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Faith, fertilizer work wonders in man's melon patch
Big Melon 1 es
Luke Samples, 10 months old, sits in front of one of his father’s large watermelons. Chris Samples grew the melons this year in his north Forsyth garden. - photo by Emily Saunders

big melons audio

Listen to Chris Samples talk about his melon growing methods.
Chris Samples’ watermelon patch stands as a testament to what prayers and a little cow manure can do.

This year, Samples, a 37-year-old electrician, planted three watermelon vines on about a 10th of an acre in his shady north Forsyth garden.

He watered them in, fertilized with some cow manure and 10-10-10, then left them in the Lord’s hands.

“I planted ’em, and God grows ’em. I give it all to him,” Samples said Monday afternoon as he looked at four gigantic oblong watermelons piled under a shade tree.

“I watered some when I set them out,” he said. “After that, I didn’t touch ‘em. I know you’re supposed to, but I just didn’t have time.

“You know you’re supposed to pull all off but one. But this one, this one, this one and two 70 pounds come off one vine.”

Not bad for a first time melon farmer.

Samples’ overall yield included a small crop of Kolb’s Gem watermelons that averaged about 70 pounds each. His largest Carolina Cross melons turned out to be two 65-pounders, one 85-pounder and a 93-pounder that measures about 28 inches in length and 4 feet around.

Both the Kolb and Carolina varieties of seed typically yield melons up to 100 pounds.

Still, Samples never expected his ground would produce something that weighs several times more than his 10-month old son, Luke.

“Not on my first try,” he said. “This is really the first year I’ve tried to grow big ones.”

The sheer size of Samples’ melons has been a source of some good-natured ribbing from his co-workers, Tim McGinnis and Jerry Grizzle.

“Those are some big melons,” McGinnis said, grinning.

Added Grizzle: “I’ve never seen any that big.”

So far, the watermelons are the only overgrown produce to come from Samples’ garden, which also includes corn, squash, tomatoes and other vegetables.

“There are watermelons that you can buy that are bred to be larger than others,” said Jan VandeVelde, Forsyth County Master Gardener coordinator.

VandeVelde, part of the Forsyth County Extension Service horticulture staff, said the state’s largest watermelon grown by 4-H club members this year was a 127-pound Carolina Cross. The second largest weighed 122 pounds, the third 95.

According to the National Watermelon Promotion Board, Bill Carson of Arrington, Tenn., holds the world record for the largest watermelon. He grew a 262-pound Carolina Cross in 1990.

Samples isn’t interested in breaking records. He grew this year’s crop just to give away.

“Most of them I gave away,” he said. “I’ll probably give these away, except one.  Matter of fact, I’ve about got them all gave away.”

But there’s always next year, and with a little more divine intervention and cow manure, who knows what his garden will grow?

“I might try again,” Samples said. “I’ll put a little more into it next year.”

Staff Photographer Emily Saunders contributed to this report.