One of the major fruits in the Philippines is watermelon. Pakwan, as it is called in Tagalog, is eaten mainly as dessert. Its rind is used in making preserves and pickles.
Varieties. Klondyke, Stripped Klondyke, Charleston Gray and Dixie Queen are varieties most commonly grown in the country. Hybrids from Japan and the US are also commercially grown such as tender sweet, Honey Cream and Mallorca which are sweet varieties. Acme Genetics Company distributes seedless watermelon varieties such as Quality or Seedless Watermelon No. 126 which reportedly is the best-tasting seedless variety. Its rind is tough and appropriate for shipping. The normal Quality watermelon weight is 7.5 kilos. Other seedless varieties distributed by Acme Genetics are Orchids Sweet, Sky Bell and Farmers Wonderful.
For producers of butong pakwan, the best varieties are sunshine, Red Luck and Wanli.
Ten- Bow and Red Glory are recommended among the seeded watermelons.
Adaptation. Watermelon is best planted on land not previously used growing watermelon. Soil should be well-drained sandy loam, rich in organic matter, light and loose.
Watermelon grows in a wide range of soil acidity expect in alkaline soil. An average temperature of 25o to 30oC and a climate with a long warm, dry weather are required.
Normal planting season of watermelon is from October to January. However, off-season fruits command a higher price, when planted as early as August.
In commercial practice, it is planted in lowland areas such as Bataan, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Batangas and Laguna after rice harvest.
Cultural Requirement. Plow the land as possible, at least 20 cm, 2 to 3 times. Do this several weeks after planting.
Bury 3 to 4 seeds in each hill, 2.5 cm deep. Space the hill at 2 by 2 meters from each other. When the plant have grown three to four leaves, reduce them to only one or two plants in each hill.
Cultivate and weed as early as possible, and employ light cultivation when the roots have grown to prevent damage.
Irrigate sparingly during its first stages of growth. During long drought and while on its fruit stage, irrigate 5 to 6 times during the entire period.
Watermelon is normally grown in rotation with other crops. It is best to plant only those that improve the soil.
Apply 10 to 15 tons of manure per hectare plus 125 kg of complete fertilizer. Apply this by hand eight centimeters below the soil and 5.5 cm away from the plants. If plants show signs of yellowing, apply nitrogen fertilizer at the sides.
The use of plastic mulch is recommended to check the growth of weeds and conserve moisture. The plastic sheets should be colored silver on top drive away aphids, and colored black on the underside to keep the soil warm.
Pest and disease control. Yellow cucurbit beetles eat the leaves of both young and mature plants. Control them by spraying Carbaryl or Malathion at the rate of three tablespoonfuls per gallons of water.
Aphids which are tiny greenish and wingless insects should be stop from sucking the sap of the leaves by spraying Ekatin at one tablespoonful per three gallons of water.
Mites, on the other hand, are red insects that live on the underside of the leaves. Control them by spraying either chlorobenzilate, Kelthane, or Tedion V18 at 2 to 3 tablespoons per five gallons of water.
The disease called downy mildew is characterized by yellow spots on the top of the leaves and purple powdery material on the leaves’ lower surface. Spray infected plants with either Fernate at 3 1/2 tablespoons per gallons of water; Zerlate at 1 1/2 to tablespoon per gallon of water; or Manzate at 1 1/2 tablespoons per gallon of water.
The fusarium wilt disease causes young seedlings to wilt and the leaves of mature plants to turn brown. Control this by crop rotation.
Harvest. Avoid harvesting the fruits prematurely. To determine fruit maturity, ” thump” the fruit with the finger. A dull, hollow sound is an indication of maturity. Fruits are also ripe when the lower part that rests on the ground turns from white to creamy yellow.
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