Although melons can be directly sown onto the land, transplanted seedlings are usually used, as the high cost of most varieties means farmers need every seed to grow. Weed control with seedlings is also considerably easier and cheaper, going a long way towards paying for them. Also, the plants are subjected to disease pressure and eelworm for a shorter period. Where late frost is possible, seedlings should be grown under protection at the relevant time.
Although older seedlings will still grow, possibly better than those of cucurbits, the best time to transplant them is when the roots have just filled the plug and they’re actively growing. SPace the transplants 30cm to 40cm apart in 1,5m to 2m rowsdepending on the characteristics of the variety and season.
Well-drained soil is important for this crop and it should have reasonably good fertility. Nitrogen can be side-dressed to get the plants to grow vigorously and be healthy, but we need to be careful when the fruit is developing, as excess nitrogen can affect quality.
It’s a balancing act between getting sufficient vigour for the vines to cover the area while ensuring enough nitrogen during bearing to maintain plant health and productivity, and avoiding an excess, which can lower yield and compromise quality. Observation and experience are important for optimal results. The plants seem to start off rather slowly and then suddenly take off. During the early stage, the plants send out a huge root system which grows very rapidly.
Apart from the macro elements provided at planting, we need to ensure there’s enough molybdenum – a deficiency will manifest as a pale pattern on the leaves. Although this is easily and quickly rectified, there will always be some setback by the time symptoms are noticed. Rather apply sodium molybdate at 50g/ha to 100g/ha as a foliar spray when the plants are just starting to get moving. This deficiency is more likely where soil pH is low, and farmers with higher pH soils may dispense with this.
Boron is the other trace element which is also easily applied as a foliar spray and worth using routinely. It can be applied together with the molybdenum – 1kg/ha to 2kg/ha is usually sufficient. – Bill Kerr ((016) 366 0616 or e-mail [email protected]). |fw