• 55°

Master Gardeners expecting smaller melons in annual watermelon growing contest

“What a melon.”

That’s what Lincoln County fourth graders are likely to hear when they bring their best Congo watermelons for the Master Gardeners to judge Aug. 5 at the Brookhaven Exchange Club Fair.

Entries for the Lincoln County Master Gardeners’ annual contest will be accepted 4-6 p.m. at the former livestock shed near the entrance to the fair. The winner will be announced at 6:01 p.m.

Growing the biggest melon can bring a top prize of $100, said gardening enthusiast and club member Steve Edge. Second place earns $50 and the third place winner gets $25. Watermelons are judged on their weight.

The Master Gardeners distributed about three pounds of Congo watermelon seeds — that’s about 18,000 seeds — to more than 540 fourth graders several months ago. Now it’s time to reap what they sowed, he said.

Congo watermelons do well in Lincoln County soil and take about 90 days from planting to picking. They’re a sweeter melon than most, with white seeds, he said.

It’s not your typical watermelon that can be purchased at area fruit stands or grocery stores, which makes it a good contest melon, he said.

Edge urges all fourth graders who planted their seeds to enter the contest Aug. 5, no matter what size their entry may be. He said last year’s winner was over 20 pounds, but this year’s crop probably won’t be nearly that heavy.

“This growing season has been cooler and wetter than normal.  I expect the watermelons to be smaller than normal this year,” he said. “It’s been a cool summer. It’s much cooler than we normally see. Watermelon likes hot weather.”

The club received 11 entries last year. He anticipates a few more this time around.

“I know there are kids out there who have got them growing,” he said. “Every year we get a few more.”