Growing watermelon for profit seems like the right thing to do. However, you need to equip yourself with the right information and skills in order to be successful in watermelon farming in Kenya.
Due to the growth in population, the acreage of the fertile farmlands in the Kenyan highlands is dwindling due to land subdivisions.
Over 70% of the land in Kenya is arid and semi-arid. This poses a challenge when it comes to growing crops. But this also presents a golden opportunity for growing watermelons.
Watermelon plants thrive in the heat of the drylands. Add some water and you will get huge watermelons within 65 to 90 days after sowing. This also means you can do 2 or 3 seasons on watermelons each year.
In Kenya, watermelon grows well in Machakos, Kajiado, Makueni, Kilifi, Kwale, Mombasa, and Taita Taveta counties of Kenya.
These regions have the hot climates and low altitudes required for growing the best quality watermelons. In these areas, you will find successful watermelon farmers, growing watermelon on land ranging from one acre to hundreds of acres.
Success Factors in Watermelon Farming.
When getting into the watermelon farming business, there are certain things you need to watch out for in order to thrive in the business venture.
These include climatic conditions, soil conditions, adequate water, choosing the right varieties, correct harvesting techniques, and the timing of the market.
Climatic Conditions for Watermelon Farming.
Success in watermelon farming largely depends on choosing the right climate. Climate is the long-term pattern of weather.
This does not change day to day. While you can create microclimates in greenhouses, you cannot change the climate in an area.
Climate is characterized by the warmth of an area, rainfall, and altitude.
Altitude for watermelon farming.
Altitude is the height above sea level. Watermelon does well at altitudes below 1500 metres above sea level.
Altitude affects climate, where areas with higher altitudes are cooler and areas with lower altitudes are hotter.
Areas below 1500 metres above sea level have the ideal heat required for watermelons. These areas include coastal areas, lower eastern and some areas of the lake basin in Kenya.
Ideal temperatures for growing watermelons
The optimal temperatures for growing watermelons are between 22 degrees Celsius and 28 degrees celsius.
While watermelon can thrive in high temperatures in their lower 30s, they will have stunted growth at lower temperatures. They will not produce big sweet watermelon fruits at low temperatures.
Rainfall needed in watermelon farming
Watermelon thrives in areas with low to medium rainfall of between 400mm to 600mm per year. Irrigation is required to supplement the water requirements of watermelon plants.
Too much humidity provides the ideal conditions for leaf diseases. Too much humidity can lead to watermelon flowers dropping. Watermelon fruits develop from flowers. Fewer flowers mean fewer fruits.
Soil Conditions for Watermelon Farming
Soil is another success factor in watermelon farming. Choosing the right soils will increase the chances of success.
Watermelon thrives in well-draining sandy loamy soils with a slightly acidic pH of 6.0 to 6.0. Watermelon can grow in black cotton soils, but this will lead to smaller low quality fruits.
When farming watermelon as a business, it is better to choose the ideal soil. If soil does not meet the required PH, it can be amended using agricultural lime.
Watermelons require a lot of phosphorus and potassium. It is good to carry out a soil test to check the nutritional profile of your soil. Soil nutrients that are required for watermelons can be added to the soil by using the right fertilizers.
Phosphorus and potassium-based fertilizers that are low in nitrogen are ideal for watermelon plants. This is because they encourage vine growth. Lower nitrogen fertilizers are needed during flowering to encourage flowering and fruiting.
Select the best Varieties of Watermelon in Kenya
There are several varieties of watermelon seeds sold in Kenya. They come from different companies and have different characteristics.
When buying watermelon seeds you need to know your target market and what kind of watermelon fruits they require. Some will require big fruits while others will require medium-sized fruits.
Some markets will want round watermelons while others oval. Some clients have been known to prefer dark green coloured watermelons as opposed to light green coloured watermelons.
You also need to select the right varieties of watermelon for the area you are growing. Some varieties will not thrive in some areas.
Hybrid and non Hybrid watermelon seeds exist in Kenya. Hybrids seeds are created when plants from the same variety are crossed.
The purpose of creating hybrid seeds is to achieve some desired qualities from the mother plants. These can be fruit size, color, resistance to diseases, yield, etc.
Hybrid seeds are labeled F1. F1 means First filial, which means the first children from the parent.
Hybrid F1 watermelon seeds are the best hybrid seeds as opposed to F2 and so on. The quality of the seeds deteriorates as the seeds are produced further from the parent plants.
Non-hybrid watermelon seeds are also available in the Kenyan market.
Watermelon Varieties in Kenya
|Watermelon Variety||Company||Shape of Watermelon||Watermelon Fruit Size||Seed Rate Per Acre||Yield Per Acre|
|Julie F1||Simlaw||Oval||Medium (8kgs -10 kgs)||500 grams||35 to 40 tonnes per acre|
|Sukari F1||East African Seed Company||Oval||10 kgs to 15 kgs||500 grams||25 to 30 tonnes|
|Zuri F1||East African Seed Company||Round||12 kgs||500 grams|
|Early Scarlet F1||12 kgs||60 tonnes|
|Sugar Baby||5kgs||75 tonnes|
|Asali F1||40 tonnes|
|Charleston Grey||20 tonnes|
|Sweet Rose F1||10 kgs to 12 kgs|
|Andaman F1||8 kgs||30 tonnes|
|Crimson Sweet||8 kgs – 10 kgs|
|Sweet Melon Galla F1||1kg – 2kgs||25 tonnes|
|Moon and Stars||9 kgs-12 kgs|
|Golden Midget||1 kgs to 1.5 kgs|
|Sweet Melon Galia F1||Simlaw/ AMIRAN/ EAST AFRICA SEEDS||Round||1.5 KG||20 -25 tonnes per acre|
|Daytona F1||Simlaw||Oval||10 kgs -12 kgs|
|Sugar Belle F1||Simlaw||Round||4 kgs to 6 kgs|
|Princess F1||Simlaw||Oval||8kgs to 10 kgs|
|Sweet Melon Honey Dew||Simlaw||Round|