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Watermelon Seedlings

Basics of Commercial Farming with Watermelon from Seedlings

The watermelon plant is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family. The plant can be grown commercially from either seeds or seedlings. Propagating watermelon from seedlings holds several advantages, such as:
  • Improved start of cultivation.
  • Reduced resource use, as the farmer does not have to irrigate and chemically treat plants from the seed stage.
  • A pest and disease-free start of the crop, as the seedlings obtained from the nursery are grown in a greenhouse environment and has therefore been protected from pests.
  • The first chemical treatment has already been performed at the nursery, saving the farmer money.
  • Improved uniformity, as the plants all have the same characteristics.
  • More predictability in terms of the fruit size and harvest time.
  • A better final field stand.
  • An improved yield.
  • Fewer plant losses during the early propagation period.


More About Watermelon Plants and Their Climate and Soil Needs

The plant is widely cultivated in South Africa and many other countries around the world. It produces male and female flowers, with the female flowers staying open for around 24 hours. Its best temperature range for optimal growth is between 17 and 21 °C at night and between 23 and 31 °C during the day. During the ripening stage, the optimal temperature range changes to between 14 and 26 °C. The plant is quite adaptable to different soil types, but it grows best in sandy soil. It is best to avoid heavy clay or shallow soil. Sandy loam is suitable, provided that good drainage is possible. The soil’s optimal pH range for growth is between 5,7 and 6,3. If the soil’s pH is 5,4 or lower, it is recommended to add lime.

Types

Watermelons come in many varieties, ranging from elongated to cylindrical fruits. The sizes of the fruit range from small to extra-large and this depends on the cultivars. Seedless varieties are now also available.

Soil Preparation Before Transplanting Watermelon Seedlings

It is essential to prepare the soil to a deep level, as watermelons have extensive root systems. With deep soil preparation, it is possible to reduce the prevalence of soil-borne disease problems. Watermelon plants have roots reaching as deep as 40 cm into the soil. It is thus imperative to ensure an optimal soil structure at up to 40 cm deep. The field must be cleared of weeds and if plastic covering is used, make sure that it is tight at the ridge to prevent the plastic from touching the seedlings’ stems.

Transplanting the Seedlings

Make sure all the preparation has been done by the time delivery day comes. The watermelon seedlings’ root zone must be wet during the planting process. Holes must be prepared in advance and the seedlings should not be planted too shallow or too deep. Firm the soil around the plug to prevent air pockets from forming around the plant’s root zone. Irrigate the plants directly after planting them. Adjust the fertilisation programme according to the plants’ development requirements.

Plant Spacing

Farmers can plant anything from 4000 plants per hectare to as many as 8000 plants and this depends on the cultivars, the area of growth, and the soil conditions.

Irrigation Requirements

It is imperative to irrigate the soil deeply before transplanting the watermelon seedlings. In fact, the recommended practice is to irrigate one metre deep. Irrigation should be heavier and more infrequent before the fruits set on the plant. Some stress is needed to promote deep root settlement. Frequent irrigation is required once the first fruits appear. At this stage, the irrigation should be light. Stop irrigating a week before harvesting.

The Importance of Pollination

With the plants having male and female flowers and the female flowers only being open for a short period, it is essential to ensure that pollination occurs. This can be done by placing beehives between plants at a ratio of up to six hives per hectare once the flowers appear. In the case of grafted seedlings, it is possible to harvest fruits from the same field two to three times.

Where to Order Seedlings

View the Hishtil SA range of products and call for more information about availability and delivery of watermelon seedlings. They are chemically treated before delivery to the farm.

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