I tried my hand at watermelon farming after my great uncle nudged me to try. He told me that he had a lot of seed and different watermelon cultivars and I should give a try. I live in a high altitude area and I knew that even if I was to try to grow watermelon, my best bet was to grow them during the hot and dry season. This is because during the rainy season, the dampness and cold would cause the challenge of fungal diseases of which watermelons are prone.
I agreed to try my hand at watermelon farming. The seeds I got were about 4 watermelon and 2 cantaloupe cultivars. When the dry season came around I prepared the little plot of land. I decided to divide the trial into open field and greenhouse tunnel.
I had researched and found out that watermelon vines can grow quite long and require more space than other plants that I was used to planting, like tomatoes and cabbages. I thus gave a space of about a meter, inter-row, and about half a meter plant to plant. I read that depending on how vigorous the plants were, thinning of plants may also be necessary.
From germination, the watermelon plants seemed to be doing well. I closely monitored the progress and from my time planting tomatoes, I had learned that prevention is better than cure. I started a weekly spray programme to control both insect damage as well as fungal diseases. Plants in both open field and greenhouse tunnel were treated the same.
The greenhouse plants growth was slightly more vigorous. This I attributed to the more controlled temperature fluctuations in the greenhouse. The challenge I encountered with the greenhouse grown watermelon was that of pollination. This is because as the greenhouse in a closed space, and there will be no insects to pollinate the flowers and the wind is next to non-existent. The few flowers that I was able to pollinate manually did develop into fruit in the greenhouse, otherwise most just fell off.
The outside grown watermelons did better in terms of pollination and fruit development. Another practice I carried over to watermelon growing was that of reducing the number of buds. I had read that the more fruit on a vine, the smaller the fruit would be. I thus left only two fruit per vine.
Despite the problematic pollination, the watermelon grown In the greenhouse did better in terms of size of fruit and sweetness too.
Would I do it again?
Considering that I live in the highlands where it tends to get a bit cool, I would only do plant the watermelons in the hot dry season under irrigation.