Gardening

How to plant water squash

Benincasa hispida

The water pumpkin, which can also be known as winter melon, is an annual tropical vine originally grown in Southeast Asia. Being able to reach 6 m in length, this plant, similar to a pumpkin, produces fruits that are initially covered with fine hair, becoming smooth and waxed when ripe. The fruits, depending on the cultivar, can be rounded or cylindrical and can weigh from 2 kg to more than 30 kg when ripe, and they can be consumed at any stage of development. Immature fruits have a slightly stronger flavor than ripe fruits, which are juicy and have a very mild flavor. Very young fruits, just over a week old, can be used for preserving. The most developed immature fruits and the ripe fruits can be eaten raw or can be prepared in different ways. The tips of the branches, the youngest leaves and the flowers can be eaten cooked or sautéed. The seeds can be eaten roasted or boiled.

Climate

It grows best with temperatures between 24 ° C and 32 ° C. This plant does not support low temperatures.

Brightness

It can be grown in direct sunlight or in partial shade, as long as the light is good.

Ground

The soil must be well drained, fertile and rich in organic matter. The ideal soil pH is between 5.8 and 6.4.

Irrigation

Irrigate in order to keep the soil always moist at the beginning of planting. Well-developed plants can withstand relatively short periods of drought.

Planting

The water squash is propagated from its seeds, which can be sown in the final place or in sowing, bags for seedlings or small pots, with the seedlings being transplanted when they reach 15 to 20 cm in height. Seed germination normally occurs within 3 weeks. Seeds left on blotting paper or other absorbent paper, kept moist and at temperatures around 28 ° C, germinate in a few days.

The spacing between the plants varies a lot with the water pumpkin cultivar and with the cultivation method and conditions, ranging from 1 m to 6 m between plants, being greater for low growing and plants that generate large fruits, and smaller for tutored cultivation and plants whose fruits will be harvested while still small.

Cultivation

This plant can be grown low or can grow on fences, trellises and arbor, but in these cases the fruits must be supported in some way, for example, with a net, as the stems may not support the weight of the fruits. If very large fruits are desired, it is best to grow the plants on the ground.

Especially at the beginning of cultivation, remove invasive herbs that are competing for resources and nutrients.

Each plant has male flowers and separate female flowers and the presence of pollinating insects is necessary for pollination and fruiting to occur.

Another precaution that can be taken is to place a bed of straw, wood or other material under each fruit that is growing on creeping plants, so that they are not in direct contact with the soil.

Harvest

The harvest of the water pumpkin starts 100 to 160 days after planting, depending on the planted cultivar, the cultivation conditions and the desired stage of fruit development for the harvest. Ripe fruits, thanks to their firm waxed skin, can be stored for several months to up to a year.

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