Being a curious human being (that is currently stuck in the middle of a farming village) – I decided to document my grandpa’s methodology for growing watermelons. We sat outside in 28 degrees Celius heat as he calmly dictated the following knowledge (in Bulgarian, so excuse any mistranslations):
Different regions of the country have different planting conditions and temperatures, so the timing various between each region. He normally seeds between 20th of April to 10th of May. When the plant sprouts from the ground, it takes roughly 60-90 days to pick the fully ripened watermelon. The watermelon plant is most abundant in his region in August (starting to ripen from about the 10th of August).
You plant the seeds directly into the soil on the field when the ground is 12- 15 degrees Celsius. (If you want to start growing the watermelons earlier in the year, you can seed them after the 15th of March in soil bots and keep them in warmer temperatures or greenhouses until the farmland is ready to take them.
You plant the seeds in rows and the seed should be 2-3 centimetres below the ground. The distance between rows should be 2 meters and within the rows, my grandpa plants 4-5 seeds in one place with a meter in between each bunch of seeds. Once the roots have sprouted above land, they make sure there are only 2-3 roots left in the place.
After the roots come out and are not fully ready to be ploughed, if there are natural causes (illnesses, humidity, insects), you can use protective spray. And when the rows get to a height of 10 centimetres, you plough the soil and add manoeuvre and you add extra nutrients to the soil.
Depending on the land, the watering happens at various times. If the soil is dense and can retain water – you can water less regularly and later in the process. Another factor is the weather and the amount of rainfall. However, in my grandpa’s field, they need to water the watermelon plants 7-8 times in the year on average. In order to counter weeds, you may need to plough the rows a second time.
How do you know the watermelon is ready? The best way is to look at the root of the watermelon that connects to the main stem. There should be a little leaf and a long curly sprout. When these two elements dry out, the watermelon is ready to be picked.
The second way is more effective for larger lands of watermelons. When the budded fruit is the size of an apple or a closed fist, the farmer adds a line/scratch mark to the outside of the watermelon. In exactly one month, the fruit is ready to be picked.
Once picked, they can last up to 1-2 months if held in a cool place.
There is a myth that you can knock the watermelon for a hollow sound. My grandparents claim this is (completely and utterly in their words) false. When my grandpa goes to buy watermelon at the store, he looks at:
- The core should not be dark green; it should have a slight light yellow tint (light lime green).
- If there is a bit of the root left on the watermelon and you rip it off, there should be a pink juice that oozes out after five minutes. That’s a guarantee it’s ripe.
- After years and years of growing watermelon, my grandpa can tell from the weight versus the size of the fruit.
Now I’m off to eat my third portion of watermelon slices….