Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Ripe watermelons on the field, harvesting. Cut red watermelon.

Machinery and equipment required for watermelon production will vary by a grower’s preferred production method and operation size. The following discussion shares basic machinery and equipment needs for watermelon production. Depending on a grower’s operation size, expertise and previous machinery investments, the grower must determine whether to purchase and operate the equipment, engage a custom service provider or possibly rent and operate the necessary equipment.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

To prepare a watermelon planting site, producers may conduct several machinery operations. In areas with compaction concerns, watermelon roots may be constricted as they attempt to grow. Using a subsoiler can eliminate any hardpan. With a disk and moldboard plow, operations can address crop litter and incorporate it into the soil to facilitate breakdown of that material. Note that running a disk after plowing has the potential to create compaction, so disking shouldn’t follow plowing. Growers who choose to create raised beds for their watermelon planting sites will need equipment to build the raised planting area. To create a raised bed, machinery options include a bed shaper, disk bedder and listers.

If growers choose to lay plastic mulch, then a mulch layer would be required. Because a mulch layer requires a significant investment, engaging a custom operator is an option. To puncture plastic mulch during planting, the equipment needs vary depending on whether an operation plants seed or transplants. With seeds, growers may use a hand corn planter, and with transplants, a bulb setter or waterwheel setter are options. Holes created for watermelon plants should be small. Large holes could encourage weeds to germinate. Unless an operation lays degradable plastic mulch in watermelon fields, the plastic must be removed after the growing season.

During planting, operations that choose to plant seed will benefit from using precision seeding equipment. As an alternative, operations could try plug mix planting, which works particularly well in plastic mulch systems. With plug mix planting, operations formulate a plug mixture of seed, fertilizer, water and growing medium and blend these ingredients in a cement mixer. After letting the mix set for one day to two days, a precision plug mix planter will drop roughly one-eighth to one-half a cup of the mixture per planting location. If an operation opts to grow watermelons from transplants, then planting the transplants requires equipment capable of handling the seedlings and placing them properly in the ground.

From a crop fertility perspective, preplant fertilizer may be applied through a broadcast or banded approach. Alternatively, operations may use a lister to create a trench. The fertilizer would then be inserted into the trench. If an operation chooses to split fertilizer applications between preplanting and post-planting, then a drip irrigation system could supply water-soluble nutrients to watermelon plants as they grow. As another option, operations could supplement nutrient levels with sidedress applications.

For spraying insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and foliar fertilizers, watermelon producers have two options. A boom sprayer uses “arms” to reach across watermelon rows. In contrast, air facilitates carrying a spray into plants with an air-assisted sprayer.

To manage weeds, watermelon growers have several options. For one, removing weeds by hand or hoe can address stubborn weed populations. Mechanical control is an alternative in certain circumstances. For example, preplant disking could help to address perennial weeds, and other mechanical operations can address small weeds. After planting and emergence, mechanical operations should be limited to times before watermelon plants start to send out vines. Mechanical cultivation should avoid disturbing both vines and roots. Harm to either may cause watermelon yields to decline and lead to inhibited crop development. If the operation used a windbreak to limit blowing sand from harming seedlings, then a disk harrow can remove the windbreak. Again, time the removal to when the plants just start to vine. Chemical control is a third method to address weeds. As mentioned earlier, a boom sprayer or air-assisted sprayer can apply herbicide to fields.

At harvest, watermelon operations rely on hand labor. As a result, harvesting and handling tend to represent significant expenses associated with watermelon production. Harvesting involves cutting the watermelon vine to separate the vine from the fruit. During the handling process, watermelon handlers should place the harvested fruit in a wagon or truck bed padded by burlap, carpet or straw. Straw on a wagon or truck bed floor should measure roughly 6 inches deep. The padding provides protection, and it should be free of sand, which can damage watermelon rinds.

If storing watermelons after harvest, then the storage facility’s temperature should range from 50 degrees F to 59 degrees F, and the relative humidity level should range from 85 percent to 90 percent. Those conditions will maximize watermelon storage life. During transportation, good ventilation can help to manage temperatures of watermelon shipments.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Watermelon Production







Moldboard plow


Bed shaper


Fertilizer spreader


Mulch layer


Drip irrigation


Precision planter, plug mix planter or transplanter


Air-assisted or boom sprayer


Mulch lifter


Cold storage


Wagon or trailer



Orzolek, Michael D., William J. Lamont, Lynn F. Kime, Steven M. Bogash and Jayson K. Harper. 2010. Watermelon Production . The Pennsylvania State University. State College, PA 16801.

Saha, Shubin and Matt Ernst. 2014. Watermelon . University of Kentucky. Lexington, KY 40506.

Shrefler, Jim, Lynn Brandenberger, Eric Rebek, John Damicone and Merritt Taylor. Watermelon Production . Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Stillwater, OK 74074.

Suslow, Trevor V. 1997. Watermelon . University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Davis, CA 95616.

University of Georgia. 2017. Commercial Watermelon Production . University of Georgia. Athens, GA 30602.