Apart from being advocated for people who want to lose weight, watermelon is a treat. It’s mouth-watering, thirst quenching and its perfect for hot days, picnics, parties and other social occasions. In recent years, there’s has been a boom in the demand for watermelons, so watermelon farming in Nigeria is rewarding.
Starting a watermelon farm in Nigeria isn’t rocket science. It’s also a profitable business niche as it is possible to cultivate and harvest three sets of watermelon fruits per year.
Did You Know? That watermelon farming in Nigeria is a serious business. That a watermelon can grow as big as 200 pounds.
Reasons to Start Watermelon Farming in Nigeria
It Has A Ready-Made Market: As mentioned earlier, watermelon is a treat for hot days and any other day. Also, people battling with obesity and associated problems are advised to take watermelons.
Furthermore, the enzymes contained in watermelons helps to combat cancer. Hence, the high interest in watermelon.
High Turnover: Since you can harvest three sets of watermelons annually, you are bound to get enormous returns in your investment after selling them.
Easy to Start: Starting a watermelon farm on a commercial scale in Nigeria doesn’t require much stress. The three basic things you need are:
- Suitable Land
- Sun: Watermelons need a lot of sun to grow well. When there’s sufficient sunlight, your watermelons would grow to be ones with juicy red flesh with lots of sugar. Boy! Would you be getting lots of customers.
- Good seedling: The type of seedling you decide to use will determine the quality or harvest you will get. There are various watermelon species. The most popular ones are:
- Black Diamond: This specie is almost black with bruise resistant rind with sweet and luscious flesh.
- Congo: This watermelon species have juicy red flesh with high sugar content. Its oblong, medium-green melon with dark-green stripes. This specie is common in Nigeria.
- Crimson Sweet: This variety is exceptionally sweet with deep red flesh and a distinguishing dark-green striped rind. This variety can also be used when starting a watermelon farm in Nigeria.
- Moon& Stars: This variety is a very sweet heirloom watermelon type characterized by red flesh.
How To Start Watermelon Farming In Nigeria
Step 1: Select a Suitable Land
If you intend to start watermelon farming in Nigeria on a commercial scale, it is imperative that you look for a good piece of land; say about 1-2 plots of land for starters.
As mentioned earlier, your boys need lots of sun, hence, the selected farm should be located where they can get at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. After getting the desired land, ensure you clear the land before introducing the seedlings.
Step 2: Get Seedlings
The next step to take is to get good watermelon seedlings. You can get them from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) or visit farmers who run their own watermelon farms.
Step 3: Start Planting
Sow watermelons in rows. If you are planting the Congo or Crimson Sweet variety, plant three to four seed per row, making sure that the rows are ten feet apart or more from each other. When planting, make sure that the space between the seeds is six inches apart.
Since watermelons are heavy feeders, ensure you add a moderate amount of manure, compost and leaves when planting. Apart from feeding the seedlings, the manure and other components also make sure the soil drains well. Also, provide adequate protection for your tender seedlings.
Watermelons thrive in hot weathers and grow slowly during cold days. Hence, use hot caps or coldframes during cold days or nights
Note: When collecting the seedlings from your sources, it is important to ask to know how many days you need for the variety you buy to mature. Most times, it takes 90 to 100 days for your watermelon seedlings to attain maturity.
Step 4: Apply Fertilizer Regularly
Apply fertilizers high in nitrogen until flowers begin to form. Then, switch to fertilizers high in phosphorus and potassium.
Step 5: Watering
Watermelons are water-thirsty plants. Ensure that you water them regularly especially when the weather is hot. This will help to keep the soil moist.
However, after the vines begin to sprout, reduce the watering to 3-5 times every two weeks. This is to help increase the sugar content the watermelon is notable for.
Note: Once the vines begin to sprout, ensure you cover them with garden soil. This will aid secondary root growth where leaf stems meet the vine. Also, it can add a lot of weight to the watermelons.
Step 6: Weeding
Weeds are unwanted plants that compete for moisture and nutrients. Hence, you need to clear the farm of weeds in other to ensure your watermelons grow very well.
Step 7: Other Proper Care Techniques
Although it is claimed that watermelons are not susceptible to peats and diseases in Nigeria, it’s been reported that watermelons are susceptible to a variety of pests; the dreaded of which is cucumber beetles.
Hence, maintaining a healthy plant is the key to successful watermelon farming in Nigeria. Apart from weeding you also need to include practices such as: pruning, proper spacing to aid air circulation and the use of insecticides to protect your plants from pests and diseases.
Step 8: Harvesting
So, how do you know when a watermelon is ripe and ready for harvesting? Most farmers claim that they tap on the fruit and then wait to listen for a dull thump. Since you will most likely grow your watermelons on large scale, you can’t go around tapping all the watermelons on the farm. God knows that apart from being tired, you’d end up with bruised knuckles.
What are the other signs to look for?
- Yellowing of the underside
- The watermelon ceases to grow
- Drying or withering of the stem near the base of the fruit.
- The watermelon has a glossy look
Step 9: Sales
The last step to ensure successful watermelon farming in Nigeria is to transport these juicy big boys to the market for sale. Ensure you identify your target customers.
Your customers could include: fruit juice companies, fruit shops, local markets, grocery store owners, pharmaceutical companies that include watermelons in their medicines when creating nutritional supplements and resorts and restaurants.
With these tips in mind, I’m sure you are on your way to growing a successful watermelon farm in Nigeria.