Agricultural business: the cultivation of gourds in the open ground and in greenhouses

* The calculations use the average data for the World

Melon crops include one- or perennial plants of the pumpkin family (Cucurbitaceae), which have long prostrate or climbing stems with antennae: watermelon, melon, pumpkin, zucchini, squash, etc. For obvious reasons, the most popular are watermelons and melons, which are cultivated for the sake of obtaining juicy fruits, characterized by high palatability. Watermelon and melon are eaten, mainly fresh as a dessert. However, jam, jam, molasses, watermelon honey (nardek, bekmes) are also cooked from the fruits of these melons, candied fruits, pastille and pickles are prepared, they are still widely used in the canning and confectionery industries. Valuable vegetable oil is obtained from the seeds of many plants in the pumpkin family.

In this article, we will look at a seasonal watermelon growing business. Watermelon owes its high popularity to its valuable dietary, taste and nutritional properties. Watermelon contains a large amount of sucrose and fructose, which gives it sweetness, and the pulp and peel of the watermelon contain various useful amino acids, macro- and micronutrients, including antioxidants, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, folic acid and sodium.

General information about watermelons

In our country, watermelons are grown on an industrial scale in the Volga region and in some areas of the southern regions, as well as in Crimea. Watermelons are heat-loving plants that are well cultivated in the steppe climate with long, hot, dry summers, so in these regions they ripen freely in the open air, acquiring excellent taste. In the middle black soil regions of Russia, as well as in the more northern regions, watermelons are grown, as a rule, not in fields (in open ground), where they simply do not have time to ripen during the season, but in greenhouses (under the film). Watermelon has a powerful root system, which provides the plant with enough moisture and nutrients to ripen large juicy fruits. The main root of watermelon plants can penetrate the soil to a depth of two meters, and the lateral roots form a large number of roots of the second and third orders, reaching a depth of 3-4 meters.

At first, the vegetative mass of plants develops rather slowly, since this period the root system is growing rapidly. But already 20-30 days after the emergence of seedlings, the plants begin to grow actively, forming side shoots. Their growth can reach two meters in one day only. The timing of flowering watermelon depends on its precocity. As a rule, flowers can be observed already a month and a half after the emergence of seedlings, and flowering continues until the end of the plant’s vegetation.

Flowers in a watermelon are usually dioecious, that is, both male and female flowers can form on the same plant. In the most common varieties, however, more often bisexual, that is, hermaphroditic, and male flowers are formed, and in some species - female, male and bisexual. You can distinguish between female and male flowers by size: the first, usually larger, have a wide five-lobed stigma on a short column. Bisexual flowers look similar to female ones. They differ only in that they form both stamens and pestle at once. The flowers open in the morning at dawn and bloom after 15-16 hours. Female and bisexual flowers open earlier than male flowers and, if fertilization has not occurred, remain open for the next day. Male flowers fade in a few hours.

Depending on the length of the growing season (that is, from the time of emergence of plants to the onset of biological maturity of the plant), watermelon varieties and hybrids are divided into several main types: ultra-early (up to 70 days), early (71-80 days), mid-season (81-90 days ), medium late (91-100 days) and late ripening (over 100 days). Keep in mind that ultra-early and early varieties of watermelons are generally less sugary and more watery than mid- and late-ripening. However, for industrial cultivation, these varieties are considered more preferred.

Watermelon fruits can vary greatly in shape, color, and size. In most cases, they have an oval-round shape with an average diameter of 20-25 cm and an average weight of 3-6 kg. The surface of the watermelon bark is usually smooth, but there are segmented fruits, and the thickness of the bark depends on the variety, method of cultivation and soil quality. Most fruits have a bark thickness of one to one and a half centimeters. In some varieties, the thickness of the bark does not exceed half a centimeter, and for thick-melon watermelons it can reach 4 cm. Watermelons with an average feed thickness of 1-1.5 cm are still the most popular. Although thick-melon watermelons are more convenient to transport and longer stored, but buyers as a rule, they do not want to overpay for the "extra" weight of the inedible bark of the fetus. Thin-watermelons have very short shelf life and require careful transportation.

Watermelon pulp is usually red, but in some varieties it may have an orange, yellow or even pearl hue. However, experienced entrepreneurs rely mainly on traditional rather than exotic varieties. Seeds also vary in shape, color and size. They can be large, medium or small masses from 30 to 150 grams / 1000 pcs. black, yellow, white, reddish-brown or even greenish. Seed germination usually lasts for 4-5 years.

Of all the species of these melons, the most common is watermelon ordinary (Citrullus lanatus). It is a grassy annual plant with spherical, oval, cylindrical or flattened fruits with a bark of various shades from white and yellow to dark green with a pattern in the form of stripes or spots. Its pulp is usually pink, red or raspberry, but varieties with pulp of white or yellow color are also found. The stems of this culture are thin, creeping or curly, very flexible. In length, they can reach four meters. The seeds of an ordinary watermelon are flat, often bordered, with a scar. This plant blooms throughout the summer months, but the fruits usually ripen no earlier than August-September.

Outdoor watermelon cultivation

To get started, you will need to choose the appropriate varieties for growing watermelons on melon. Approach this issue with great attention. Do not pay attention to the bright pictures on the sites and the assurances of sellers. To start, read the cultivation recommendations or consult an experienced agronomist. When choosing, pay attention to the fact how many days this variety needs to mature.

The best varieties of melons and gourds are considered Astrakhan, or Bykovsky (white), monastic (green with white stripes and red or gray seeds), Kamyshinsky (of the same color), Crimson Sweet (precocious) and several others. Seeds are usually sold in packages of five for 35-45 rubles per pack. At the same time, some suppliers set the minimum batch of purchases - from 500-700 rubles.

Melons are planted only when, finally, hot weather sets in. As a rule, this is mid-end of May (in the southern regions) or the beginning of June. Watermelon is a heat-loving plant, it does not withstand frost and does not tolerate low temperatures to 5-10 ° C. For the normal development of the plant, the temperature should be from 20-25 ° C and above (optimal - 30 ° C). Of great importance is the air humidity (it should ideally be 60%) and soil. On the one hand, thanks to the powerful root system, watermelon survives even in arid regions. However, if you want to get big, juicy and tasty fruits, you need to maintain soil moisture at a certain level.

As mentioned above, watermelon seeds retain their germination for 4-5 years. At the same time, two-year-old seeds are considered to be the most suitable for sowing, since plants grown from fresh seeds (from the previous harvest) are not particularly fertile. In extreme cases, annual seeds can also be planted, but in this case it is recommended to warm them up to 60 ° C for a couple of hours. To obtain uniform seedlings, the seeds of melons are first germinated. To do this, they are wrapped in cheesecloth, dipped in warm water for four hours, and then laid out on a moist burlap, wrapped in cloth and kept in it for two days. After that, they can be planted in the ground.

If you want to plant watermelons earlier than usual (in the second half of May), then you can grow them in seedlings using peat cups, as melons do not tolerate transplanting. When planting watermelon seeds early, they must first be tempered to increase their resistance to cold. To do this, they are first soaked, and then quenched for 1-2 days at a temperature of 0 to 20 ° C.

Watermelon prefers mechanically light or sandy soils that quickly warm in the sun. It is best if perennial grasses, winter wheat, corn for silage, green fodder or legumes were grown before melons. Experts recommend returning watermelon to the previous place of cultivation of the same or other cultures of the pumpkin family no earlier than after 5-8 years. However, this rule is often not respected.

Experienced people advise spreading watermelon seeds in the soil not vertically, but horizontally on their sides. Thus, it will be easier for the leaves to break through the thick shell of a seed. Watermelons are planted in open ground in rows or in a nesting manner. Take into account the fact that one plant should have a fairly large space. This requirement is due, firstly, to the length of the lashes, and secondly, to the size of the fruit, for the ripening of which the plants need a very large amount of nutrients. Watermelon seeds are sown manually in shallow holes with a depth of 4-6 cm. 2-3 seeds are laid in one hole, then it is filled with water and covered with soil.

Shoots appear, as a rule, on the tenth - eleventh days of sowing. After another week, the first leaf opens, and the main shoot begins to form in at least two weeks, or even later, depending on the variety. Care for gourds is standard - weeding and loosening the soil, removing weed plants and regular watering. During the whole season, weed and loosen the melon must be at least four times, but to water it is from 3-4 to 9-12 times per season, depending on the weather and the condition of the plants. When the central leaves of plants begin to fade, this is a sure sign that they lack moisture. Watermelons need to be watered with warm water (temperature from 15 ° C) to the very root. Watering should be relatively plentiful so that moisture penetrates deeper into the entire arable layer. Water consumption is from 50 to 100 cubic meters per hectare. In not very dry weather, the next, more plentiful watering is done after the formation of the ovary and when the fruits reach a weight of 3-5 kg. In this case, the water flow can be 150 cubic meters per hectare. It is extremely important to develop your schedule and irrigation standards, depending on the region and weather conditions, and strictly adhere to them. Lack or excess of moisture can reduce the resulting crop by more than half. With excessive watering, there is a high risk of developing various fungal diseases of plants, and excess moisture during ripening can negatively affect their quality: watermelons will turn out to be unsweetened and watery.

At the beginning of growth, melons and gourds are recommended to be fertilized with infusion of barn (rotted manure). After harvesting, under the digging of melon, potash and phosphorus fertilizers are applied (half dose of phosphorus and nitrogen and half dose of potassium). In some manuals you can find recommendations for additional fertilizer of melon in the spring with nitrogen fertilizers. However, they must be used with extreme caution. Excessively large doses of nitrogen fertilizers reduce the palatability of the fruit, which although it grows larger, but does not have a characteristic sweet taste. Moreover, high nitrate levels can be harmful to human health.

With proper care (with regular weed removal), a suitable climate, favorable weather conditions, fertile soil and irrigation from a hectare of sown area, when growing on soil, you can collect 20-40 tons of the crop, and when grown on film - 40-70 tons. As we mentioned above, the ripening process in early ripening fruits takes 60-85 days, in mid-ripening and late-ripening - on average 100 days. It is possible to determine the maturity of the fetus by its appearance - elasticity and brilliance of the cortex, its color, and brightness of the pattern. If you hit the ripe fruit with your palm, the sound will be deaf. When squeezing such a watermelon, a crackle of pulp is heard inside. In mild weather, ripe watermelons can remain on the melon for up to a month. However, in extreme heat, they burn out in less than a week under the scorching sun, so take care of the storage room for ripe fruits in advance and harvest them in time.

Growing watermelons in greenhouses

If you want to get an early and / or more abundant crop, if you plan to grow watermelons in regions whose climate is not suitable for melons, then you can not do without greenhouses. The following watermelon varieties are suitable for greenhouse cultivation: “F1 Gift to the North”, “Cinderella”, “Ultraearly”, “F1 Charleston near Moscow”, “Spark”, “Pannonia F1”, “F1 Pink Champagne”, “Sibiryak”, “F1 Krimstar ".

Seedlings for the greenhouse are recommended to be sown in the second half of April. For distillation of seedlings, a special mixture is prepared, which includes three parts of humus with one part of the earth, a tablespoon of potash and nitrogen fertilizers, three tablespoons of phosphorus fertilizer. Also, if you do not use mineral fertilizers, you can add a glass of wood ash and one teaspoon of potassium sulfate per bucket of soil mixture.

As when sowing seeds in open ground, when planting on seedlings, they are laid to a shallow depth of up to 2-3 cm. Before germination, the soil from the seeds should be kept at a temperature of 22-25 ° C. When the first shoots appear, the temperature can drop at night to a maximum of 15-17 ° C.

In general, care for watermelon seedlings is the same as for seedlings of cucumbers. It is necessary to provide the shoots with a long daylight hours - from 12 to 14 hours, otherwise with a shortage of light they will begin to stretch too quickly, giving long but weak shoots. The necessary lighting can be provided with the help of special lamps that are used for greenhouse crops. A week after germination, seedlings are recommended to be shaded with a black film in the period from 18 to 8 hours (from evening to morning). On the tenth day after the emergence of shoots, plants are fed with mineral fertilizers (10-15 grams of potassium chloride, ammonia sulfur, 20-25 grams of superphosphate per 10 liters of water).

Do not forget to prepare the soil in advance in the greenhouse for planting seedlings. She landed only in the "warm" beds. To prepare such a week before planting, a soil layer of 15-20 cm thick is removed from the soil. Hay with humus is laid in this trench, which is sprinkled with nitrogen fertilizers and richly moistened with hot water, and then covered with soil and a black film. After the soil warms up to at least 10-12 ° C, seedlings can be planted in it to a depth of 10 cm. In the southern regions this occurs in the first and second decades of April, in the central regions in the second and third decades of April, in the forest-steppes - in the third decade of April - the first decade of May. When lashes appear and grow, they are tied to trellises, and the fruits themselves are recommended to be suspended in nets due to their heavy weight. For quick plant growth, pinch the whips, leaving three leaves above the fruit and removing weak shoots.

The greenhouse should be regularly ventilated to avoid drafts. It is desirable that insects that pollinate female flowers fall into the greenhouse. However, you can do this yourself. To do this, carefully monitor the appearance of male flowers that bloom very quickly. With manual pollination, they are torn off, the petals are carefully removed and applied with anthers to the stigma of female flowers several times. Experts advise doing this in the morning at an air temperature of about 20 ° C, but only on condition that the night before this the air temperature did not drop below 12 ° C.

After harvest, do not forget to leave enough seeds for the following crops. Watermelons that grow from these seeds better resist various diseases and grow faster.

Ripe watermelons are sold to wholesalers, private distributors, directly to end customers and through fruit and vegetable bases. With small volumes, it is most profitable to sell watermelons yourself, since wholesale prices differ significantly from retail prices at times.

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