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Friday, September 25, 2020

What you need to know about watermelon farming

Watermelons are among the most sold fruits in Kenya, which means the market is so vast. The peak season for the fruits is during the dry season. For example, you need to plant them around July so that by September or October your watermelons are ready. Watermelons take an average of three months to mature.

Common varieties of watermelons include Asali F1, Zuri F1, Sukari F1 hybrid, Charleston grey, and Sugar baby.

Land preparation

The first step is to do soil analysis. The soil analysis is important for a farmer because:
•It enables the farmer to choose the correct fertilizer to apply and in what quantities
•It helps the farmer to define which crops to grow. •Analyzing soil salinity would help a farmer to use the correct water for irrigation

Land being prepared for planting watermelons.

Soil sampling procedure
1. A sample should be collected separately from areas which differ in soil colour or pas management e.g. liming differences or fertilizer application
2. During collections avoid these areas: old manure or lime piles, wet spots, areas with an already established crop, areas near trees, and areas near compost pits.
3. Scrap the surface litter and then take about 10 to 15 samples randomly distributed over each area and placed in a clean bucket. You can either use the zigzag method or the transverse method.
4. Samples are then mixed thoroughly and about 500g of the sample is retained for analysis.

Watermelons thrive in soils that are of pH 6-6.8 (recommended), although they can survive in pH as low as 5. Have your soil tested to achieve the right pH level and plant nutrition requirements.

Understanding your soil pH is very important. Soil pH is measured on a scale of 0-14 with 7 representing neutral. A measurement below 7 is considered to be acidic while one above 7 is alkaline.

Suitable climatic conditions for growth
Watermelon can go hand in hand with bee farming as the watermelon plant relies on the bees for pollination. For best results, one beehive per acre of watermelon is recommended. However, bee farming is optional as one can choose to rely on natural means for pollinations such as wind and wild bees.

Watermelon flowers are unisexual, meaning the vines bear male and female flowers. The male flowers appear first and are smaller than the female counter part. However the male flower does not last long. When the male flowers drop, the female flowers appear.

Watermelon is a tropical fruit and grows well in Kenya. It is easy to grow and does well in hot or warm climatic areas, temperatures of between 20-25 degrees Celsius.

The plant requires a lot of sunshine and water throughout the germination and growth process.

Watermelons at the farm./ Photo: Smart Business.

Overview of the costs

Here’s an overview of how watermelon farming works, with Kenya being the case study.

The principles apply across different countries, but costs may vary slightly.

On one acre of land, with about 58 beds:
*Cost of Seeds- Ksh. 11,000/$110 (about 1kg)
*Spraying costs- Ksh. 36,000/$360 (fertilizers and pesticides)
*Labour cost- Ksh. 20,000/$200 (tilling, growing and harvesting)
Total cost = Ksh. 67,000/$670

Average yield per acre- 16 tonnes (could be more)
Expected revenue- Ksh. 432,000/$4320 (average selling price of Ksh. 27/$0.27 per kg; could be much higher)

Harvested watermelons./ Photo: Greenlife.

Conclusion

The probability of fetching good returns from watermelon farming is high. However, consider regular crop rotation in order to control pests that can otherwise ravage your crops.

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