When Galina Prokopyevna Romanova came to the editorial office for the first time, I was surprised by the very fact of the visit: she came from Kolpino to us only to find out if the editorial office would be interested in their family's experience in growing watermelons and melons near St. Petersburg, and to show photographs.
It turns out that she and her husband were hurt in our magazine by the publication of Svetlana Shlyakhtina from Yekaterinburg "And the Ural watermelons are still sweeter!"... Galina Prokopyevna excitedly said that the technology was very complicated there, it could be much easier, without a greenhouse, as her husband, Boris Petrovich, thought up, and showed photographs in which weighty watermelons basked in the sun.
To be honest, I was amazed by what I saw: this is not the Astrakhan region, how is it possible to grow watermelons in the open ground in our latitude, and not one or two, but a whole plantation? Of course, I immediately asked them to talk about this experience in as much detail as possible and take more photos.
Then there was a phone call, Galina Prokopyevna said that she had prepared the materials and was going to the editorial office with them again. A few days later, I met her at the checkpoint. In one hand she held a package in which two dark green watermelons protruded their round sides, and in the other there was a basket, as it turned out later, with vegetables from their garden. "A present from her husband," she said, "try what grows on our land." They tried to dissuade, why, they say, was carrying a large load from such a given, but she stubbornly stated: you will not try it yourself, you will not believe that the watermelons are real.
Honestly, they are real. When we cut one watermelon, it even crunched, and the overripe pulp crumbled into sugary chunks. The second was the same. I confess that the first Astrakhan watermelon that I tasted in August was watery and much less sweet. All colleagues who came to see the northern miracle and treated themselves to it were also amazed at what they saw.
How did this miracle succeed in our far from hot climate and this capricious summer? Let the melon growers themselves tell about this.
Our site is already 19 years old. It is located in the Kolpinsky district, near the village of Pontonny. The terrain there was swampy, mixed with birch forests, they drained the soil, uprooted stumps.
And then, like other gardeners, they were engaged in growing cucumbers, tomato, peppers, potatoes, cabbage and other cultures. We have and berry bushes, fruit trees, many flowers, in general, a complete country or garden set. We wanted to plant watermelons three years ago, we even bought a bag of seeds, but it didn’t work.
In the winter of 2005, the idea suddenly ripened to try to grow this sweet culture, but they decided to plant not only watermelons, but melons as well. To be honest, there was no knowledge of this culture. They only knew that watermelon is an annual plant of the Pumpkin family. In our country, watermelon is grown mainly in the Lower Volga region, in the North Caucasus. They knew that in the Leningrad region and in other regions of the North-West, it is grown through seedlings, which are planted in a film greenhouse at the age of 20-30 days.
And so we bought three bags of seeds, selected early varieties. We took the varieties Ogonyok, Suga Baby and Marmeladny. And they started experimenting. The sachets marked the dates for planting seedlings from April 20 to May 5. We planted seeds for seedlings on April 14, as indicated in the lunar sowing calendar.
We planted two cups of each variety, each of which contained two watermelon seeds. There was no seed pretreatment. The seeds took a long time to sprout. The first ones ascended after 6 days, and the rest - after 10 days. They kept the cups by the battery in a box, they were covered with plastic wrap. Now we think they didn't have enough warmth to germinate faster.
They took ordinary soil for seedlings, for flowers (only you need to choose the best quality), added coconut substrate to it and filled ordinary 0.5 liter cups of sour cream. In those cups where two plants grew, we carefully divided them into two cups. On April 29th we had 12 cups of seedlings.
She was fed twice: once - with Ideal, twice - with Kemir's lux fertilizer. The seedlings made us happy: they grew strong and healthy. Only the weather outside the window did not please. The spring was very long and hard. It was time to plant seedlings, but the warmth did not come. The dates for planting seedlings were also marked on the seed packages May 25 - June 5.
Since we didn't have this year manurethen warm beds made by stuffing a kind of hay mattress inside the beds. Two melon beds were made for watermelons. One turned out to be 190x280 cm in size, a box was made of boards, a layer of sawdust was laid on the sod, then a layer of rough earth, then a thick layer of hay and a layer of earth broken together with sawdust, the height of the bed was about 40 cm.
The second was 180x290 cm in size.The soil was chosen to clay: a layer of chips was laid, then there was rough earth, sawdust, earth, hay, again the earth was about 40 cm thick.
And now the beds were ready, and the sun did not want to warm the earth. But suddenly on May 28 it became warm, and on this most forbidden day according to the calendar, we planted watermelons in the beds. On one of them there were seven plants, on the other - five.
This spring did not spoil us with warmth, and the beginning of June it was cold, we had to build a frame over the beds and cover them with foil. It must be said that this year the earth, even in greenhouses, has not warmed up over the spring. The planted seedlings of peppers and tomatoes were ill in the greenhouses, the foliage turned yellow. Watermelons and melons also succumbed to unfavorable weather and began to get sick. Healthy and strong seedlings after planting in the ground after a while began to decay and disappear. Watermelons were poured with fertilizer Kemir Lux, once they were sprinkled with Zircon.
Then the weather began to improve, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers became more cheerful, and watermelons began to improve. As the weather improved, the tops began to grow. In the afternoon, on the film frames, we began to open the ends. And from June 17 to June 25, they opened the beds completely, rolling the film up. At this time, the tops grew especially intensively on watermelons. The ridges are high, they had to be watered often.
From June 25, the heat came, the film was completely removed from the ridges, the expanse for watermelons began, the tops grew by leaps and bounds, watering was in a day. Top dressing alternated - "Ideal" then ash. The plantings were watered only with warm water. Watering time - in the morning from 10 to 12 o'clock, so that by the evening the tops and the earth are dry.
Double superphosphate was used three times instead of ash. In mid-August, film frames were again erected over the beds, and from August 20, on rainy days, they began to close the melon with watermelons from rains and at night, protecting it from temperature changes. During the day, both melons were fully open in August.
The first melon with watermelons successfully got into the lunar cycle, and now, with the maximum growth of the tops, the watermelons began to bloom intensively. To attract bees, bumblebees and other insects that pollinate plants, we began to put bouquets of flowers in the melon.
We do not know if the flowers helped, but at the end of June watermelons began to tie on the highest first melon, and there were quite a few of them, and by that time there were only three watermelons on the second melon. But soon the tops on the second melon began to catch up with the first in terms of growth intensity, only the massive ovary of watermelons on the second melon began quite late, after July 20 (as if it shifted to the lunar cycle).
Not a single watermelon plant was manually pollinated, the tops were not cut or formed, they grew freely as they wanted, the tops were even stretched out onto the paths. Planks were placed under each watermelon to protect it from rot. For the second melon, they were worried that the watermelons would not ripen, and only warm September allowed the experiment to succeed.
On the first melon, the earliest watermelon was removed on August 11, it was ripe, sweet, weighed 5.2 kg. We made a conclusion - it's time to stop watering. Since mid-August, they have not been watered even once. From 17 to 28 August, six more watermelons were removed, they were becoming sweeter. On August 30, a large watermelon of the Suga Baby variety, weighing 7 kilograms, was removed. Warm autumn allowed to keep melon until September 19. The second melon was harvested on September 21.
Summarizing our experience, we can conclude that the basis for growing watermelons in a garden bed is high ridges, irrigation with warm water. It is imperative to add sawdust to the top layer of the soil so that a soil crust does not form.
When growing this culture, it is of great importance to create a healthy lifestyle for plants according to the principle: "Feet warm, head cold", daily care and airing are also necessary. A general note on growing watermelons: this is a freedom-loving culture, they cannot be tamed, subordinated to the will of a person, like other cultures, they can either be helped or harmed. And to get big yields, this must be taken into account. Melon is a more plastic culture, when grown it was used the methods developed for pumpkins and cucumbers, and got pretty good results both in the greenhouse and in the garden bed in the open field.
Now we can already say that we made mistakes: the bed for watermelons should be high and warm enough by the time the seedlings are planted. In previous years, when growing pumpkins and cucumbers in the open field, we used heating the beds, for this we laid hay and manure, poured boiling water with potassium permanganate, quickly threw fertile soil on this layer and covered it with foil.
And then the sun did the work of warming up the soil. At the end of May, the soil was hot before planting, and the seedlings took root in such soil very quickly. And this year we could not provide such heating of the earth, and the experiment with watermelons was in jeopardy. But then we got together and decided not to make more gross mistakes, tried to take good care of the plantings, and therefore something worked out.
On two small melons with a total area of a little more than ten square meters, we have grown and filmed 56 delicious ripe watermelons with a total weight of 180 kilograms! Here is our arithmetic of the harvest: only 30 watermelons were removed from the first melon - 12 from August to September and 18 - on the day of the mass harvest. Their weight was 8; 7; 4.8; 4.5; 4.5; 4.2; 3.2; 3.0; 2.8; 2.5 kilograms, two were 2.2 kilograms, and three more were 2 kilograms. The smallest weighed 1.7 and 1.5 kilograms.
From the second melon on September 21, we removed 26 watermelons with a total weight of 88.5 kg. Their weight was: 6 kilograms - 2 watermelons, three more were 5 kilograms, then 4.7 kg, 4.5 kg, five watermelons 4 kg each, and another 14 were weighing from 3.5 to 1.5 kilograms.
We will take into account all our mistakes, study all the literature available to us on this issue and in the next season, if we have enough strength, we will once again try to engage in this interesting and grateful culture. Growing a decent harvest of any culture requires a lot of mental stress, and by the end of the season you feel like a squeezed lemon, but in return you get the necessary joy that pushes you to go further and further.
Galina and Boris Romanov, melon growers
As already described, plots for watermelon beds are prepared in the fall, choosing the most sunny and open places. And in order to prevent the influence of the north wind, they create a curtain of several rows of corn.
Seeds of watermelons for sowing in open ground are prepared in the same way as for sowing seedlings. They are pickled, washed with water, soaked in a growth stimulator, and then in hot water, wrapped in a soft material and kept warm until germination. Make sure that the material is always slightly damp. It takes almost a week to germinate, but the plant will thank you with friendly and strong shoots, and the harvest can be obtained up to 2 weeks earlier.
Sowing patterns are different, and when choosing them, you need to take into account the characteristics of a particular variety. Watermelon varieties with compact bushes can be planted at a distance of about 6 m from hole to hole and 1 m between rows. Moderately plaited bushes are given a little more space for development: 0.8 cm x 1.2 m, and long-plaited watermelons are sown according to the 1m x 1.5m scheme.
In the last decade of May, when the soil is warm enough, seeds are sown in high beds or in pre-prepared holes, as is the case with seedlings. If you germinate the seeds before planting, it is enough to put 3-4 seeds in each hole. When planting, use tweezers so as not to damage the fragile hatched bores. The wells are watered with warm water, and covered with dry soil on top. The rows are mulched and temporary shelters are established.
Sprouted watermelon seeds will sprout together, and the harvest can be obtained up to 2 weeks earlier
In each hole, 2 strong shoots are left and the rest are removed. Later, their branches are directed in opposite directions so that they do not intertwine and do not interfere with each other's development.
The first feeding can be carried out with an unstable solution of bird droppings (1:20) in the development phase of three true leaves, and later it will be enough to feed it with weed infusion 2 times a month. Water the seedlings with warm water 2 times a week.
The time for planting a watermelon on greenhouse beds depends on the temperature in the greenhouse. In polycarbonate greenhouses, the air warms up to a temperature of + 25⁰C during the day and +15 ⁰C at night several weeks earlier than in less sealed glass and film greenhouses. In the Siberian regions, this happens on the twentieth of May. Preparatory work and planting technology are no different from planting in open ground. Only in greenhouses do plants take up less space due to their cultivation on trellises, therefore, a compact planting scheme of 0.5x0.7 m is used.
When planting with seeds, only early ripening varieties of watermelons are chosen. To avoid the negative effect of unexpected frosts, crops are covered with paper boxes, plastic bottles, etc.
Experienced melon growers recommend placing opaque plastic water bottles on the beds. The water heated in them during the day gradually cools down at night, giving off its warmth and creating comfortable conditions for plants.
In order not to be left without a crop, growing watermelons in Siberia, it is necessary to regularly monitor the watermelon beds and carry out their competent care, which differs slightly depending on the place of growth.
Watering plants with mulched soil is enough 2 times a month, given the rare hot days. Together with watering, it is recommended to feed them with a mullein solution (1:10) or a solution of mineral fertilizer with microelements. Pollination is carried out by hand in the middle of the day in dry, light weather.
Pinching is a must. In most cases, 2 lashes are left and all stepsons are removed on them. This operation is done weekly, constantly monitoring the appearance of growing lateral shoots. On the central stem, 2-3 flowers are left so that the watermelons are not too large and have time to ripen.
As soon as the ovary reaches a diameter of 5–6 cm, pinch off the top of the shoot, leaving up to 5 leaves after the last greenery. Future fruits are placed on planks so that they do not touch the wet ground and do not rot.
In the open ground, the aisles are regularly loosened, and near the plant itself, the weeds are carefully plucked so as not to harm the delicate roots of the watermelon, which immediately react negatively to even minor damage. In the last phase of the growing season, loosening is stopped, they try not to trample the soil near the plants at all.
In July, fertilizing with phosphorus-potassium fertilizer will not hurt. Experienced Siberian melon growers stop watering 5 days before harvesting, although in many sources it is recommended not to water watermelons for a whole month before harvesting. This should not be allowed, especially in hot weather. There is a misconception that watering contributes to the development of wateriness.Watermelon is not as drought tolerant as many think. Without water, its fruits become smaller and tasteless. Of course, watering in Siberia is regulated by the weather. It so happens that the plantings have to be covered with a film during prolonged rains.
Bricks are placed under the pouring fruits, accumulating heat during the day and gradually releasing it at night, smoothing out the difference in daily temperatures.
On bricks, watermelons are poured faster
Once a week, the berry is gently turned over so that each side of the fruit gets plenty of sunlight and warmth.
In most cases, a watermelon in a greenhouse is grown on a trellis to save space.
On hot days, overheating of the air in the greenhouse (above + 30 ⁰C) must not be allowed, therefore it is regularly ventilated by opening the vents and doorways. Watering is carried out only with warm water over the area of the entire garden, while avoiding the ingress of water on the plants.
Until female flowers appear on the watermelon plant, it is enough to water them 3-4 times a week. Pollination is carried out mechanically: each pistil of a female flower is manually pollinated with male pollen. At the end of the petiole, under the female specimen, there is a small thickening - a miniature fruit, which is easy to notice and distinguish between flowers. Artificial pollination is carried out during the day, when the flower is well open and dry. Do it quickly and several times. In order for the fruits to develop normally, after pollination, watering is increased up to 2 times a week. Fertilizing is also combined with irrigation: at the beginning of the growing season, they are fed with nitrogen fertilizer, and a month before harvesting with phosphorus-potassium fertilizer.
When the lashes reach 2 meters, the bush is formed by pinching the tops and removing the stepsons. Siberians already from the experience of growing watermelon know that it is better to leave only one central shoot with one strong ovary in the greenhouse.
When the ovaries begin to weigh on the lash, they must be tied up with ropes, nets, using string bags, old nylon tights, etc. Thanks to this, the fruits are held on the trellis and are evenly illuminated.
Also, watermelons and melons should be fed several times per season as they grow.
1. The first time to fertilize these plants is necessary immediately after they take root in the open field. This top dressing should include fertilizers containing P, K and N.
2. When the lashes begin to grow, the melons should be fed again. This time, you should use solutions based on organic fertilizers (chicken droppings, manure), to which superphosphate and potassium salts are added.
The fact is that not every variety of table watermelon is suitable for growing in our latitudes. First of all, you need to pay attention not to the yield indicators or the taste of the fruit pulp, but to the ripening period. For the middle lane, those varieties and hybrids are suitable for which the growing season is 70-80 days, that is, early and mid-early. It is also important that the variety is cold-resistant.
We chose a very early variety Twinkle and mid-early - Photon... The fruits of these varieties have different skin colors, so during the harvest we had no doubts which of the varieties turned out to be better.
Watermelon is a southern, thermophilic culture. It will not be possible to grow this plant with a lack of heat, light and moisture.
Soils for watermelon beds are preferable to sandy loam or loamy, light, rich in humus. Heavy, waterlogged soils are unacceptable. The optimal pH value is in the range of 6 - 6.5. Watermelon grows well in areas where legumes and grains, carrots and cabbage were previously grown, but you should not plant watermelons after pumpkins, cucumbers or zucchini. For watermelon, proper crop rotation is important, as the prevention of bacteriosis, a disease transmitted by soil bacteria.
Watermelon is picky about proper watering. Waterlogging will lead to the development of fungal diseases such as gray rot, anthracnose, fusarium. The pulp of a ripe fruit will be loose, with low taste. Plants should not be overmoistened in cool, damp, rainy weather. During the ripening of the fruits, watering is stopped altogether. Watermelon is a drought-resistant plant, however, a lack of moisture can cause drying of the whips, a decrease in yield and fruit weight.
The plant has a powerful tap root system, therefore it does not tolerate stagnant water. The area where the watermelons grow must be well drained. In places where groundwater is close to the surface, it is better to refuse the cultivation of watermelons.
Watermelon is photophilous. Plants should be planted in accordance with the planting scheme for open ground or greenhouses, at the recommended distance between them. No more than one plant is planted in one hole: no more than three watermelons should grow per square meter. It is useful to limit fruiting depending on insolation and humidity conditions. Thickening of the landings should not be allowed.
You don't need to pinch the watermelon.
As I have already said, a watermelon sheds its fruits in adverse weather conditions or any other conditions.
Here are some examples.
Several years ago, my neighbor decided to try to remove what, in her opinion, extra fruits from the pumpkin. She left several large fruits, removing small ones. So what? After a while, the pumpkin dropped 2 large fruits.
This year I tried normalization on one melon plant when I tied the fruit to the ceiling. So what? The melon dropped one of the tied fruits. What does this mean?
Plants, under unfavorable conditions, normalize the number of fruits themselves, shedding excess ovary and leaving only those fruits from which healthy offspring, ripe seeds can be obtained. And the plant can see much better than you and me what kind of fruit to shed. We can be mistaken, and remove the wrong fruit! The plant is not wrong! Even if a couple of fruits do not ripen, we will not become poorer, because the plant did not drop these fruits in the hope of good times! And we? We waited for Indian Summer in September, but it was cold and it was raining! And in October there were 3 warm days +17 degrees, this was the "Indian Summer" this year. But who can know in advance? Although I agree that the fruits set after August 10 should be removed, they either will not ripen, or the watermelon will throw them off, and they will stretch out their strength.
I was promised an article about fruit rationing. It was possible to plant 2 plants on this area, and leave several fruits on each. Okay, but when the tops are intertwined, how do you determine which plant the fruit comes from?
Hopefully the article will be in winter. And you yourself will be able to make a choice - to normalize the fruits or not.