For watermelon plants, using nitrogen based fertilizers at the onset is a good idea. Once the melon plants start flowering, however, you should switch to feeding the watermelon a phosphorus and potassium based fertilizer. Watermelons need ample potassium and phosphorus for optimal melon production.
"I am a Water Melon farmer in Kibwezi, please advice me on the best fertilizer products for me to produce high yields of Melons of good quality."
Like many other crops, Melon production requires a careful look at the Nutrition practices as well as proper management of other Agronomic factors. Best, high yielding Melons are produced with good Balanced Nutrition in well drained, deep soils with an optimum PH range of 6.0 – 6.6. High Quality fruits are characterized by a deep red colour inside the fruits, with a high sugar content of 10-14 %.
Being a shallow rooted crop, Melons will not do well in waterlogged soils or too dry a soil, as these conditions will increase incidents of fruit cracking. Shallow sandy soils are therefore ideal for melon production.
Application of fertilizers that supply a Balanced Nutrient supply giving both primary secondary and Micro-Nutrients is critical for High Yields and Quality of Melons. NPK fertilizers high in P such as UNIK 17 are important for initial crop establishment while a good N supply will ensure vigorous growth.
It is important to Note that melons DO NOT respond well to Ammonium forms of Nitrogen, as this may restrict growth and reduce quality. So avoid fertilizers such as Urea and Ammonium Sulphate and other Ammonium N type fertilizers in Melons. Too much Nitrogen fertilizers during and after flowering is also to be avoided as it will reduce flowering and fruit set, and therefore lower yields.
Melons like tomatoes are susceptible to physiological disorders such as Blossom End Rot. As such ensure supply of soluble Calcium as well as Boron to minimize this risk.
Fertilizer application for Melons should therefore start by first week after transplanting, with an NPK regime such as UNIK 17 for establishment of the crop. As stated, Melons prefer a Nitrate form of Nitrogen as opposed to Ammonium forms , and therefore Nitrate N source fertilizers such as in YaraMila Winner and Nitrabor for topdressing will give better results - high yields and higher quality.
By: Vitalis Wafula
East Africa Regional Agronomist