Watermelon farming in Ghana is what is behind the fruit known for being juicy and sweet. Known to reduce stress by researchers watermelons have benefits like reducing fatigue. Potassium, Vitamin C, lycopene and iron found in watermelon drives away any feeling of fatigue you may experience. It is a nutritious fruit. It is low in calories and has no fat, this makes it an ideal diet fruit.
Growing watermelon is simple. Once they sprout, watermelon plants require very little maintenance. Most of the time, you just leave them alone and watch them grow. There are many different varieties of watermelon. In recent decades, seedless watermelon varieties have been developed that are easier to eat.
When most people think of eating watermelon, summer picnics come to mind – a nice, cold slice of watermelon on a hot day is a real treat. However, there are lots of other ways to use watermelon. Because it has a very high water content, it’s not possible to store watermelon for long periods of time.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Climatic Requirements:
Watermelon is a tropical plant and requires a lot of sunshine and high temperature of over 25°C for optimum growth. It thrives best in dry weather.
Watermelon does well on a well-drained fertile soil of fairly acidic nature. It can be grown along the coastal areas of Ghana, the forest zone and along river beds in the northern savannah areas.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Seedlings
Watermelon seeds are usually sowed directly in the garden. It’s possible to start growing seedlings indoors and then transplant them into the garden. However, watermelons don’t like it when their root system is disturbed. Watermelons need to be planted where they get at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Sunlight is crucial for fruit development. Most watermelon plants will produce 4-5 fruit per vine. The fruit is usually ready for harvest 75-100 days after planting, depending on the variety.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana
Watermelons have a good resistance to disease and pest problems. If planted in nutrient rich soil, watermelons don’t usually need to be fertilized. They require a fair amount of water for the first few weeks of growth. When the fruit sets, you can almost stop watering the plants. As the fruit develops, the less water the plant gets – the better. Less water will increase the sugar content and concentration in the fruit, leading to sweeter, crisper melons.
When planting watermelon, choose a variety that appeals to you. Watermelons can be as small as 3 pounds or as large as 200 pounds, depending on the variety. Some varieties are seedless. Others have orange flesh, as opposed to red.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Patch
After you’ve chosen the variety you want to plant, make sure the soil has been well tilled. The dirt should be loose and airy down to a depth of 8-10 inches. If you have fairly dense soil, work some organic material into the dirt. This might include well-rotted manure, grass clippings or compost. Additionally, make sure you have enough space in your garden. Watermelons need plenty of room so you should allow 6-8 feet between plants. You should select a location that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day.
When planting watermelon, the seeds are usually directly sowed in the garden. Watermelon plants don’t tolerate root disturbance very well, so transplanting seedlings usually leads to a high failure rate. Wait until to soil temperatures have warmed to 70 degrees F before planting watermelon. Using a hoe or garden rake, create mounds or hills that are 4 feet across and about 6 inches high.
Using the end of a hoe or your finger, make holes in the mounds 1 inch deep and 6-8 inches apart. Place a seed in each hole and cover with loose soil. You will be able to fit 7-8 seeds in each mound. After planting, water the seeds in thoroughly.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Varieties
There are several watermelon varieties available to the backyard vegetable gardener. Some varieties are seedless. Others have orange or yellow flesh, instead of red. Some varieties are small, while others can grow to more than 200 pounds. There’s even a variety that has speckled skin that resembles the moon and stars in the night sky.
Some of the most common watermelon varieties in Ghana, and their fruit and plant descriptions include:-
matures in 75 days, very sweet melons weighing 9 pounds, red flesh, short vining plants, good for limited space
Moon and Stars
matures in 95 days, dark green skin with yellow spots resembling moon and stars in the night sky, sweet melons reach 40 pounds, pink to red flesh
matures in 90 days, very round melon weighs up to 75 pounds, vibrant red flesh, good all-around watermelon
matures in 80 days, round melons reach 20 pounds, bright yellow flesh with black seeds, sweet taste
matures in 85 days, bright orange flesh with white seeds, sweet and tender, melons reach 25 pounds
matures in 90 days, very sweet and crisp, oval-shaped melons average 40 pounds, bright orange flesh with off-white seeds
matures in 85 days, extra crisp and sweet, thin rind, red flesh with white seeds, 40 pound melons, heirloom variety
matures in 90 days, this variety of watermelon produces 30 pound melons, sweet, red flesh, dark green skin
matures in 85 days, long vigorous vines, light green skin with sweet red flesh, 30 pounds
matures in 85 days, this watermelon variety produces 25 pound melons with sweet red flesh, high sugar content, thin rinds, very disease resistant
matures in 95 days, 40 pound melons with green stripes and red flesh, very fine texture, grows well in hot weather
matures in 90 days, oblong melons reach 25 pounds, bright red flesh is crisp and sweet, black seeds
Ruby Hybrid Seedless
matures in 85 days, oval shaped melons reach 8 pounds, crisp and super sweet flesh, seedless
matures in 100 days, this watermelon variety produces 200+ pound melons, sweet red flesh, oblong shape
matures in 90 days, pale green stripes resemble a snake skin, bright pink flesh, sweet and crisp, reaches 30 pounds, heirloom variety
matures in 90 days, round melons reach 35 pounds, green stripes, sweet red flesh and thick rinds
matures in 75 days, 3-4 pound round melons, sweet red flesh, and seedless, solid dark green skin
matures in 85 days, 15 pound melons, very sweet red flesh, green striped rinds, disease resistant
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Seedlings
After the seedlings emerge and are a couple of inches long, you should keep the 3 most promising plants and pull the rest out of the ground. This process is known as “thinning”. Because watermelons have such a high water content, too many plants in one mound will lead to poor fruit production. More plants competing for the same amount of water and nutrients will lead to poorly formed watermelons.
Now that you’re done planting your watermelon patch, you can think about watering and fertilizing your plants for maximum fruit production.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Propagation
Watermelon transplants can be planted into the field after all danger of frost has passed and when the soil temperature is at least 15°C. Transplants can be planted with a tractor-pulled mechanical transplanter or by hand.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Soil preparation
Fields should be prepared thoroughly by plowing and harrowing and removing the different types of plant debris. It should also be pulverised and levelled; furrows are made 2 m apart. Watermelon is known to be sensitive to manganese toxicity, a frequent problem in low pH soils. Further research studies indicate an association between high leaf manganese concentration and poor growth and yield of watermelon. Seedling watermelons react to manganese toxicity with stunted growth and yellowish, crinkled leaves. Older plants generally exhibit brown spots on older leaves that may be mistaken for symptoms of gummy stem blight.
Manganese toxicity is usually associated with soils having a pH below 5,5. However, in wet seasons the condition may occur at higher pH levels when the soil has been saturated for a period of several days. This condition has been noted in several watermelon fields with pH ranges at 5,8 or slightly higher when the crop was planted flat. Planting watermelons and other cucurbits on a bed is good insurance against manganese toxicity during a wet season.
The best solution to manganese toxicity is to apply lime in autumn at rates based on the results of a soil test. A pH of 6,0 should be maintained for maximum yields.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watering and Fertilizing
You should think about fertilizing watermelon after the vines begin to spread out and again when the blossoms appear and the fruit is set. You should think about watering your watermelon patch for the first few weeks after planting the seeds.
Watermelon plants have somewhat deep roots that are good at extracting moisture from the soil. Until these roots are developed, you should water the plants regularly with slow, deep soaks. For the first 3 weeks after planting, water your watermelon patch once or twice a week if no rain falls in your area.
After the seeds have sprouted, scale back the watering to once every 10 days or so. When the vines begin to spread out, you can stop watering all together. As long as rain falls every 2 weeks, you won’t have to water your watermelons again. After the fruit begins to get large, stop watering for good, even if no rain falls. This will allow the sugars in the fruit to concentrate and the flesh to stay crisp. This makes for much better tasting watermelon.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Planting
In the savanna area it is planted in September and October, in the coastal area and middle belt from June to August, and in the rest of the country from August to October. The crop matures three months after planting, and the yield varies from five to 72 t/ha.
Days to maturity
It is usually 80 to 90 days for baby bush varieties and 90 to 100 days or more for the larger varieties.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Seeded Watermelon
In large-scale production, few seeded varieties are currently grown. Watermelons are planted on flat beds 2 m wide and 20 cm to 30 cm high. In direct-seeded plantings, seed is placed 1,2 cm to 1,9 cm deep. After thinning and side-dressing, furrows are re-formed to the condition prior to furrow irrigation. For transplants, a single drip irrigation tape is laid 15 cm to 20 cm below the bed surface.
Black plastic film, 1,8 m wide, is then laid flat on 2-m beds to heat the soil and reduce weeds. Seeds or transplants are then planted directly through the plastic. Transplants are set 60 cm to 90 cm apart. About 15 cm of the plastic is covered with soil at the edges to hold the mulch in place
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Seedless Watermelon
Common seedless watermelon planting configurations are 1row of the seeded variety (pollinator) for every 2 to 3 rows of the seedless variety. However, other novel configurations are being used. The most popular is the mixing of seedless and pollinator varieties within the same row.
In within-row plantings, the ratio of seedless to pollinator plants ranges from 2:1 to 5:1. As the seedless to pollinator ratio increases, the number of beehives should be increased to ensure pollination.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Seeding rate
The seeding rate is 16 to 25 seeds per 10 m2 (1,0–3,0 kg/ha).
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Weeding
It is important to ensure that the land is weed free. Weeding removes weeds that bring tough competition for nutrients for the available water and nutrients with the watermelons.
Weeding should be done the 2-3 weeks after the seeds have germinated. Removal of weeds can either be done by use of a jembe or application of appropriate herbicides.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Thinning
Thinning should be done on watermelon seedlings in each hill, namely two seedlings one week after they have germinated.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Fruit pruning
Fruit pruning in watermelons should begin as soon as defective melons are noticed. Remove misshapen and blossom-end rot fruit to promote additional fruit set and better size of the remaining melons.
If a market demands larger melons, remove all but two or three well-shaped melons from each plant. To avoid disease spread, do not prune melons when vines are wet.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Blossoms
Wait until the vines begin to spread out before fertilizing watermelon. If using a granular fertilizer, choose a balanced one like a 10-10-10 or 5-5-5. These three numbers mean that there are balanced amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphate in the fertilizer.
Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the correct dosage. Most granular fertilizers are applied at a rate of 1 1/2 pounds per 100 square feet. Scatter the fertilizer around the plants and water it in well. Make sure that the fertilizer does not come in contact with the plant, as this may cause the plant to burn.
A water-soluble type fertilizer also works well. A second application of fertilizer can be used after the blossoms appear and the fruit begins to set. This will ensure that the plants are getting the energy they need to produce high quality fruit.
Now that you know about watering and fertilizing watermelons, it’s time to think about harvesting them.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Pest and Diseases of Watermelon
The most common pests include: – Beetles, mites, leaf miners and Thrips. Spider mites are serious pests of watermelons especially during hot, dry weather and they feed on the plants sap and can defoliate vines in a short time. Leaf miners cause injuries to the leaves resulting to destruction of the leaf tissues. Thrips are insects which invade the flowers and feed on plant juices.
The major diseases for watermelons include:-leaf spot, dumping off, mildew and blight. Dumping off is a fungal disease that causes seeds to rot before they germinate.
To control these pests and diseases, use appropriate fungicides, insecticides and herbicides.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Harvesting Watermelon
Fruits may be harvested 80-100 days after planting. Harvest the fruit when fully mature because once picked they stop ripening and will not improve in any way.
Fruits are ripe when the tendrils at the point where the fruit stalk is attached to the main stem becomes dry and when the colour of the rind in contact with mulch turn from green to yellow. Pick fruits with the fruit stalk attached using a sharp knife. The cut surface of the stalk may be treated with Bordeux paste.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Ready For Harvest
The following four steps should be used in determining whether the watermelons are ready for harvesting. They include:-
Inspect the watermelon: If it has lost its shiny appearance, you’re off to a good start.
Thump the watermelon: Rap it with your knuckles. If it sounds hollow inside, it’s getting close to being ready.
Inspect the stem: You should see a spiral coil near the stem of the watermelon. If the coil is brown and dried up, the melon is almost ready to be picked.
Inspect the bottom of the watermelon: Look at the spot that was laying on the ground. If it’s still white, the watermelon isn’t ready yet. If the spot has turned a rich yellow color, go ahead and harvest the watermelon.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Harvested Watermelon
If the four steps used when harvesting watermelons are followed, the fruit you pick will be sweet, crisp and in peak condition to eat.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Slices
After picking watermelons, you should store them in the refrigerator if at all possible. Some varieties of watermelon are just too big to fit in the fridge.
They can be kept in a cooler with some ice for a day or so. Unfortunately, watermelon doesn’t keep well for very long, even in the refrigerator. A whole watermelon will keep for 7-10 days in the fridge. A cut watermelon will last 4-5 days, as long as it is covered. Watermelon is best served cold.
Ideally, you would harvest watermelon in the morning, chill it in the fridge and eat it later the same day. Some backyard vegetable gardeners choose to grow smaller melons because they know they will fit whole in the refrigerator and keep slightly longer.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Watermelon Yield:
Average yield of 25-30 ton/ha (4.5 kg – 11kg/fruit) can be obtained depending on variety and adherence to good agricultural practices.
Watermelon Farming in Ghana – Packaging and Storage of Watermelon:
Watermelons must be handled carefully without dropping them. Transport in crates with straw for packing and keep fruits in fairly cool moist environment.