Brazos Bottom Watermelons

By: Joe Brown
By: Joe Brown

“The valley is our Memorial Day crop, this is our 4th of July crop, and West Texas is our Labor Day crop. You got three major holidays on the watermelon season.”

Paul Wiggins strives to have 80% of a watermelon crop into stores to sell prior to one of the major holidays. The techniques used to produce this fruit are sophisticated. Plants are monitored on a weekly basis.

“We pull the last full grown leaf off a runner, so it’s usually about a foot and a half in on a runner, we send it to a lab. They check it for nitrogen, phosphate, pot ash, sodium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, boron, and zinc, and we check all those levels.”

Wiggins puts out about 700 pounds of fertilizer per acre, but he says watermelons probably depend more on micronutrients than on actual fertilizer. He utilizes drip irrigation.

“Our iron level in that leaf depicts moisture level. Your iron is also in the soil in a plant, but it reads what your moisture ‘s doing inside the ground. So if you’re real low on iron, you need more water. If you’re running way too many parts of iron, you’re too wet in the field, so you try to get a happy medium and stay there off your iron level.”

Changes can be made quickly.

“With the drip tape it’s like an IV tube. I keep all the chemicals on site. I’ve got all the micronutrients on site and within three days time I can have it to the roots and have a visual difference on top of the plant.”

A lot of growth occurs in a short period of time.

“From the time we plant out the plant ’til we start harvest is only sixty days, and from the time that you see a small watermelon, just a little bit smaller than a tennis ball, 28 days we’re picking.”

Move over, Hempstead. It looks like Brazos bottom watermelons are here to stay. I’m Joe Brown, taking a look at the journey our food and fiber makes from the farm to our tables, From the Ground Up.

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