With a medium-sized fruit going for between sh5,000 and sh7,000, watermelon is a real money maker.
There are many types of watermelons on the market. However, farmers are advised to select varieties that mature early, resist several challenges and yield well. The market has both open pollinated varieties (OPVs) and hybrids.
Some hybrids produce fruits that are as large as five10kg. The market for the fruit can be found in St Balikudembe market, Nakasero, Kalerwe, Nakawa and regional markets across the country’s big towns.
Costs for an acre
You can hire land at sh200,000-sh250,000 for six months. Ploughing an acre costs about sh150,000.
An acre takes at least 2,500-2,600 plants and these are generated from at least 600-700g of seeds. These cost between sh300,000-sh350,000, depending on the variety. General maintenance, including buying pesticides, costs about sh1,000,000-sh2,000,000. The total costs average sh4m.
If it performs moderately, each of the 2,600 plants can produce six-eight fruits. This gives a total of 15,000-17,000 fruits in an acre.
If each fruit is sold at sh5,000 at farm-gate price, a farmer will earn sh13m-sh15m after three months.
You can do direct planting or use a nursery. Seeds are raised into seedlings using planting pots, which are readily available in agri-inputs stores around the country, such as Container Village in Kampala.
Pots are filled with well-prepared soil – a mixture of good soil and organic manure. Put one seed per pot.
Spray preventive fungicides and insecticides on the seedling in the nursery in order to raise healthy ones.
Five kilogrammes of mancozeb + 1ml of cypermetrin in one litre sprayers can be used to mist the seedlings Spraying is done once a week.
Water seedling at least once a day. Seedling are ready for transplanting after three weeks.
Make furrows in the garden of 1ft wide and 15cm deep. The furrows should be spaced 3m from each other.
The seedlings are spaced 60cm from each other in the sides of the furrows and it should be done on both sides of the furrows.
Organic matter is incorporated in the furrows and DAP and physiolith blend put in the holes at the time of transplanting.
Put five grammes of the blend per hole at between one and two weeks after transplanting, drench with fertiactyl GZ around the root (100mls per litre of water). One month from transplanting, top dress with NPK.
Top dressed fertilisers should be placed at least three inches away from the stems because direct application on the roots may make them rot.
Spray a foliar fertiliser application at the flowering stage (40mls in 20 litre). Make a second application after two weeks
By Joshua Kato (editor Harvest Money) and Abbey Kazibwe (director Nsanja Agro-chemicals)