Watermelons are a member of the Cucurbitacceae family which includes squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, muskmelons, and gourds. Individual plants produce both male and female flowers and fruit sizes varies from 2 to 14kg, depending on variety. However, seedless varieties will require pollinators. Watermelon leaves are dark green, with prominent veins. They have three large lobes, each further divided into small lobes. Watermelon leaves are heart shaped with three to seven lobes per leaf and are produced on trailing vines.
Selecting the best watermelon variety is the most important decision made by any producer. Planting a variety watermelons that is not suited for the available market and the particular production situation leads to lower profits or possibly crop failure. In addition to market acceptability, a variety must have an acceptable yield, be adapted to the production area and have the highest level of needed pest resistance available.
The major watermelon varieties and types produced are Charleston, Gray Strains, Crimson Sweet, Jubilee, All sweet, Royal Sweet, Sangria, Triploid Seedless, and Black Diamond types.
Watermelons are sensitive to cold temperatures and even a mild frost can severely damage the crop. The best average temperature range for watermelon production during the growing season is between 18°C and 35°C. Temperatures above 35°C or below 10°C will slow the growth and maturation of the crop.
Watermelons row best on non-saline sandy loam or silt loam soils. Light – textured fields warm up faster in the spring and are therefore favored for early production. Very sandy soils have limited water – holding capacities and must be carefully irrigated and fertilized to allow for high yield potential. The soil should have a pH of ,8 to 6,6.
In the winter rainfall area watermelons are planted in September and October, in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Lowveld from June to August, and in the rest of the country from August to October. The crop matures 3 months after planting, and the yield varies from five to 72 t/h.a.
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Lavender is a perennial bushy shrub growing 0,3 to 1,2m high. True lavender has a compact and rounded growth form. The aromatic evergreen leaves are completely opposite and up to 5cm long. Flowering occurs in the summer and flowers form interrupted spikes and have a very sweet fragrance.
LAVENDER – TEMPERATURE
The Lavender product can tolerate moderate frost and drought. Spike lavender cannot tolerate frost. All lavenders are sensitive to high humidity. High summer temperatures adversely affect oil quality.
Because there are such variable types of lavender, some grow well in different climatic zones from cold to subtropical. Different varieties should be tested to see which will grow best in each micro-climate.
LAVENDER – SOIL
Lavender requires well-drained light, sandy, or sandy loam, or gravelly soils nin full sun. Low- fertility soils are still suitable. Soil pH should be between 5,8 and 8,3. Too moist soils will cause poor plant growth, diseases or kill the plant.English lavenders prefer alkaline soils, whereas the lavandin varieties require slightly more acidic soils.
LAVENDER – PLANTING
The Lavender product is normally planted in row widths of 1,2 to 2,0m apart, with 30 to 60cm between plants. This gives a plant density of 8000 to 28000 plant per hectare. Spacing is done according to available moisture and species, and cultivar size as well as mechanical cultivation and harvesting.
Higher densities mean higher establishment costs but also higher early yields. Plants also tend to support each other, so are more stable and last longer. A good vigorous plantation should be ready for harvest in the second year. Lavender plants can last for 10 to 15 years or longer if managed correctly. Seedlings should be hardened off before being put into the land.
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Basil is an erect herbaceous annual plant, or sometimes grown as a short- lived perennial in some areas. It grows into a bushy shape up to about 50cm tall and some varieties may even grow taller. The stems are herbaceous in young tissue. However, these become woody as the plant matures. Basil Farming has good returns and easy to grow.
BASIL FARMING – PROPAGATION
Propagation is from seed but cuttings can also be planted. Commercial growers will plant basil seed by direct sowing or what is more common is to make seedlings in a protected environment or greenhouse and plant these out after three or four weeks.
BASIL FARMING – PLANTING
Planting of basil seedlings is done by hand and mechanically. Direct sow 10cm in the row to ensure a full stand of basil. Thin out later to the desire plant density. Plants should be spaced30cm apart in rows that are 50cm apart. This is between 65 000 and 67 000 basil plants per hectare. Some commercial farmers increase plant density between 80 000 to 100 000 plants per hectare.
BASIL FARMING – IRRIGATION
The Basil plant is very sensitive to moisture stress so it is very important to keep soil at the optimum capacity advised for the type of soil. Install moisture readers for constant monitoring. Stress will bring on flower, which is detrimental to production. Basil can be irrigated by sprinkler or drip. Drip is, however, best as it keeps the leaves dry. Wet foliage can cause fungus growth, which damages the leaves. Depending on the weather and temperature basil can grow on about 40mm of irrigation per week.
BASIL FARMING – GROWTH
From the time the basil seeds are planted to when the first harvest can be done is about ten weeks. Thereafter the basil can be harvested twice more. Cut the basil 15cm above the ground allowing enough stem for re – growth.
BASIL FARMING – FERTILIZATION
Do not over fertilize as this will hasten maturity and flowering. Fertilize according to soil analysis done on the soil prior to planting. About 200 to 300kg of 3.1.5 when plants are about 20cm high should be ample until the first harvest.
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Butternut is a tasty, orange squash that is very popular in our South African gardens and kitchens. Also in oven roasts, rocket salads, as a mash, or even as a creamy soup.
Farmers growing butternuts from seedlings can get around 20t – 30t per hectare with appropriate spacing and irrigation. Harvesting takes place a month after the fruits have set and once the fruits show hardening of the outer skins. The butternut fruits are harvested before they are fully ripe in order to ensure maximum yield.
Butternuts can be stored for up to 90 days in rooms away from direct sunlight and with good ventilation between the fruits. To ensure a long storage life, it is important to cure the fruits. This can be done on the field for a period of about 12 days in warm weather without rain. Or in rooms using artificial heating to ensure temperatures of around 26°C and humidity of 78 to 82%.
The crop can be propagated in many types of soil but performs best in organically rich soil with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.6. It is essential to transplant the seedling to well- drained soil. Clay soil can be a suitable medium but water logging can lead to lower crop yield and dirty fruits. The plant is sensitive to frost and it is best to avoid planting it on fields at risk of experiencing frost.
It is possible to grow up to 30 000 plants per hectare. Spacing of 30 to 40cm should be maintained between the butternut seedlings and 1,2m between rows.
The plant has a deep root system, making it necessary to water deep and well. A certain level of drought stress can be handled, but it is best to keep the soil moist. Sufficient irrigation is needed during the growth period to ensure sufficient water around the root Zone for optimal nutrient uptake and good fruit setting.
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Radishes are a hardy, very easy-to-grow root vegetable that can be planted multiply times in a growing season. Plus, radishes can be harvested as soon as three weeks after planting.
Grow radishes in full sun or partial shade. Plant radishes in loose, well-drained soil. Remove soil lumps, rocks, and roots from radish planting beds. Obstructions can cause roots to grow malformed. Add organic matter to planting beds before sowing radishes. Radishes prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.8.
Radishes can be grown for spring or winter crops. Spring varieties are the common small red varieties. Winter radishes are larger, oblong, and can grow 8 to 9 inches long.
- Cherry Belle – 22 days.
- Burpee White – 25 days.
- Black Spanish – 55 days.
- White Chinese – 60 days.
Spring radishes require 20 to 30 days to reach harvest. Winter radishes require 50 to 60 days to reach harvest. Radishes are ready for harvest when roots reach 1 inch across. Lift the whole plant when radishes are the right size. Lift a few or push the soil aside gently to decide if they are large enough to harvest. Do not leave radishes in the ground too long or they will become pithy.
Water & Feeding
Keep radish planting beds moist but not wet. Even, regular watering will result in quick growth. Radishes that receive too little water will become woody tasting. Prepare planting beds with aged compost. Side dress radishes with aged compost at mid season.
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