1980 - Volume #4, Issue #4, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
There's Big Money In Big Watermelons
If you're just interested in large melons rather than record-breaking ones, the Brights will sell you seeds for 160 to 180 lb. melons for $10 per dozen, or seeds in the 120 to 1301b. class for $2 per dozen.
The Brights and their neighbors have been growing giant-size watermelons in the Hope, Ark., area for years, making it the world's "Giant Watermelon Capitol". Nearly 50 years ago, a 195 lb. melon was grown there. The Brights grew a 178 lb. champion in 1977, then followed with their world champion 200 pounder two years later. It all began in the early 1920's with the advent of growing contests to stimulate competition. Melons over 100 lbs. became common. For the last decade, growers have been shooting for the 200 lb. mark. Now that it's been achieved, they've set their sights still higher.
"A champion watermelon is not grown by a secret formula. It's just the result of the right combination of management and growing conditions," says Bright. "But you have to start with the right variety."
The Bright champion melon was a cross between a long striped melon, Carolina Cross, and a round green melon, Cobb Gem. It was grown in a field where giant melons have been common for a number of years. Key management steps are as follows:
Disc the land and broadcast fertilizer.
Plant as early as possible. (The champion melon was planted on April 21).
Space the hills 12 ft. apart.
Irrigate the field if it's dry.
After melons start to form, re move all but one from each vine.
Keep weeds under control, and turn each melon frequently to keep it from rotting on the side toward the ground.
Bright's champion watermelon was picked on August 26, a little more than four months after it was planted.
Hope watermelon growers have a lot of other tips about growing, some of which are scientific, and some are folklore. One grower who has raised local champions, insists that some of his success is due to plowing his fields barefoot. Back in the 20's, some growers added more weight to mature melons by feeding them sugar water through a wick. Ivan says that it's essential to keep moving melons when they get large to get some slack in the vines.
Why grow giant watermelons, anyway? Part of the answer is just for the fun and the rivalry with other growers. But there's also big money in big melons for use in exhibits and promotions, and for eating. Ivan says they're remarkably tasty and sell well at roadside stands. Giant melons bring a premium price, from $20 to $50, depending on size and quality.
The Brights also offer a 58-page book, "Producing Giant Watermelons", for $3, including a dozen watermelon seeds.
For any of these materials, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ivan Bright, Route 2, Box 55, Hope, Ark. 71801.
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