John Baxter

Prepping the Soil for Watermelons

Everyone loves the sweet, juicy treats that summertime brings in the form of watermelons. If you plan on having a healthy harvest of melons this summer, now is the time to consider your soil. Watermelons can grow well in most soils, from clay to sand, but management is key. The ideal soil for watermelon is a sandy loam that has not been used for cucurbit (melons, gourds, cucumbers) production for at least five years.

The main preparation of the soil involves proper tillage. The aim here is to make the soil hospitable to young plants, to prepare it for root growth and development, and to help control some disease issues. The first thing to do is to break up any hardpan that may have developed beneath the surface. A subsoiler should be used to penetrate and break apart the hardpan.

Use a moldboard plow to disk litter from previous crops. Deep turn it two to four weeks before planting to ensure decomposition. If no other soil prep is needed, this is the time to use broadcast fertilizer. Otherwise, wait until just before the final bedding. Don’t disk fields after they have been plowed, as this can compact the soil.

Cover crops can be used to preserve the integrity of the soil. Adding this organic material to the soil can help reduce soil compaction, increase water infiltration, and decrease erosion. Watermelons like warm soil, so raised beds can encourage early production. They can be prone to drying though, so make sure your melons are getting enough water.

Hopefully these tips will help you produce the watermelon crop you desire. Anytime you have questions about growing, turn to the team at Helena Agri-Enterprises LLC. We have the skills, experience, and products to help your crops thrive. You can reach us at (813) 333-3182.

This column is sponsored by Helena Agri-Enterprises LLC, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or its advertisers.

John Baxter is the Florida Division Manager of Helena Agri-Enterprises, Inc. He has proudly served Florida growers at Helena for 25 years, and he also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association. For more information about Helena products or services, or to contact a member of the Florida team, call (813) 626-5121.

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