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How to make cash from watermelons

MONEY & MARKET
By Jennifer Anyango | July 9th 2021

Peter Terebes Kaliba tends to his watermelons in Lororo village, Marigat, Baringo County. [Boniface Thuku, Standard]

With high yields, short maturity period and ready market, commercial watermelon farming is being embraced by many farmers.

Watermelon farming is popular in Kenya because the fruit is in high demand during hot seasons. Watermelon is 92 per cent water, making it the ideal fruit when it is hot and one is thirsty.

Watermelons perform best in hot areas, so farmers like Paul Mwanza in Makueni County are taking advantage of that favourable weather.

There are many avocado varieties but Mwanza plants Sukari F1, Sweet Rose, Riverside F1 and Sugar baby. 

Land preparation

Watermelon is a warm-weather crop, with the optimal temperature being 22 degrees celsius and 28 degrees celsius. Lower temperatures result in lower yield and quality.

Peter Terebes Kaliba's watermelon farm in Lororo village, Marigat, Baringo County. [Boniface Thuku, Standard]

The recommended spacing for watermelon is 100cm to 150cm between rows and 90cm to 100cm between plants. This spacing will give enough space for the watermelon vines to spread. He advises farmers to plant the seeds directly. Raising them at a nursery is applicable, however, many seedlings don’t perform well, says Mwanza.

One will need 600 grammes to 1,200 grammes of watermelon seeds per acre. This variance depends on the watermelon variety and the spacing used.

“The well-spaced the plants the better and big the fruits. The hotter the season the sweeter the fruits. No intercropping,” he says. Since watermelon does well in soils rich in organic matter, incorporate manure well into the soil. 

Robert Owinyo at his farm in Ulowa village, Siaya County. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

Another option is to apply a handful of manure per planting. This should be done two weeks before sowing the seeds. 

“Farm manure is the best although many of us farmers like top dressing them with DAP (Diammonium phosphate) and compound fertilisers. Regulated water supply for irrigation is recommended because waterlogged soil is bad for melon plants and fruits too. Well-drained sandy soil is the best,” says Mwanza.

Congested plants produce few fruits and many get damaged because pollination by bees gets difficult.

Harvesting

Depending on the variety, your watermelons will be ready for harvesting in 80 to 120 days. Before you harvest your fruits you need to determine if they are mature and ready for harvesting. Harvesting immature fruits will lead to losses. One Sukari F1 produces a fruit weighing four to seven kilos. Mwanzia sells a kilo for between Sh25 and Sh40.

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