‘’I’ve been growing watermelons for about twenty years. My father was already producing them before me, and it was he who introduced me to this crop.
I then trained at the Bagam Farm School in the west of the country. I myself have become a trainer for those who take up this simple but delicate crop. I like to grow watermelon on old fallow land.
After clearing and felling, I prepare the soil a month before starting the actual crop. I use layer droppings and a chemical fertilizer to fertilize the soil.
To put the plant in the ground, I first sow it in a nursery before transplanting it to the field. From personal experience, I’ve found that this transition produces better results. My fruit is never in competition on the Mfoundi or Mokolo markets in terms of quality or size.
There are seeds of several watermelon varieties, but I prefer to grow Logone, Kaolack and Koloss. I don’t use the same seed twice; I always buy from specialist stores each time I launch a new campaign.
To ensure my regularity on the markets, I don’t sow or transplant all my seeds at the same time. Watermelon is a plant that needs a lot of water. When I produce in the off-season, I make sure that my irrigation system is up to the task. If that’s not possible, I prefer to wait for the rains.
Irénée Modeste Bidima
Managing the 1st month of cultivation
Once the watermelon has been sown or transplanted, other cultural operations must immediately take over, including watering, mulching, phytosanitary treatments, replacing missing plants, fertilizing, weeding and hoeing.
It takes place around the plant. It depends on the age of the plant and ambient climatic conditions. At the height of the rainy season, we recommend watering only when it hasn’t rained for two days. In the dry season, from sowing to flowering, we recommend watering the field every 2 days, or 2-3 times a week, depending on the amount of sunshine.
2- Replacement of missing parts and de-mating
This takes place around the 3rd week after sowing. Some seeds don’t germinate, while others are very stunted. Watermelon must therefore be transplanted or reseeded in these pots. Sometimes, you can remove sturdy plants from the best-sprouted patches, leaving 2 sturdy plants per patch. Leave the plants to grow a little longer. The final removal will take place at around 4-5 weeks, leaving just one strong plant in each bunch.
It’s an operation that many growers are increasingly doing without, as it’s rather tedious. Mulching consists in covering the spaces between the rows of watermelon bunches with dead grass to prevent or delay the growth of weeds and reduce the risk of fruit rot.
Good mulching keeps the soil fresh and protects the fruit, which lies on a sort of carpet, and limits water evaporation and weed growth. Mulching can also be done with tarpaulins.
After 4-5 weeks, only one robust plant is left per pot.
Watermelons don’t like weeds. Weeds compete with plants for light, space, nutrients and especially water. The proliferation of weeds encourages the appearance of diseases and parasites. As with most crops, weeds must be eliminated as soon as they appear. What’s more, since watermelon is a creeping plant, it’s difficult to weed once the weeds have grown tall.
5- Phytosanitary treatments
Phytosanitary treatments should begin as soon as possible, as a preventive measure. Treat every 2 weeks with an insecticide+fungicide mixture (e.g. Cypercal+Maneb). One 15-litre sprayer is needed for a 400 or 500 m² plot.
During the first month of cultivation, at least 1 hoeing operation should be carried out to break up the surface crust of the soil so that it is aerated and water can easily infiltrate to the watermelon’s roots.
15 days after planting, a market gardening fertilizer 12-14-19+ 5 MgO is applied at a rate of 60 g per bunch.