Beginner’s Guide Into Water Melon Farming in Kenya: Understanding the Basics

Watermelon farming in Kenya presents an excellent opportunity for farmers to tap into a profitable market. With its high demand, short maturity period, and ability to thrive in various climatic conditions, watermelon farming has become a popular choice for many agricultural entrepreneurs.

If you have a passion for agriculture and are ready to dive into a profitable venture, then growing watermelons might just be the perfect choice.

With their refreshing sweetness and vibrant colors, watermelons not only make for delicious treats but also offer great potential for farmers looking to tap into the market demand.

In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know on how to get started and how to create a successful watermelon farm. From understanding the best time to grow these luscious fruits to learning how to care for them and combat pests, we’ve got you covered.

So, grab your gardening gloves, and let’s get started on this fruitful journey together!

What are the ecological requirements of watermelon?

To start a successful watermelon farm, it’s essential to understand the requirements of these plants.

  • Temperature: Watermelons thrive in warm climates with temperatures ranging from 70-85°F (21-29°C).

  • Soils: Although they can be grown in a wide range of soils, watermelons thrive in deep, well-drained loamy soils that are rich in organic matter and have a pH range of between 5.5 to 7.0.

  • Altitude: Watermelons do well in a wide range of altitudes, including in lowlands and highland areas that receive adequate sunlight.

  • Rainfall: Like most crops, watermelon flourishes in moderate, well-distributed rainfall. However, they also perform well under irrigation. Ensure there is consistent moisture availability.

Watermelon plants have large leaves that provide adequate shade for their fruit development. Once planted, regular watering is crucial for healthy growth. Adequate irrigation helps maintain consistent moisture levels while preventing overwatering or drought stress.

Additionally, fertilization should be done throughout the growing season to provide essential nutrients necessary for vigorous plant development.

As watermelons mature, farmers need to monitor their progress closely.

Harvesting time varies depending on the variety grown but generally occurs around 80-100 days after planting. A ripe watermelon will have a dull skin color on top while remaining firm at the bottom where it touches the ground.

Choose the best varieties to grow

When it comes to watermelon farming in Kenya, choosing the right type of watermelon to grow is crucial for a successful harvest. Luckily, several varieties thrive in the country’s climate and soil conditions.

Some excellent varieties you can choose include:

  • Crimson Sweet

  • Sweet Rose F1

  • Kubwa F1

  • Sukari F1

  • Zuri F1

  • Sugar Baby

Other varieties you can consider include Asali F1, Charleston Gray, and Congo (Giant). The maturity period varies depending on the variety. For instance, Sugar Baby takes about 75 – 80 days to mature while Crimson Sweet takes 85 – 95 days.

These are available in agro vets/agro dealers’ shops.

Remember that each variety has its unique characteristics in terms of taste, size, texture, and resistance to diseases.

Consider factors such as market demand and personal preferences when deciding on the types of watermelons you want to grow on your farm in Kenya!

How to care for your watermelons

Watermelons require proper care to ensure healthy growth and a bountiful harvest. Here are some essential tips on how to care for your watermelons:

Seed Rate

An acre requires approximately 500g of seeds.

Spacing

Since the vines require adequate space for their spreading, an average of 1.5m between rows and 1m between plants should be enough.

Watering

Watermelons need a lot of water hence regular watering should be done to maintain moisture consistency. Provide them with deep watering at least once a week to promote strong root development. Too much watering will make the fruits watery and tasteless while inadequate irrigation will make them dry inside.

Mulching

Apply mulch around the base of the plants to retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Organic mulches like straw or grass clippings work well for watermelon plants.

Fertilizing

Use balanced fertilizers rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to provide essential nutrients for plant growth. Start by applying fertilizer when the vines begin to develop runners, then repeat every few weeks.

  • Apply DAP before planting at the rate of 50kg per acre. Alternatively, you can apply a week after planting.

  • Spray young plants with foliar feeds such as EayGro Starter, Lavender Super Starter, or Goldchange Super Starter. Consult your local agronomist on this.

  • Top dress with CAN fertilizer 3 to 4 weeks after planting and top dress again with a mixture of CAN and NPK 17:17:17 after 3 -4 weeks.

  • Spray the developing plants with foliar feeds like Omex, Vegemax, Algreen HyNytro, Crop King, EasyGro vegetative, or Lavender Super Growth and Vegetative. Use foliar with high N to promote vegetative growth.

  • Near flowering, switch potassium (K) based foliar such as Multi-NPK (Amiran), Dimiphite, or Goldchance MultiSuperK.

Pest Control

Monitor your plants regularly for pests such as aphids or cucumber beetles which can damage leaves and fruits.

Watermelons are susceptible to various pests and diseases that can significantly impact crop yields. Implementing effective pest and disease management strategies is crucial for successful watermelon farming.

Common Pests

  • Aphids: These small insects can cause damage by sucking sap from the plant, leading to stunted growth and distortion of leaves.

  • Flea Beetles: These beetles feed on watermelon plants, causing wilting and transmitting diseases.

  • Squash Vine Borer Moths: The larvae of these moths bore into the stems of watermelon plants, causing wilting and plant death.

  • Cutworms

  • Melon fly

  • Red spider mites.

  • Thrips

  • Red Pumpkin Beetles

  • Leaf eating caterpillar

  • Serpentine leaf miner

  • Red spider mite

Common Diseases

  • Fusarium Wilt: A fungal disease that affects the vascular system of watermelon plants, causing wilting and reduced yields.

  • Bacterial Fruit Blotch.

  • Anthracnose.

  • Powdery Mildew.

  • Alternaria Leaf Spot.

  • Gummy Stem Blight.

  • Downy Mildew.

  • Cercospora Leaf Spot.

  • Myrothecium Leaf Spot.

Implement integrated pest management practices, such as crop rotation, proper sanitation, and the use of insecticides or fungicides when necessary, to control pests and diseases effectively.

Pruning and Trellising

Although watermelon plants do not require extensive pruning, removing excess leaves and lateral vines can improve airflow and sunlight penetration, reducing the risk of diseases. Additionally, providing trellises or supports can help keep the fruits off the ground, preventing rot and improving fruit quality.

Harvesting your watermelons

Harvesting your watermelons is an exciting and rewarding moment for any farmer. After months of hard work, it’s finally time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! But when is the right time to harvest?

Determining the perfect time to harvest your watermelons can be a bit tricky, but there are a few signs you can look out for.

  • Check the tendril closest to the fruit – if it has turned brown and dried up, then your watermelon is likely ripe.

  • Another indicator is the color of the bottom spot where it rests on the ground – if this area has turned yellow instead of white or green, then it’s probably ready for picking.

When harvesting your watermelons, be careful not to damage other fruits in the process! It’s best to leave about an inch or two of stem attached as this can help prolong their shelf life.

Yield

Under good care, an acre of watermelon can produce between 20 to 35 tons.

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