Watermelon farming in Nigeria: step by step guide on how to farm water melon conveniently in Nigeria today.
Watermelon is one of the nutritious crops out there. This crop which has come to be accepted as a fruit is packed with enormous health benefits. It is loaded with nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, iron, folic acid, vitamin A and C and lycopene among others.
Water melon is linked with so many health benefits such as muscle health, eye, skin and hair care as well as help reduce cancer. These as well as it antioxidants and satisfactory feel and taste makes watermelon a very popular not only in Nigeria or Africa but in the world at large.
In fact, watermelon is the 3 most cultivated crops in the world directly behind potatoes and tomatoes.
This article will enlighten you on the step by step process of how to cultivate water melons in the country.
Watermelon is rich in nutrients which include potassium, magnesium, iron, folic acid, B vitamins as well as vitamin A and C. It is also made up of an antioxidant known as lycopene which protects the skin from ultraviolet rays of the sun. Frequent consumption of watermelon can help to prevent sunburn. The lycopene content can also help reduce the risk of cancer. Below are listed some of the health benefits of water melon.
Macular degeneration which is very common among the old and elderly can be prevented by the antioxidant, lycopene in water melons.
Watermelon contains the alpha-amino acid, citrulline which can be administered to athletes, to help relieve muscle soreness. Citrulline also improves exercise performance and endurance.
Skin and hair care
Water melons are rich in vitamins A and Can, and these vitamins are very important in skin and hair care. Vitamin A also improves eye sight while Vitamin C helps prevent scurvy. The antioxidant, lycopene as earlier stated, also protects the skin from sunburn.
WaterMelon Farming in Nigeria: Step by Step Process
Watermelon is widely cultivated in Northern Nigeria, it is very popular in the North. Large quantities of watermelon consumed in Southern Nigeria comes from the Northern part of the country.
However, water melon can be cultivated in any part of the country and in this article, we will guide you through the steps in planting and harvesting water melon in your location.
The first step to start a successful watermelon farm in Nigeria is choosing a suitable location that supports the growth of this fruit.
One of the requirements of water melon is that it requires a hot and dry climate, making the northern part of the country naturally suited for farming watermelon.
However, this does not mean it cannot be planted in the south. Watermelon also requires a sandy or loamy soil that is well drained and the farm must be exposed to sunlight.
Watermelon, when planted, does really well in hot, dry climate; it is little wonder why it is widely cultivated in the Northern part of the country.
But be informed that the ideal planting region for this plant is not necessarily the North. It can be cultivated in any part of the country.
Cultivation usually commences during the rainy season to take advantage of the relatively low humidity associated with rainy season.
Planting begins in Northern Nigeria in September for the early season or September for the late season.
Generally, watermelon can be planted all year round in the North as long as their adequate water supply through irrigation.
In Southern Nigeria, planting commences in March which is the early planting season. Planting can be done in the mid-planting season which is either in late September or early September.
There is a late planting season too which is in September or October. The mid-season planting is highly dependent on the rain. If the rains which is expected to commence in mid September starts much earlier, then planting is possible in this period.
The ideal soil for cultivating watermelons is either sandy soil or loamy soil.
The farm should be adequately sunlit and to boost soil fertility, organic manure or fertilizer in the right proportion should be added to the soil.
Watermelon requires a lot of space. The plant is a rambling vine and can smother anything it comes in contact with.
Even if watermelons are not climbers, they can be trained on trellis. Trellis help increase their exposure to sunlight and also helps to save space.
You will need a bit of expertise when constructing or installing the trellis because they need to be strong enough to support the weight of the developing fruit.
Plough the land before planting. Plant the same day of ploughing.
It has been observed that planting this way is better than waiting till the next day.
Before watermelon can be planted, you need to prepare the land. To prepare the land in anticipation of planting, plough the land and plant that same day.
However, you can wait till the next day if you wish. There are different seed varieties of water-melon such as the black diamond, Congo, crimson sweet and moon & stars.
Learn about each of these variety and their unique features and requirement before making a decision on which to plant. Watermelon is planted usually at the beginning of the raining season or at the end of the raining season.
You can plant water melon on either a flat surface or on ridges. However, it is recommended you plant on ridges.
Also note that watermelon require a lot of space. The plant is a rampling vine and can smother anything it comes in contact with. Although they do not climb, you can train them on strong trellis to increase their exposure to sunlight and also save space.
The planting hole should be about 30cm in depth. The planting rows should be about 2 meters apart and the spacing between plants should be 1 foot apart.
There are many variants of the water melon plants from which you can select from when starting your farm. Some of these are:
– Black Diamond
The black diamond species is almost black in colour and its rind is bruise resistant rind. It is sweet tasting and has a luscious flesh.
This species has a juicy red flesh and it has a high sugar content. The melon is oblong and medium green with dark-green stripes. This species is generally common in Nigeria.
– Crimson Sweet
This is a really sweet variety of the water melon species. It has a deep red flesh with a unique dark-green striped rind. This is another common variety in Nigeria.
– Moon and Stars
This is watermelon variety is characterized by its red flesh.
Water melon can be planted on the flat land or on ridges. If the soil is clay, planting on a ridge or bed is recommended.
On the other hand, you can plant on a flat land if the soil is loamy. The planting hole should be about 30 cm in depth.
When growing in commercial quantities you can plant on ridges. The soil used should be well drained because the watermelon plant doesn’t do well in water logged environment.
It is never recommended to grow your water melon in the nursery. Usually the watermelon seed sprouts within a few days.
The plant rows should be about 2 metres apart and the spacing between plants should be 1 foot apart. Growing the plant in raised rows ensure good drainage.
Generally, the method of planting also depends on the variety. If you are planting the Congo or Crimson Variety, you should make sure the rows are at least 10 feet apart.
Prior to planting, you can evaluate the quality of the water melon seeds by dipping them into a salt solution (3-5%). The ones that should be planted should readily sink into the bottom of the bowl.
Additionally, the leathery seeds need to be softened before they can be planted.
Also, you can make the plants more resistant to pest and diseases by drying the seeds under the sun for a week prior to planting. You should add humus to the soil prior to planting.
This is better than organic manure because manure often affects the taste of the watermelon and it weakens the resistance of the plant to disease.
You can also use inorganic fertilizers like phosphorus and potassium.
You need to water the plant once a week until they become mature. You can also mulch the soil.
This is important because watermelon need adequate moisture for optimal growth. Mulch also helps to keep the weeds out
Also you should be adding organic manure frequently. You can also use inorganic fertilizers.
The growing plant requires a high level of nitrogen however, once the plant flowers and fruits you can reduce the nitrogen supply and increase the phosphorus and potassium supply.
You can adjust the tip of the watermelon vine to grow in the direction. You can also use trellis to support their growth and increase their exposure to sunlight.
A certain insect called the leaf eating beetle often disrupt the growth of water melon by attacking the leaves.
You can reduce the attack on the water melon leaves by improving the soil conditions of the plant. In the case, the water melon plant will grow fast enough to diminish the effect of these beetles.
In terms of disease infestation, mildew is a fungus that affects the leaves of the plant. You can avoid this disease by preventing the leaves of the water melon from staying wet long enough to cause mildew.
This can be done by avoiding overheard watering
After planting, you need to nurture your crop so you can get the maximum economic value from them. The first thing to take note is mulching, you need to do that because they help keep weed away and keep the soil moist.
Also important is watering. This should be done once a week until the crop matures. You should also apply manure or inorganic fertilizer when necessary.
While you do the above, guard against pest and diseases as they can dip the whole of your investment in vain.
It takes about 3 months for watermelon to be ready for harvest. When the tendrils are dry and you can hear a dull sound when flapping the fruit.
When it is confirmed they are ready for harvest, cut the stems close to the fruit with a sharp knife.
It takes 3 months for water melon to mature in readiness for harvest. This means you can plant up to 3 times in a year.The watermelon should be ready for harvest once they are fully ripe.
The signs of ripening include the dryness of the tendrils as well as a dull sound when flapping the fruit. At this point when you put pressure on the melon, you can hear a crackle around the rind.
Another way to confirm its time to harvest is by checking the bottom of the melon. This part which is closest to the soil should have turned deep yellow from white.
Also, the color at the top is also important. When the watermelon turns ripe, there’s usually a contrast between the strips.
The stems should be cut with a sharp knife close to the fruit. Water melon can last up to 10 days, however, once cut, they would only last about 4 days.
You should have known your target market before starting your farm to enable you deliver your produce to specific delivery points.
This is done so that your produce don’t have to stay on the farmland too long before they are transported to their target customers.
Watermelon are perishable goods so note that once harvested, they can only last for a few days. With this in mind, you should have a buyer close to your farm or where you can access before the goods perish.
Hope this guide helps