In Summary
  • Watermelon is a warm season crop which cannot do well in cold places.
  • Watermelon is propagated by seeds, directly planted in the field or raised in the nursery before transplanting.
  • Hardening should commence in 7-10 days before planting. Seeds should germinate in 3—10 days depending on the soil temperature.
  • Do not apply too much water, avoid waterlogging, and minimise wetting of the bed tops. Heavy irrigation or rainfall may also result in fruit splitting.

GROWING WATERMELONS

Can I grow watermelons in Nanyuki?

Wanjiru Gachanja

Watermelon is a warm season crop which cannot do well in cold places. However, in a greenhouse it can possibly grow. Below is an environmental guide for watermelon.

Ecological requirements

It grows at altitudes of up to 1,500m above sea level. It does well in lowland areas such as coastal regions, lowland of eastern and parts of the lake basin.

They grow best under hot temperatures of between 22 and 28oC. Stagnation of growth occurs at temperatures less than 15oC. Suited in low to medium rainfall areas with additional irrigation and optimum rainfall is 600mm and 400mm is considered minimum.

Excessive humidity favours leaf diseases and also affects flowering. They grow best on well-drained and slightly acidic sandy loam soils and slow development is exhibited in heavy clay soil, and fruit size and quality are usually inferior.

Watermelon is fairly tolerant to soil pH as low as 5.5, however, a slightly acidic soil with pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is ideal.

Propagation

Watermelon is propagated by seeds, directly planted in the field or raised in the nursery before transplanting. The seed rate is about 3kg/ha and seeds germinate best when the soil is very warm (25- 32°C) and the air is almost hot (28 to 33°C), as it is the case at the end of the dry season.

Do a soil test to know which fertiliser to use when planting or during top dress.

Sowing seeds

If direct seeding, seeds should be sowed after the last frosts and when the soil has warmed to at least 18.4°C. Allow 90—120cm (3—4 ft) between seeds in a row and 150—180cm (~5—6ft) between rows.

Plant two seeds per hill, placing them 3 to 4cm (1.5 inches) deep into the soil. Water the hills thoroughly if there is no rain and in nursery propagation transplant, when the seedlings develop first set of true leaves.

Hardening should commence in 7-10 days before planting. Seeds should germinate in 3—10 days depending on the soil temperature.

Irrigation

After planting, water regularly with manure or fertiliser to provide additional nutrients. Watermelons need sufficient moisture; after planting to allow fast and even emergence and at early bloom to prevent poor fruit set and misshapen fruit and during fruit development to ensure good melon size.

Do not apply too much water, avoid waterlogging, and minimise wetting of the bed tops. Heavy irrigation or rainfall may also result in fruit splitting.

Peter Caleb Otieno,
Department of Crops Horticulture, and Soils, Egerton University.

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TAMARILLO PRESERVE

I am Dennis Mutembei, a Bachelor of Food Technology and Quality Assurance student at Technical University of Mombasa.

I am interested in making a preserve from tamarillo as a research project. What are the other ingredients required and outline the procedure and equipment needed for the processing.

Also, advise on the food safety certification requirements and opportunities to sustain the project as a food security measure.

The recipe is quite long for this space. It would make more sense if it was a stand-alone article. Please get in touch with me on email at [email protected] and I will mail it to you.

As far as food safety is concerned, you must get Kenya Bureau of Standards certification and public health department approval if you are making food for public consumption.

Kevine Otieno,
Department of Dairy, Food Science and Technology.

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LINK ME TO FARMER KEEPING CRICKETS

I am Barasa Alloys from Busia and I am interested in knowing more about cricket farming. Link me to Charles Odira, a cricket farmer from Nyamasaria, Kisumu County.

Get in touch with Charles Odira via mobile phone on 0721280907.

Kevine Otieno, Department of Dairy, Food Science & Technology.

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I WANT TO KNOW HOW TO MAKE CACTUS WINE

I would like to get in touch with the people who are selling cactus wine and juice.
Winnie Dah

Get in touch with the Laikipia Permaculture Centre through on P.O. Box 566-10400, Nanyuki, Kenya. Telephone: 0727845123/0702095644/0726787085/0736053985.
E-Mail: [email protected]

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