watermelons in the country and they can widely be found in the different markets across the country and the price of the watermelons depends on the size and where the melons are bought from. The price for watermelons ranges from shs2500 and shs7, 000. Other factors that affect the price of the watermelons include the season that is when there are too many on the market, the price goes down and when they are scarce, the price goes up, their size, the variety that you want to buy and the location of where you are buying them from.
Watermelons can be eaten with salads, fruits and can also be used to make Juice. With value addition to the fruits, they can export to other countries. The market for watermelons can be found in restaurants, supermarkets, markets, hotels and juice business owners. The best way to get these clients to your market is by visiting them and finding out whether they will be able to buy your watermelons each time you harvest. As is the norm, many of these will ask for samples so you need to make sure that the samples you provide and the fruit harvest is good and competitive on the market. Watermelon production can be increased when you have the skills for proper management of the farm, soil testing and enough finances.