GROWING THE WORLD’S LARGEST WATERMELON (PART FIVE): HARVESTING AND COMPETING

October 1st, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

When we last spoke with Chris Kent—who holds the Guinness World Record for the largest watermelon (350 pounds in 2013)—he was heading into the final full month of the growing season and getting his giant watermelons ready for the competition circuit.

Here’s an update from Chris on what he was up to in September and what lies ahead this month.

HAVE YOU HARVESTED THE WATERMELONS YET? WHEN WAS THAT DONE, OR WHEN WILL YOU DO THAT?

Yes! I’ve been picking the watermelons since the end of August. As each competition comes around, I pick a melon and take it to the weigh-off site. So far, I’ve been to a competition in Cullman, Alabama. That watermelon (below) weighed in at 220 pounds and finished second overall. I donated that watermelon to a local distillery for a display promoting their watermelon moonshine.

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On September 9, I took another watermelon (below) to the Tennessee State Fair and placed second with a weight of 225 pounds. Breyers_logo_2009

Also in September, I traveled to a farm called Bear Wallow in Kentucky for a competition and placed second again with a watermelon weighing 231 pounds. I also just returned from Elkin, North Carolina. The competition there was pretty tough, and even though my melon weighed 238 pounds, I still finished third.

HOW WAS THIS GROWING SEASON FOR YOU? ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE RESULTS?

It’s hard to say. My biggest watermelons are yet to come. The weather has been very good to me this year. Many top growers were not so lucky and have had poor or even no melons.


HOW DO YOU DETERMINE THE BEST TIME TO HARVEST THE WATERMELONS? 

I usually harvest when they’re done growing and also when the different competitions are. I try to time them just right, but if you’re off by a week or so it’s usually no problem.

I want the watermelon to gain as much as possible, and as soon as you pick it, it starts to lose weight, which is why I usually pick the watermelon the night before a competition. Some of the competitions are really close. I lost the Kentucky competition by ONE POUND. If I had one more growing day, I might have won!

WHAT’S NEXT? WHAT SHOWS OR COMPETITIONS ARE COMING UP? HOW MANY COMPETITIONS WILL YOU ENTER? 

I have two more competitions on the schedule. One in Allardt, Tennessee on October 3 and the North Carolina State Fair on October 13. I’ve been close in most of my competitions so far, so I hope to get a win in one of those!

UP NEXT: OUR OCTOBER PRIZE

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GROWING THE WORLD’S LARGEST WATERMELON (PART FOUR): ENTERING THE HOME STRETCH

August 20th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

It’s been a long summer for Chris Kent, the man who holds the Guinness World Record for the largest watermelon. His watermelons have endured cloudy weather, mice, hungry horses and all sorts of other obstacles, but the final month of the growing season is upon us.

Chris took a break from tending to his champion fruit to answer a few questions about what’s happened in his watermelon patch over the past month.

When we last checked in with you, the watermelons were close to 120 pounds. How are they looking 30 days later?

It’s been a hectic 30 days. There has been a lot of time spent feeding, watering, and spraying the plants. A few of my plants didn’t produce melons of the size and growth needed for competition, so those will be for eating.

For eating? Do giant watermelon taste just as good as regular-sized watermelon?

Oh yeah, they taste great! And they’re bigger, so there’s a lot more of them to go around!

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Have you been able to determine which specific melon will be your biggest?

It looks like the race is down to two melons (above). They’re both from a cross I made last season between two seeds from 300-pound melons. They’ve been growing well and are close in estimated weights. One is ahead by about 20 pounds, but I’ll have to wait until the end to see which will be larger, because a lot can happen over the next month.

Once you determine your potential world record holder, what happens with the other watermelon? Do you focus all of your attention of the biggest melon, or do you keep tending to the other melons, too?

I have five main weigh-offs that I attend each fall from early-September to mid-October and each melon can only be entered in one weigh-off, so I need five good melons for competition season. For that reason, I keep caring for all watermelons that show promise. Too many times I’ve had one that I didn’t think would do well, but they come back and surprise me. But, yes, the biggest and best watermelon does get the best and first care!

What’s coming up in the next 30 days (mid-August through mid-September) for the watermelons? When will you harvest them?

I’ll still be doing everything I can to add pounds and keep them growing and healthy for the next month. The main weigh-off is on September 19 in Kentucky, so I’ll harvest one of the watermelon for that. There’s also an earlier weigh-off on September 8 at the Tennessee State Fair in Nashville that I sometimes attend.

At this point, I don’t think I’ll break my world record with this year’s crop, but I think I’m still in the running for the 2015 world title. I don’t want to say what my biggest watermelons currently weigh, because many growers keep their weights a secret. There’s a lot of competition in this game, and we don’t want to show our cards before the big showdown!

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GROWING THE WORLD’S LARGEST WATERMELON (PART ONE): PLANTING THE SEEDS

May 20th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

Christopher Kent knows a thing or two about growing giant watermelons. Mainly because the 350-pound Carolina Cross he grew in 2013 is officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest watermelon (that’s Chris with it on the right). Chris grows giant watermelon every year, and this year he’s agreed to let us tag along in a series of monthly blog entries showcasing his attempt to set a new world record.ll

The giant watermelons are grown at Chris’s home in the small town of Sevierville, Tennessee, about 15 minutes outside of Knoxville. He’s been growing watermelon since 2008 and, from the beginning, he’s had a natural green thumb. Just two years later, in 2010, Chris produced a 290-pound world record holder and he hasn’t looked back since.

CHOOSING THE SEEDS

The process for growing the world’s largest watermelon starts with the seeds, but not just any seeds. Chris (and other giant watermelon growers like him) use seeds from the Carolina Cross variety of watermelon and only from specific watermelons that have reached gargantuan proportions. In some ways, growing the world’s largest watermelon is a lot like breeding a champion race horse — who the parents are makes all the difference.

“There are many seeds to choose from. Always too many it seems,” said Chris about the process. “Some are my own seed lines. Some are from other great growers from around the country.”

The seeds are named according to the weight of the watermelon they came from and the last name of the grower who produced it. The seeds that made the cut this year included the 291 Kent (the mother of the current 350-pound record holder), the champion 350 Kent, a 199 Mudd from a grower in Kentucky, a 169 Cantrell from a fellow Tennessee grower, and a 251 Kent from Chris’s 2014 crop.

“The 199 Mudd is from one of Frank Mudd’s watermelons. It’s a very good, proven seed,” said Chris. “The 169 Cantrell has a lot of potential, but it’s unproven. We’ll see how that one does.”

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PLANTING THE SEEDS

The seeds are soaked in water for an hour and then planted in potting mix. For Chris, that part of the process started in mid-April. They’ll spend the first few days indoors in a warm environment of about 90 degrees, and the seeds will sprout in three to four days. Once they’ve sprouted, they’ve leave Chris’s home and head outside.

“They need to enjoy the sun and get acclimated as much as possible to the outdoors,” said Chris. “They’ll spend their days outside and the nights inside since our mid-spring here in Tennessee was kind of cool.”

Chris brought the sprouts inside and outside for about two weeks (that’s the 291 Kent above after it was transplanted outdoors). At the beginning of May, the weather turned warm in Seviersville, and the tiny future giants were planted outside to begin their journey toward hopefully growing into the biggest watermelon in the world.

Stay tuned for another update next month about Chris’s watermelons. In our next blog entry, we’ll talk with Chris about the daily care of the plants and his process for identifying which ones might be potential future record-holders.

UP NEXT: A fantastic watermelon salad

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