Monday, December 4Food Security Matters

Watermelon Farming: How to Plant and Grow Pakwan

Watermelon farming is one of the most profitable farming activities during the dry season when rice cannot be planted. Many rice farmers in Central Luzon and Panay Island venture into watermelon farming to augment their income during the dry season when there is not enough water to support the planting and growing of rice.

Watermelon (scientific name: Citrullus Lanatus) is one of the fruits with an extraordinary flavor and size, perhaps one of the largest of all existing fruits along with jackfruit. To have an idea of its size, a watermelon in normal production conditions can weigh 10 to 20 kg of pure water. In this article, we will guide you on how to plant and grow watermelon either small-scale or large-scale watermelon farming.

Filipino watermelon farmer

Watermelon Farming and Cultivation History

Likely, it is originally from North Africa, more specifically from the Kalahari desert. It is thought that watermelon cultivation began to be cultivated by humans more than 4,000 years ago.  There are currently many watermelon species that can be found in areas with tropical climates like Central America and Southeast Asia including the Philippines. China is the top watermelon producer followed by Turkey, India, Brazil, Algeria, and Iran. In the Philippines, the majority of watermelons are consumed locally.

The fruits of the watermelon plant have a rounded or oblong shape, with a hard shell and a very juicy pulp, which is usually red or half pink, but yellow watermelon crops are also known, as well as orange and white. The shell can also be consumed, however, it is less appealing, it is for this reason that it is mostly consumed in the oven or cooked over low heat –  it can also be used as preserves and animal feed.

Sowing Watermelon Seeds

This plant grows better under a warm climate, with temperatures between 20 ° and 34 ° C. It can also be grown in greenhouses in case of colder climates.

Another point to take into account when it comes to sowing watermelon is that its fruit can be more delicious when it is grown in a cooler climate but with enough sunlight.

Irrigation must be consistently done to keep the growth of the plant healthy as it needs a lot of water. Then during the growth and maturation of the fruits, the frequency of irrigation must be reduced. This is one of the secrets of how to sow watermelon since you facilitate a sweeter and tasty fruit production.

The soil must be well-drained, light, fertile, with good availability of nitrogen, rich in organic matter, and with a pH between 6 and 6.8. Sandy soils are the most appropriate. An important step in how to sow watermelon is to avoid wet and too saline soils.

The normal planting season of watermelon is from October to January. However, off-season fruits command a higher price, when planted as early as August. In commercial practice, it is planted in lowland areas such as Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Batangas, and Laguna after the rice harvest.

Watermelon Farming: How to Plant Watermelon

The seeds can be sown directly in the area where they will grow especially for commercial watermelon farming, but transplanting can also be done for backyard planting. Otherwise, these can be sown in pots 10 cm in diameter or germination bags, which will remain in a room with heating. The seedling must be carefully transplanted when it measures 10 to 15 cm.

To sow the seeds in the definitive place, holes of 30 to 40 cm in diameter and depth must be available and subsequently covered with fertilized soil.

Next, the seeds can be sown at a depth of 2 to 5 cm, introducing up to six seeds per hole, and then eliminating those weakest plants to leave only two or three plants on each plot. The germination normally takes between 4 and 14 days. The distance between each hole can vary between 2 to 3 meters.

Watermelon Plant Care

The presence of pollinating insects, such as bees is very important to promote the pollination of flowers and therefore the formation of fruit. In the absence of natural pollinators like bees, butterflies, and other insects, manual pollination of the flowers must be carried out, a procedure that is carried out by picking male flowers and using them to cover female flowers so the pollen can drop. Watermelon has male and female flowers in the same plant, the male flowers being the first to emerge. In the case of having large plantations, the introduction of hives of bees (honeybees or bumblebees) during flowering may be required.

Another care to take into account is putting rice straw, wood, or other material in each fruit so they do not enter into direct contact with the ground, reducing the probability that infected with pests or other diseases. You should try to turn the fruit every few days, promoting a uniform exterior appearance.

When the fruits develop, enough irrigation should be given regularly.

For watermelon plants, using nitrogen-based fertilizers like urea at the onset is a good idea. Once the melon plants start flowering, however, you should switch to feeding the watermelon phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizer. Watermelons need ample potassium and phosphorus for optimal melon production.

Finally, those fruits with incorrect and defective growth must be eliminated.

A properly managed watermelon commercial farm can yield 36-38 t/ha in 122-135 days.

Harvesting Watermelon

The watermelon harvest usually begins between 80 and 110 days after planting, this depends a lot on cultivation and environmental conditions. Mature fruits can be identified since they generally produce a hollow sound when held by knuckles. In addition, if the fruit is not turned regularly, it loses its uniform appearance, since the part of the fruit that is below passed from a whitish to a yellowish tone when the watermelon is mature.

Questions Related to Watermelon Farming

How long do watermelons take to grow?

It takes the shortest amount of time to mature, about 70 to 75 days. A main-season watermelon is larger and takes longer to ripen, usually 80 to 90 days.

What is the best month to plant watermelon?

Watermelons need about 100 days of warm weather to produce an edible melon. The best times to sow seeds for watermelons in the Philippines is from October to January.

Is watermelon a profitable crop?

When it comes to watermelon farming, it is a very profitable crop due to the high income per hectare and increasing demand.

How many watermelons do you get per plant?

The number of vines determines how many watermelons there are per plant as each vine can produce between two to four melons during the growing season. Watermelons grow best in a planting site that has a lot of open space. Watermelon vines ramble, so your plants are going to spread out around your garden as they grow.

Do watermelons need full sun?

Regardless of what variety you grow in your pots, be sure to site the containers in a location where they receive a minimum of 8 hours of full sun per day. Watermelons will not form flowers or fruits if they don’t get enough sun. ‘Sugar Pot’ and ‘Bush Sugar Baby’ are the best two choices for container growing.

How often do you water a watermelon?

They require plentiful regular, and even watering for quick growth. Give watermelons 1 to 2 inches (2.5. -5cm) of water every week (1 inch equals 16 gallons/60.5 liters.) Keep the soil moist until the fruit reaches full size then stop watering while the fruit ripens.

Is watermelon farming profitable in the Philippines?

Considering a price range of P8-12 per kilogram (kg) of fruit, a farmer may earn a net income from P140,185 to P260,185 from a hectare of land with a plant population of 6,000. To earn this amount, a farmer needs just about 3 months.

How much fertilizer does a watermelon need?

Using 1 to 2 tablespoons per plant of side-dress fertilizer, such as calcium or potassium nitrate, is plenty. It’s important to thoroughly mix in the fertilizer so the watermelon transplants are not burned.

How many watermelon plants are in a hectare?

Up to 15,000 watermelon plants can be planted on a hectare, cultivar dependent. Some varieties require more space, and the farmer can then expect fewer plants per hectare.

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