Watermelon is a special kind of berry also known as pepo from the cucurbitaceace family.
It is a large sprawling annual plant with coarse, hairy pinnately-lobbed leaves and yellow to white flowers.
The fruit is characterized by a green or dark green with yellow stripes skin and a juicy sweet interior usually deep red to pink.
In Uganda, it is mainly grown in Luwero, Mpigi, Kayunga and parts of the east.
It grows well in hot areas near water bodies, dry flat land, and hilly midlands and can be first planted indoors then transplanted or directly sowed.
It requires well-drained sandy loam with a pH of between 5.5 and 7 and medium nitrogen levels.
The land should be ploughed at least four weeks before planting to allow decomposition of any previous crops.
Alternatively organic matter can be dug into the soil.
Growing the vines in soil hills six feet apart depending on the size of your garden will store the sun’s heat longer. The spaces between the hills should be covered with black plastic sheets to keep the soil warm.
Watermelons need temperatures higher than 25 °C (77 °F) and usually thrive two to three weeks after the rainfall.
Avoid putting the crop in a shade because it requires at least six hours of direct sunlight.
Vines produce both male and female flowers on the same plant so remove all covers as soon as flowers appear so that bees and other insects can pollinate the plants and then begin fertilizing with compost tea every three weeks.
Aim for the roots not the actual plant to prevent the leaves from being affected by disease.
Reduce watering once fruits begin growing because dry weather produces the sweetest melon.
Apply a thick organic mulch to hold in moisture.
Notably watermelon does not do well in cold places.
The crop is also vulnerable to root-knot nematodes, fruit flies, aphids and diseases like powdery mildew and mosaic virus when humidity levels are high.
In about three months the fruits should be ready for harvest depending on the soil temperature and the depth they are planted.
Melons bound for distant markets are harvested when mature but before full ripeness to minimize damage and breakdown in texture they suffer in transit.
They should be consumed two weeks from harvest lest they lose their crispness.
Market and use
There is a growing market for the fruit country wide with demand from fruit vendors, markets, hotels and supermarkets.
It is devoured as a fruit or salad during breakfast or lunch and can also make juices.