Scott Loewen has officially entered the realm of the giant pumpkin people.
A longtime gardener, Loewen purchased some Dill’s Atlantic Giant Pumpkin seeds a couple of years ago and carved out a bit of space in his front yard to grow a giant pumpkin. Bertha, last year’s pumpkin, weighed in at about 130 pounds, but she’s no match for Goliath, who recently weighed in at a hefty 560 pounds.
“They say once your pumpkin is the size of a soccer ball, it deserves a name,” Loewen says. “I named him Goliath, and I remember saying, ‘I hope he lives up to his name.’ I grew a smaller pumpkin as well. His name is David. David is in the front yard sitting beside Goliath. He is actually 130 pounds. He’s small compared to Goliath but he’s still a really big pumpkin.”
Growing a giant pumpkin is no easy feat. It starts with a giant pumpkin seed and requires a lot of time and effort. Burying the pumpkin’s vines, trimming certain vines to promote growth, giving it lots of water, fertilizing the soil and protecting it from the elements are some of some of the things that can be done to help a pumpkin pack on the pounds.
“There is a lot of little things,” Loewen says. “I put a tarp over it to keep the sun off so that it doesn’t ripen too quick or crack the skin. I want to keep it dry, so the tarp and a blanket over it. Sand underneath it so the bottom doesn’t rot out when you lift it at the end of the year. Some people’s pumpkins are sitting in mud because they didn’t properly put something under it and the guts just drop right out.”
Once Goliath was good and ready to make his big debut, Loewen moved him a little closer to the front of his yard (“he was difficult to move”) so passerby could get a better view.
“It was awesome,” he says. “I set up a little bit of fall display in early September with a hay bale and some little pumpkins and invited anyone and everyone to come over and sit down and take photos with the pumpkin.”
Carver Bruce Waugh recently spent about five hours giving Goliath a makeover.
“I did say: something kind of scary, big teeth. I wanted something Halloweeny and scary, like a big monster, a zombie or a Frankenstein – something along those lines,” Loewen says. “I let him go from there. Whatever he wanted.”
Goliath has been growing in Loewen’s yard since early May, but his days are nearly numbered.
Folks are invited to drop by 117 East Durham St. (not 117 Durham – that’s a different house) near the Canada Games Pool to check Goliath out before he ends up in the compost pile.
“If he makes it to Nov. 1, I’ll be happy. That’s my goal,” Loewen says. “I’m going to leave him as long as he looks good.”
At night, a flood light illuminates Goliath.
“He looks scary but he doesn’t bite – he only eats pumpkins,” Loewen laughs.
As a child, Loewen thought he was going to be a Jedi – not a pumpkin grower.
“My dad always had a big garden. I was always picking beans or shelling peas. I’m from Manitoba; there are a lot of big gardens back there,” he says. “I have gardened ever since. I am 50 now; I think I have had a garden every year for 25 or 30 years. It’s never been a giant pumpkin, it’s always beans. I grow lots of vegetables. I grow dahlias and things in my yard.”
Each year, Loewen like to experiment and grow something new. One year he grew celery (lots of it), another year he grew Brussels sprouts and pre-pumpkin he grew 70 sunflowers in his yard.
“One year I thought I would do a pumpkin,” he says. “I don’t know if I even knew much about giant pumpkins. I just bought some Dill’s Atlantic pumpkin seeds.”
Since his first foray into pumpkin growing, Loewen has connected to other giant pumpkin growers through Facebook. He recently attended a giant pumpkin weigh-off in Langley, where the winning entry from Richmond weighed in at 1,911 pounds and broke a B.C. record. (A Sapperton resident grew a pumpkin that weighed 647 pounds, which was good for eighth place.)
“He has come up and visited my pumpkin and I have seen his. We have kind of connected,” Loewen says. “The pumpkin growing community is really kind of small.”
While Loewen likes to experiment in the garden, he’s “kind of hooked” and suspects he’ll growing giant pumpkins for the foreseeable future. He’s been giving out Goliath’s seeds to family and friends.
“A lot of people sell them. Some seeds can go for $40 a seed if you had a huge, 2,000-pound pumpkin. Me, I am just going to give them to people that are interested. Friends and family that maybe want to trying growing it just to see how it goes,” he says. “In a way that keeps Goliath alive too, right. I like that.”
Loewen hopes that Goliath inspires some folks to take up gardening.
“It looks cool. I want people to drive by and go, ‘wow, look at that’ and get an interest in gardening,” he says. “Even if you only get a 100 pound pumpkin, that’s way bigger than what you are going to buy at Safeway.”