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.

1

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

Tags: , , ,
Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

GROWING THE WORLD’S LARGEST WATERMELON (PART THREE): THEY GROW UP SO FAST

July 21st, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

You know how parents always say that their kids grow up too fast? One day, they’re barely walking and, before you know it, they’re off to college. The same is true when it comes to growing giant watermelons. Only they don’t go to college — they go to the state fair and win blue ribbons.

When we last talked to Chris Kent — the man who holds the Guinness World Record for the largest watermelon (350 pounds in 2013) — his current crop hadn’t even sprouted gumball-sized fruit. One month later? Well, take a look below, and see for yourself.

HOW ARE THE WATERMELONS DOING? HOW BIG ARE THE MELONS RIGHT NOW?

The watermelons are doing well! In our last blog entry, we were setting fruit on the plants, now — 30 days later — we have melons that are about 120 pounds. Here’s a recent picture with a gallon-sized milk jug for reference.

Picture1

HOW HAS THE WEATHER BEEN? IS IT A GOOD SEASON FOR WATERMELON GROWING?

We had one setback, with a week of cloudy, rainy weather that slowed the growth, but overall, the weather has been good, and the plants are growing well.

DO YOU HAVE TO WORRY YET ABOUT ANIMALS OR OTHER RISKS TO THE WATERMELON? IF SO, HOW ARE YOU PREVENTING IT?

Yes, I do. I’ve had problems in the past with rabbits and mice chewing on the plant vines. I once lost a vine with a melon on it due to a rabbit chewing it in half once it was too late to start over. A fellow grower told me to get some coyote urine from a hunting supply store to chase the rabbits away. Believe it or not, it works!

The mice don’t care about the coyote urine, though, so you have to catch them, and that takes time. It’s an all-season process. Luckily, this year has been good. I’ve only seen a few rabbits, and no damage.

WHAT SPECIFIC TACTICS DO YOU USE TO KEEP ANIMALS AWAY FROM THE PLANTS?Picture2

I have a fence around my entire patch to keep the big animals away. There are horses on one side that put their head over and eat my grass. They don’t eat melon vines, but they will eat watermelons, so I have to keep the melons out of their range. The old saying “the grass is greener on the other side” is true with me, since my grass gets the water runoff from my melons and is bigger and greener!

WHAT’S NEXT? WHAT WILL HAPPEN BETWEEN NOW AND OUR NEXT UPDATE IN MID-AUGUST?

Over the next month, I’ll be settling into a maintenance role, keeping the plants happy and healthy. I have to spray each week for bugs and disease, and feed the plants. And, if it doesn’t rain, I keep them watered. I basically look for and prevent problems.

We still have two months of growth to get to the end, and if you lose one before it’s done growing, you won’t get a chance to have that winning melon. I have to cross the finish line to win, but, so far, things are looking good!

UP NEXT: A recipe that makes breakfast fun again

Remember: All comments left on the blog this month are entered to win our THREE weekly National Watermelon Month July prizes, so comment as often as you’d like! 

————

Don’t forget to enter our 2015 Watermelon Carving Contest! We still need plenty of entries in the “Beginner” category, so all you new carvers should definitely enter for a chance to win. The deadline for entries is 11:59 PM on August 3. There are $4,000 in prizes and the first 25 entrants will receive a Dexas watermelon cutting board. Check out the official contest web page for categories, judging criteria and how to enter!

Tags: , ,
Posted in General | Leave a Comment »

GROWING THE WORLD’S LARGEST WATERMELON (PART TWO): DOING A BEE’S JOB

June 19th, 2015 by The Watermelon Guy

pic

Last month, I introduced you to Chris Kent, a man from Tennessee who has the greenest thumb in the world when it comes to growing giant watermelon. Chris earned that distinction because the 350-pound Carolina Cross that he grew in 2013 is the Guinness World Record-holder for the largest watermelon ever grown. (That’s him with the record-holder on the right.)

1

Chris has agreed to let me tag along with a series of blog entries about his 2015 crop and chronicle his efforts to break that world record. A lot has happened in the past 30 days, and the watermelon plants have grown from a few tiny sprouts to a series of sprawling vines that are slowly taking over Chris’s backyard.

In the photo at the top of this entry, you can see the 291 Kent watermelon plant, which was photographed in the first blog entry. Chris describes this plant as “a great plant, with vines going in all directions.”

POLLINATING THE PLANTS

There are currently 10 plants that Chris is focusing his attention on. This past weekend, Chris started pollinating the flowers on the plants. Pollination usually occurs naturally by bees, which transport pollen from a male flower and spread it to a female flower. Championship watermelon growers like Chris, however, hand pollinate the flowers so that he can use pollen from only the highest quality male flowers.

To do that, Chris covers the female flower the night before and, when the flower opens the next morning, he pollinates it with pollen from a top-notch male flower. He then covers the female flower again, to prevent bees from bringing pollen in from other watermelon flowers. (Below is a picture of one of Chris’s female flowers that is open and read to be pollinated.)

1

The pollination process has begun on some of Chris’s plants, but not all of them.

“Not all plants are ready to set fruit yet. I have to wait until the plant is large enough to bear fruit, because it’s not an easy process,” explained Chris. “Two weeks after the flower appears, the plant must be able to put on more than five pounds of weight per day on the watermelon. They grow very fast, and will be over 100 pounds before they are 30 days old.”

In the meantime, there’s plenty of daily upkeep. Chris trains the vines to go in various directions. “I don’t want them all bunched up,” said Chris. “I like to spread them out.” If there’s no rain and the weather is hot, the plants need to be watered daily. A full grown plant needs 20 gallons of water each day, in addition to plant food and soil amendments.

In next month’s blog entry, we’ll discuss how Chris keeps rabbits, mice and other critters away from his plants. We’ll also talk about how he determines which watermelon have Guinness  potential, and which ones to cut off the vine to give the biggest ones the best chance at becoming the next world record-holder.

UP NEXT: An interview with a watermelon carver

Remember, all comments left on the blog this month are entered to win our June prize – a set of watermelon dip bowls – so comment as often as you’d like! 

Tags: , , ,
Posted in General | 1 Comment »

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.”

ll

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

Tags: , , ,
Posted in General | 3 Comments »