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Watermelon

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Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus​) ​is grown in all parts of Namibia.

Watermelon is not only low in calories it’s packed full with nutrients and valuable health benefits.

Thirst-quenching fruits are an excellent source of potassium, vitamins A and C, dietary fiber and beta-carotene. They also include super-sized amounts of lycopene, a powerful anti-cancer compound. So go ahead and eat it up!

Site Preparation

Select a site where your plants will get full sun and good air circulation. A gentle, north-facing slope is ideal. Watermelons grow in many kinds of soil, but prefer a light, sandy, fertile loam that drains easily. Add generous amounts of manure, compost and leaves to your garden and work the soil well prior to planting. Melons like lots of water, so keep the soil moist at all times.

How to Plant

For direct seeding, soak seeds in compost tea for 15 minutes prior to planting. Plant in hills 3cm high. For most varieties, sow two to three seeds per hill, spacing the hills about 3m apart. One week after seeding remove seedlings in the hill so only two seedlings after they have germinated. Small bush varieties may be spaced 3 feet apart.

Watermelons are heavy feeders. Apply an organic fertilizer during planting. Spray plants with liquid fertilizer and seaweed extract throughout the garden season. Cut back on nitrogen levels after flowers form. Continue with phosphorous and potassium applications until just before harvest.

Harvesting

Determining when to harvest watermelons can be difficult and requires some experience. For the most part when ripe, the curled tendril at the stem end dries to brown, the underside of the fruit turns yellow or cream colored, and the melon will yield a deep, resonant sound when thumped.

Allow 80-90 days for bush varieties to reach maturity and 90-100 days or more for the larger varieties.

Insect & Disease Problems

Cucumber beetles, aphids, mites, squash bugs, fusarium wilt, anthracnose, alternaria leaf spot, and curly top are some of the problems home gardeners should be on the lookout for. See the course on organic pest control for details.

Seed Saving Instructions

Watermelons will cross-pollinate, so isolate 800m from other varieties to maintain purity. When fruit is ready to eat, the seeds are also mature. Collect seeds and wash gently with a mild dishwashing soap. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry.

When to pick a watermelon

Image credit: HarvesTime

Picking the perfect watermelon involves a few sensory checks to ensure you get a ripe, juicy fruit. Here are the steps to test if it’s the right time to pick a watermelon:

1. Check the Field Spot: The field spot is the area where the watermelon rested on the ground. If this spot is creamy yellow or even a deep yellow, it’s generally a good indicator that the watermelon is ripe. If the spot is white or very light yellow, the watermelon may not be ripe yet.

2. Tap the Watermelon: Give the watermelon a tap and listen to the sound it makes. A ripe watermelon will have a deep, hollow sound. Unripe watermelons typically sound solid and underripe, while overripe ones will sound thick and dull.

3. Feel the Texture: The skin of a ripe watermelon should be smooth and the rind should be relatively hard. If the watermelon skin feels too soft or the rind is easy to press, the watermelon might be overripe.

4. Look at the Tail: If the watermelon still has a stem or ‘tail’, it should be dried out for the watermelon to be ripe. A green tail might indicate that the watermelon was picked too soon and may not be ripe.

5. Check the Weight: Pick up the watermelon and see how heavy it feels. A ripe watermelon should feel heavy for its size, indicating it’s full of water and ripe.

By using these techniques, you can better determine the right time to pick a watermelon, ensuring it’s at its peak of ripeness and flavor.

Worthwhile videos:

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