See advice on steps a grower can take to find success in growing watermelons.

Florida is the leading state in growing watermelons, especially winter watermelons, but it is still a crop with challenges. A recent Growing Produce article shared tips on success with watermelon from California grower Van Groningen & Sons. See the highlights below.

Tips for Success in Growing Watermelons

The following advice on success for growing watermelons was taken from the article:

Choose fresh fields to fight disease. “Since watermelons are so vulnerable to disease, Van Groningen & Sons’ favorite prevention is to steadily expand the operation’s acreage and plant on the new land.”

Utilize grafted watermelon. “One powerful disease-fighting tool Van Groningen & Sons recently adopted is switching to grafted plants. All its regular-sized watermelon is now grafted, and the switch has happened quickly…Despite the higher cost in using grafted watermelon, Zanotto says they’re worth it. Grafted plants can not only resist disease better, Zanotto says he’s seeing a more uniform fruit size, better harvest timing, and a longer-lasting shelf life.”

Test new varieties and inputs on a small scale. “Due to the number of acres it devotes to watermelon, Van Groningen & Sons has seed companies coveting its trial fields. The lucky varieties that make the cut will have about 15 acres to prove themselves on. After harvest, the operation not only measures yield but also Brix, fruit texture, visual appeal, and any other feature that impacts marketability. The sales team is invited to help make those measurements.”

“The same concept applies to new inputs. Start with a trial and compare the results with existing products. If the team likes what they see, they’ll incorporate it slowly into acreage. That minimizes the risk and allows for adjustments.”

Know the field. “’We try to be as sustainable as possible,’” Zanotto said in the article. “’We’re not using harsh chemicals. We’re always rotating our active ingredients and group numbers’…”Another way to cut down unnecessary inputs is understanding what you’re dealing with. Part of Van Groningen & Sons’ routine is to take soil samples to test for nutrients at the beginning of the season. The team also tests for soilborne diseases.”

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