What’s Next? Management Tips for North Florida Watermelon Producers

Clint ThompsonFlorida, Watermelon

Photo courtesy of Bob Hochmuth/Shows plastic laid in a watermelon field.

By Clint Thompson

Watermelon plants are in the ground throughout North Florida. Growers are now tasked with ensuring their plants are protected and cared for over the next couple of months. Bob Hochmuth, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Regional Specialized Extension agent in Live Oak, Florida, provides some management tips for producers.

“We want to make sure they have good moisture so the transplants can get off and going. I think the rain events we have had periodically have really helped in that situation. We need to get the drip irrigation system going but not excessively to lose a lot of that fertilizer. It’s a tricky thing to get them off to a good start with sufficient but not excessive irrigation,” Hochmuth said.

“We also need to start with a preventative fungicide program, I think is also very important for these guys to get on. That’s going to be every 7 to 10 days on the front end. We don’t have a lot of insects this time of year to worry about. That’s less of a concern to me right now. It’s mostly about irrigation management and disease management; two things that I would want to make sure we’ve got squared away.”

Hochmuth estimates that there is a 10% increase in acres this year, which could equate to almost 1,000 additional acres. Most producers were done planting this year’s crop by mid-March. Many started planting in mid-to-late February.