There are numerous pranks on the world’s largest watermelon. Videos have emerged showing a single watermelon ferried by a truck while others have shown people standing side by side with a huge watermelon. All of these, however, have never been substantiated.
The world’s largest watermelon was grown by Chris Kent, an accountant from Sevierville, East Tennessee. The large fruit weighed 1159 kg (350.5lb) and was declared the largest watermelon by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. The watermelon was 42.5lbs heavier than the previous one set by Gabriele Bartoli.
At the Operation Pumpkin festival, Chris Kent entered his fruit for the competition held in Hamilton, Ohio. Talking about watermelons to Chris is the same as taking a kid to the candy shop. Growing these giant fruits is an art that he is so passionate about. Chris didn’t grow the world’s largest watermelon by mistake. It’s not a simple fruit that sprouted out of his backyard. It’s something he invested time and passion in and lived to enjoy the fruit of his labor if we can say that.
The Journey to Growing the World’s Largest Watermelon
It’s a journey because it’s not grown by mistake. Careful selection of seeds and consideration must be done. Everything has to be right from the seeds, climate, taking care of the fruit and much more. To Chris, this is a journey he can’t stop walking in. Even after growing the World’s Largest Watermelon, he didn’t stop there. He is still growing watermelons hoping to grow the next giant watermelon to break his record.
Choosing and planting the seeds
The journey starts with selecting the best seeds and not just any seeds. Chris uses seeds from the watermelon that reached a gigantic size. To Chris, growing the largest watermelon is like breeding the best, a champion racehorse. The parents of the breed make all the difference. The watermelons must come from parents who grew up to be gigantic and the size has to be in the fruit’s “genetics.”
There are so many seeds to choose from but you have to choose the best according to Chris. He takes seeds from his own seed lines and others from melon growers around the country.
Watermelon seeds are named after the grower who produced the fruit and the weight of the watermelon they came from. For example, the mother of the 350-pound current world record holder produced seeds named 291 Kent.
Before planting, the seeds are soaked in room temperature water for one hour. When soaking is done, Chris plants them in a potting mix. This part of the process is critical since it’s when the plant sprouts. After planting, the seeds spend the first three to four days indoors where the environment is warm about 90 degrees. After three or four days, the seeds sprout and they are now ready to leave the house heading outside.
After sprouting, the seeds have to enjoy the sun and get acclimated to the outside environment ready for maturity. The mid-spring in Tennessee is a bit cold, so Chris made sure the plants spent their days outside and the nights inside. This happens for like two weeks until the weather becomes warm.
The weather turns warm and the future world record holder is planted outside and the journey towards growing into the largest watermelon in the world starts.
Pollinating the Watermelon plants
Remember when we said the parents of this watermelon matter? It still does and pollination is where the father comes in. Pollination is done naturally by the bees. However, this time around, Chris must make sure the pollen pollinating his plants come from the best and highest quality of male flowers. This means he has to do the bee’s work.
Chris hand pollinates the flowers with the highest quality male flower pollen. He also has to do this before the bees get there first. To make sure it happens as planned, once the flowers are open up and ready for pollination, he covers the female flower the night before. The next morning, the flower opens and Chris hand pollinates it with pollen from a high-quality male flower. The job is, however, not done yet. He has to cover the flower to make sure the bees don’t contaminate his breed with pollen from other watermelon flowers.
This process can’t be rushed lest you pollinate the plant during the wrong time. You have to wait for the plant until its large enough to bear fruits.
Taking care of the watermelon
Taking care of the watermelon plants is paramount to growing a champion and a world record holder. This means taking into account the weather, predators, and other risks posed to the plants.
Since there is not much you can do to control the weather, make sure predators can’t come near the fruits. Mice and rabbits are the most common in East Tennessee and they pose a huge risk by chewing on the vines. Believe it or not, Chris uses coyote urine to keep the rabbits at bay and it works! For the mice, you have to catch them. For the bigger animals, fencing the garden is the best option.
Determining the Champion to be
This is when the fruits are all growing and now it’s up to Chris to determine the potential world champion. A watermelon plant has a number of fruits but they can’t all grow on one plant and become champions. Chris has to select the biggest watermelon fruit and cut down the rest. This gives the potential champion all the energy from the plant to grow as large as possible.
After this, all that is remaining is watering and feeding the plants keeping them happy and healthy ready for the weigh-off. When the time comes, the watermelon is harvested then taken to the weigh-off to determine if it has grown to be the champion it deserved to be.
Chris has been planting watermelons for a long time and he now has two records. One that he set back in 2010 and the current one which is unbeaten so far. The World’s Largest Watermelon can be eaten but the large ones aren’t as sweet as compared to the ones you buy at the store.
Seeds from the world’s Largest Watermelon go for as much as $40 for a pack which contains 3 to 4 seeds. The current champion has over 1500 seeds so that’s as much as Chris requires to get ready for the next season.
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