While watermelon farming has been around for centuries, not all farmers are proficient in the art of growing watermelons. In fact, novice farmers often make the same mistakes — or find themselves experiencing the same setbacks and disappointments.
If you’ve recently taken up watermelon farming or if you’d like to start soon, it pays to familiarize yourself with these common hitches so you can avoid ending up in the same boat as others who’ve gone before. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common mistakes made in watermelon farming and how to sidestep them.
So, if you’re looking for tips on maintaining a healthy watermelon farm and boosting your yields, then pour yourself a glass of tea, sit back, and get ready to learn about everything from poor soil preparation to poor pest control methods—and how to prevent them.
Table of Contents
Poor Soil Preparation
When you’re preparing to grow watermelons, the first and most important step is to ensure that your soil is in tip-top shape. Poor soil preparation can lead to several mistakes that can stunt or even kill your watermelon plants.
To avoid this, you should start by tilling the soil at least 12 inches deep, or up to 18 inches if possible. This will help ensure that the roots of your watermelons can penetrate deep enough into the ground for optimal nourishment. You should also make sure that the soil is well-drained and free of any rocks and sticks, as this can create an uneven surface which could negatively affect the growth of your plants.
Additionally, be sure to incorporate plenty of organic matter into your soil prior to planting your melons—such as compost or manure—as this will provide them with key nutrients for healthy development. Finally, test your soil’s pH level and adjust it as needed for optimal growing conditions for watermelons.
Poorly Chosen Varieties
When it comes to watermelons, not just any variety will do. You’ll need to choose varieties that are suited for your local climate, as well as the soil types in your area. Too often, watermelon farmers choose varieties that are either too small or too large for their region. This can lead to low production yields, or a risk of disease if the wrong variety is chosen.
So make sure you take the time to research and conduct trials on varieties that will suit your environment and soil type. You can also work with local agricultural extension offices to get advice from experienced watermelon farmers in your area.
Lastly, it pays to try new varieties every once in a while. Just make sure they’re well-suited to your local conditions – that way you’ll have the best chance of successful yield and good quality produce.
Oops! One of the most common mistakes in watermelon farming is overwatering. If you water your plants too often, you may end up with little or no yield. When it comes to melons, the golden rule is to water deeply but less frequently.
Too Much Water
Watermelons require as much as five inches of water per week—but only when they’re growing and fruiting during the summer months. During other times of the year, make sure to provide enough water but don’t overdo it.
How Much Is Too Much?
It can be difficult to determine “just enough” when it comes to watering your melon patch, so there are a few things you can do:
- Make sure the soil is always slightly moist (not too dry and not saturated)
- Water your plants first thing in the morning, when temperatures are still cool
- Add mulch to help keep moisture in and weeds out
- Check soil moisture daily whenever temperatures are high
- Water using a soaker hose or drip irrigation system if possible
No matter what method you choose for watering your melons, just remember: Too much moisture can lead to poor yields or even complete failure.
Not Watering Adequately
It’s essential to ensure your watermelons are getting the water they need to grow and thrive, but too much can be almost as bad as too little. Watering your watermelons too often can lead to problems like fruit rot and colorless, flavorless melons.
The key here is creating a watering routine that makes sure the soil is constantly moist but not over-saturated. You should water your plants once every two weeks or so and adjust according to the weather. During especially dry or hot days, you may want to give them a bit more hydration. You’ll also need to be aware of potential evaporation and transpiration, so keep an eye on your soil moisture levels.
To make sure you don’t overwater, here are some tips:
- Check the soil by poking it with your finger—water it only if the top inch or two of soil feels dry
- Use a hose nozzle with sprinkler settings so you don’t douse plants with too much water all at once
- Install a drip irrigation system for efficient watering
- Make sure drainage is adequate—if you have standing water on the surface of the soil, it may lead to root rot
Too Much Fertilizer
Are you overfertilizing your watermelon crop? It’s easy to do, and can have a big impact on the health of your plants. Too much fertilizer causes an imbalance in the soil’s nutrition, leading to a decrease in quality, size, and sweetness of the watermelons.
Too much fertilizer can also cause root burning or wilting. If you think you’ve overfertilized, the best thing to do is to stop fertilizing that plot and let it rest for a few weeks until the soil balance is restored.
Here are some tips to avoid overfertilizing:
- READ THE LABEL: Especially when using chemical fertilizers, it’s important to read the label carefully for instructions on how much fertilizer should be applied per acre or hectare.
- TEST YOUR SOIL: Testing your soil every three years can help you determine what type of soil nutrient balance you have, and how much fertilizer you need to apply.
- MONITOR OFTEN: Monitor your watermelon plots often. If plants are growing too quickly—which can be an indication of too much fertilizer—reduce fertilizer inputs right away.
Planting too Closely Together
One of the most common mistakes in watermelon farming is planting too closely together. This can be a tricky one because it’s easy to think that you can fit more plants into your space, and so plants are crowded together.
But that’s a big no-no! Planting closely together will mean that the plants have to compete for resources—which means less energy for each of them and a higher chance of mold and fungus developing. It’s also more difficult to differentiate between weeds and watermelons, and you’ll have less room to maneuver when it comes to harvesting.
So make sure you give your watermelons plenty of breathing room! Here are some tips for good spacing:
- For watermelon varieties requiring trellises or supports, spacings should be at least one foot between plants in the row with rows spaced four feet apart.
- If possible, create an even larger space of four feet between plants in the row and six feet apart between rows if possible—this will help air circulation even further.
- For varieties that don’t need supports, give them even more breathing room at two feet between plants in the row with six feet between rows.
By taking some extra time to properly space your watermelons when planting them, you’re practically setting yourself up for success—so don’t skimp on this crucial step!
Neglecting to Control Weeds
You may not think of weeds as a big deal, but unfortunately, when it comes to watermelon farming, they’re a major headache. Weeds can spread quickly and overtake your watermelon patch, robbing your plants of the necessary water and nutrients. That’s why it’s important that you stay on top of weed control.
Pull Weeds Often
The best way to combat weeds is by pulling them as often as you can. Take some time every week or two to get down on your knees and get rid of any weeds that have sprung up in your watermelons’ vicinity. Make sure to pull them out by the roots so they don’t just come right back in a few days or weeks.
Another good trick is putting down mulch around your watermelons. This will help block out light from getting to the weed seeds and inhibit their growth, so you don’t have as much to worry about new weeds popping up all over the place. Just make sure you put down enough mulch — about three inches for best results — and be sure to use a natural mulch, such as wood chips or straw, instead of plastic sheeting or artificial materials.
If you’re really struggling with weeds in your watermelon patch, consider using herbicides as well. Make sure you choose an herbicide specifically designed for use on edible crops, though — there are some that won’t hurt the plants and fruits themselves but will take care of the weeds instead!