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Student-grown watermelons, pumpkins to be judged

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia

Growing gigantic award-winning watermelons and pumpkins takes skill, patience and time. Young gardeners across the state are encouraged to plant their seeds now if they plan to win either the annual Georgia 4-H Pumpkin or Watermelon Growing Contest this year.

Gaining knowledge and winning money

The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association sponsors both contests. First place gets $100. Second and third receive $50 and $25 respectively. The first 50 entrants to each contest receive a contest T-shirt.

The goal of the contests is to get Georgia students interested in agriculture and in growing their own crops, said Lindsey Fodor, a Georgia 4-H program assistant and the contests’ coordinator.

Any watermelon variety may be grown, but University of Georgia Cooperative Extension experts highly recommend the Carolina Cross variety.

Monica Walden of Grady County won first place in the 2008 watermelon contest. Her Carolina Cross melon weighed in at 127-pounds.

When it comes to growing pumpkins, UGA experts suggest growing varieties like Atlantic Giant, Big Max, Big Moon, Prizewinner and Connecticut Field. All of the 2008 winners grew Atlantic Giant pumpkins.

Carroll County 4-H’er Matthew Adams made Georgia 4-H history in 2007 when he won the pumpkin contest with a record-setting 580.8-pound pumpkin. He didn’t break his record in 2008, but he still won first place with a 468.8-pound pumpkin.

Weighed by county agents

To enter, a 4-H’er must grow the watermelon or pumpkin and have it weighed by their local UGA Extension agent. The deadline for watermelon contest submissions is Aug. 1. The pumpkin contest deadline is Oct. 1.

The top three state winners for each contest are required to submit a photo of themselves with their humongous harvest. Information about the contests, including photos of the past winners, can be found online at www.georgia4h.org/public/edops/nationalfair/pumpkincontest/.

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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