Sunday, March 27, 2011

Watermelon Elementary: Transplanting

It’s that time of year again – watermelon time! This year I’m going to introduce you to a little bit of watermelon farming, similar to my Cotton Elementary series.

Watermelon season begins with planning several months before the mid-March planting time. There are plant numbers to be nailed down, plastic to be ordered, acreage to be planned, and a whole lot of other things to be done that I have no clue about!

More on the plastic later. I haven’t had a chance to get out to follow the bed knocker (I just like saying that) and plastic layer yet, but I will. Watermelons are grown on beds covered with black plastic. I’ll explain more when I have better pictures!

transplanting watermelons 0311 (24)

Watermelons are also transplanted. This means that seeds are planted in a greenhouse, and baby plants are sent to us to put in the ground. When transplanting time comes, we have certain plant delivery dates.

The plants are delivered by semis. We get them styrofoam flats. They are stored in the trailers where they are safe from the wind.

transplanting watermelons 0311 (4)The trailers are taken to the field where the rows of plastic lay heating up the dirt under them. The flats can be removed from here as needed. Look how tiny Blair is!

Below are the baby plants in the flats on the trailer. They’re waiting to be transplanted!

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transplanting watermelons 0311 (5)This is what a flat looks like. Tiny square holes for the plants.

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The tractor pulls the transplanter over the rows.

transplanting watermelons 0311 (50)See the rows of plastic? The rows on the right are about to be filled with baby plants as the tractor makes its way this way.

The transplanter holds six people. They transplant in three rows at a time, two people per row do the transplanting. The transplanter does not go fast at all.

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As the transplanter moves down the row, that big wheel with the spikes punches holes in the plastic. Water also travels down the spike and into the hole at the same time.

transplanting watermelons 0311 (19)One of the spikes is sticking up right under the right water tank. As the transplanter moves forward the wheel turns to that the spikes push into the ground.

transplanting watermelons 0311 (22)This is looking at the spike wheel as it comes towards us. It’s about to punch a hole right there in the shadow. (I’m risking my life for ag education here folks! Nah, not really, this thing moves slooooowly!)

transplanting watermelons 0311 (28)A side view.

transplanting watermelons 0311 (47)See the square hole? It’s wet all around it from the water dripping in through the spike.

transplanting watermelons 0311 (26)And what’s Blair doing? Why punching her own holes, of course!! (She’s not supposed to be doing that.)

Each pair of transplanters takes turns in removing plants from the flat and putting them into their row where the spike punched a hole.

transplanting watermelons 0311 (14)Taking turns…

transplanting watermelons 0311 (34)You can see that this guy is planting one and has a couple more in his other hand.

transplanting watermelons 0311 (36)While he is getting his ready, the other guy takes a turn.

One guy follows behind the transplanter and adjusts any baby plants that didn’t get placed well. He also swaps out the flats when they are empty.

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There is storage on the side of the transplanter so that they have plenty of plants for the round. (A “round” is from one end of the row to the other.)

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And there they are – the little watermelons hopefully loving their new homes!

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More to come on plastic and watering… and whatever else interesting the may come along! Send me your post requests and ask questions! I’ll do my best to answer – or I’ll ask the experts….

15 comments:

Amy Odom said...

This is so much interesting than Research! I had no clue about how watermelons were planted! Can't wait to read more about it!

jmluckie said...

What's the growing time?

Joe said...

Very interesting post. Looking forward to hearing more as the growing season progresses.

Ashlee said...

The growing time to maturity is just over 2 months if it stays sunny and warm... which is more realistically 3 months with some cloudy weather and cooler days like today!

AA said...

I love Watermelon Elementary!! I've been saving it for when I got back and things calmed down. Can't wait to see the plastic part! So interesting!

mountain mama said...

very cool.

and i totally would have had issues with that creepy guy putting his hands in our kids' mouths...how rude! seriously. ick. good for you!

Anonymous said...

I always thought it took more than two months for watermelons to be ready to pick? What type melon do you grow?

Ashlee said...

You are correct. We translplant beginning in late march and harvest starting around mid-june. We grow mostly seedless watermelons, but the specific varieties change each year.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the videos on the watermelons. Your operation is so much larger than I first thought. I Plant 4 or 5 hills of watermelons and cantaloupes each year. I try different types each year. My uncle lived near Thomaston Ga and he grew mostly Charleston Grey melons. He also grew a yellow meat that had a light green rind. It was really sweet. I order my seeds from Baker Seeds, they carry lots of heritage type seeds. Good luck with your melons this year. I can't wait to show my 95 year old father the watermelon videos.

Anonymous said...

Hi, what happens to the plastic in the watermelon fields when it is time to plant a different crop in that field? thanks.

Ashlee said...

The plastic is very thin and biodegradable. After harvest, the drip supplies are taken up and the plastic is harrowed along with what's left of the rows and plants.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ashlee, thanks for answering all of my crazy questions. Just wanted to wish you the best with your family and with the baby. walterkendrick@bellsouth.net

Anonymous said...

Hi, a handmade tool used in my area is called a clod-knocker. It was made from a tree limb, limb cut down for handle and a piece of wood carved to look like giant hammer head, the two piece connected and it was used to go thru the field and bust the big clods of dirt. I saw where you like to say the phrase used to break up the soil. What phase of the watermelon process are you in now??

Ashlee said...

Right now we are turning back vines, plowing weeds between rows in young watermelons, and watering A LOT!

bvaldez said...

Hey what is this plastic called and does it prevent weeds from emerging...we have been planting watermelons in drip for a couple of years and weeds become a problem around the tape. I am interested in learning more about your operation.