Join us at the Albemarle County Fair

Time is now for planning to attend and thinking about what you will enter in the Albemarle County Fair 

The Albemarle County Fair needs your help! It’s as easy as showcasing your gardening, crafts, and artistic skills. Get involved. Have fun with your children and grandchildren.

Check out all the categories in the Home Arts: Fine Arts, photography, needle work, baking, preserving; Agriculture/Horticulture, including vegetables, fruits, flowers, Beer, Wine, Honey,……the list is endless. Then there are the Special categories: Celebrity Scarecrows, Mr. & Mrs. Potato, Wind chimes, Jar Arts and Crafts

For ideas, tips, detailed schedule and rules, please visit

Drop off all entries at the Home Arts and Agriculture building, Wednesday, August 3rd, 4-8 pm.

Judging will be done the next day.

Here is the story of one teenager, Anne Dickie, who was the 2015 Grand Champion Blue Ribbon winner for her giant watermelon and pumpkin. Read her story and note the research she did and how much she learned through this process!

Growing Giant Pumpkins and Watermelons

By Anne Dickie

Anne Dickie's 2015 Grand Champion Blue Ribbon watermelon

Anne Dickie’s 2015 Grand Champion Blue Ribbon watermelon

For as long as I can remember, our family has always enjoyed planting a garden and entering items in the Albemarle County Fair. Each year we always experiment with different seeds in the garden, including last year when I decided to try growing giant pumpkins and watermelons.

Ahead of planting time, I purchased the seeds. Checking the garden’s soil is another important step. While our soil was perfect for growing pumpkins and watermelons, research shows your soil should be neutral or slightly acidic for growing these items. Adding fertilizer such as rotting cow manure is also suggested.

Next, I started the seeds indoors in the early spring so they would be ready to plant outdoors after the fear of frost had passed (and ready to harvest in August for the fair). In May, I moved the seedlings to the garden, choosing a sunny spot in well-drained soil that allowed for plenty of room for my plants to grow and spread. It’s recommended to place plants about 4-6 feet apart from other plants. In my case, I planted at the edge of our garden next to an empty field where the vines could continue to grow as needed.

As flowers began to appear on the plants, my research said I needed to hand pollinate the flowers to get a head start on the growing process. This meant picking a newly opened male flower (male flowers are the one without the small fruit growing on the base of flower) and rubbing the inside part of male flower on the open female flower. As the pumpkins/watermelons started to grow, I selected the best ones on the vine and removed the others to guarantee maximum size.  Watering my plants was obviously important (and fertilizing is optional). I occasionally repositioned the growing pumpkins and watermelons so the skin color would have a chance to remain consistent all over and prevent any rotting underneath. After about 100 days for watermelon and 120 days for pumpkin, it was time to harvest.

While last year’s pumpkins and watermelons were by far the biggest ones I’d ever grown, they certainly could have been even bigger. This year, I am trying to grow even larger ones based on what I’ve learned about the process.

Note that while my giant pumpkins and watermelons required 100 + days to harvest, there are many different types of vegetables and fruits that require less time to grow, including certain varieties of melons, pumpkins, gourds, and squashes. Just check the seed packet to see how many days are required to grow until harvest, especially if you’re planning to enter items in the fair this year!!

And, speaking of pumpkins, our family recently added a gourd tunnel to our garden to grow a wide variety of exotic gourds, pumpkins and squashes.  It’s always so much fun to garden together as a family and reap the rewards of our work throughout the growing season!



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