Sunday, May 20, 2012

Watermelon Fever




We will begin loading watermelons here at Smith Quality Produce in a few days, and watermelon fever is beginning to break out around here.  This is a condition that exhibits itself in daily excursions to the field to bring home the ripest watermelon you can find, then cutting it only to find that it's still green.  The only way to cure watermelon fever is to cut a ripe watermelon of course.

10 more days!

While we're in the clutches of this ailment, I thought that I would share how we got to this point.  It all begins with bedding the ground and laying plastic mulch.  The plastic serves two purposes.  The first is to warm the soil so the plants will get a fast start.  The second is to serve as a barrier to sunlight to inhibit weed germination under the plastic.  Most of our fields are watered with an overhead irrigation system.  If not, we lay drip tape underneath the plastic at this time.
Me riding the plastic machine

Next comes the transplanting of the actual plants.  Workers ride a waterwheel transplanter, which punches a hole in the plastic and puts water in the hole.  The worker manually puts the plant in the ground and firms the soil around it.

The next several weeks bring an increasing amount of activity.  The fields are plowed twice before the vines get long enough to prohibit further plowing.  The plants must be watered often, because we all know it takes lots of water to make a watermelon.  Weekly fungicide applications must be made to prevent various diseases that thrive in the same hot wet conditions that cause watermelons to flourish.  As the vines grow, they must be turned back weekly from access roads throughout the field that will be used at harvesting.

Growing,...
...growing,..

...grown!  Healthy vines make...
...lots of watermelons!
Christy with an outbreak of watermelon fever
All this work is happening during one of our busiest times of the year, spring planting.  Besides the 175 acres of watermelons we grow, our farm also has 1100 acres of peanuts and 1200 acres of cotton this year.  Both these crops are planted simultaneously, and it takes all that Jon, Daddy, and I can do to get them planted.  Luckily, we have an outstanding farm manager for our watermelon crop...and I'm married to her!  Christy grew up on a watermelon farm and knows all the ins and outs of the business.  She does most of the day to day work herself, and oversees the rest of it. If you know her, you know she is truly the watermelon queen!

And all that work combines to bring on an outset of watermelon fever.  It usually lasts for about 10 days, then it begins to subside as enough melons get ripe enough to harvest.  I hope the next time you are enjoying a cold, delicious slice of watermelon, you will think about all the work that goes into growing it.  Then again, if we've done our job, you won't be able to think of anything other than how delicious it is!
Alyssa & Logan enjoying the fruits of our labors!

2 comments:

  1. Very interesting post!! Loved to watch the process!!! It must be nice having access to all that watermelon in the summer time ;)

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