Atwell man grows a 144-pound watermelon

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By Mark Wineka
ATWELL TOWNSHIP — Buddy Edwards, a well-known produce man in these parts, planted his watermelon patch April 13, and he took great care to fertilize and water the Carolina Cross seeds.
Once the melons started to appear, Edwards covered some of the bigger ones with bags or mesh, so they wouldn’t blister in the sun. His version of sunblock, if you will.
A few weeks ago, Edwards realized his patch was growing a whopper, the biggest watermelon he had ever produced. He knew he wouldn’t be able to pick it up when it was ready, so last Thursday he gave that honor to young Justin Waller.
“He’s stout, like I used to be,” Edwards says.
As he hauled it up toward the house, Waller guessed the melon weighed 130 pounds. But when they put it on the scales, it came in at 144 pounds — the size of a healthy middle-schooler.
“I just had a green thumb with that one,” Edwards concluded. “That would make a nice fruit basket, wouldn’t it? But it would cost too much to fill it up.”
Edwards has a notion to enter his watermelon in the contest sponsored by Goodman Farm Supply in China Grove. He says this melon is in the class of those grown in the past by Homer Overcash.
Hearing Sunday that Edwards had a 144-pounder, Overcash was impressed.
“He might want to enter that thing,” Overcash said. “I think there’s a $100 prize.”
Back in 2007, Overcash grew a watermelon that weighed 170 pounds — out of the same variety of seeds. It was on display for three weeks at Goodman Farm Supply and then for a week at the Rowan County Fair, where it won all the prizes.
“And it was good, too,” Overcash says of the big watermelon’s flavor.
The crazy thing about 2007, Overcash says, was that he had 13 watermelons that year coming in at 150 pounds or more. “They were huge,” he recalls.
Overcash didn’t plant any watermelons this year, after he had problems last year with coyotes. Yes, coyotes like watermelon.
Edwards, who lives off Wright Road, says he also had issues with coyotes in years past, but it has helped having his patch closer to the house this season where a German shepherd dog keeps watch.
“Coyotes are bad just to rake over the top of them,” Edwards says, adding they always seem to go after the ripe ones, too.
Edwards’ 144-pound watermelon grew for 98 days. It was the lone melon on its vine, and Edwards says his only secret was good fertilizer and lots of water.
He had another melon that came in at 114 pounds, among several in the patch that were more than 100 pounds.
Edwards definitely plans to save the seed from the big one, hoping he will catch some magic again.
Edwards lives in the house he was born in 73 years ago. He has 40-plus acres, but leases a good portion of the land for soybeans. For his produce stand, he grows mostly sweet potatoes, green beans, okra and watermelon.
Most Saturdays you can find him set up at the Winecoff Road farmers market, and regular customers know to stop in at his house for produce, too.
“I’m here most of the time,” he says. “I like it. It keeps me going.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.