LANGLEY – On a quiet farm near Campbell Valley Regional Park, orange giants are visible nestled among the spreading vines.
They’re some of the largest pumpkins in Langley, and their grower hopes they’re among the biggest in the Lower Mainland.
Scott Carley grew his first giant pumpkin 10 years ago, when the family was living in Delta. He raised one to more than 600 pounds in his backyard.
Last year he planted one more, with his family now moved out to South Langley.
When he heard about the local Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off at Aldor Acres, he took the biggest of his big orange squash and tied for second place, weighing in at 853 pounds.
"It started off as something fun for him," said Kirsten, Scott’s wife, who has helped out with the care and feeding of the giant pumpkins.
This year, Kirsten was expecting their daughter, and Carley skipped his annual trip to the family’s Manitoba farm where he oversees the annual seeding.
To keep himself busy around the property, he threw himself into growing several pumpkin patches full of gourds weighing hundreds of pounds.
Scott estimates his two best pumpkins weigh in at about 1,100 pounds and 1,200 pounds.
The larger of the two is more than five feet wide, and neither of them will fit into a truck. He’ll have to move them using a trailer.
On Saturday, he found out exactly how big they are at this year’s Weigh Off, which raised $430 for the Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope, located in Langley.
Carley’s gourd weighed in at 1,177 pounds – a new farm record.
The pumpkins are Atlantic giants, a breed known for its huge size.
But Scott hasn’t left anything up to chance. Kirsten noted that when he had to head east to work on the farm, he left her a series of instructional videos on how to care for the pumpkins.
"They are his babies," Kirsten said. "I didn’t realize how much went into it until he went away."
There are strands of drip tape under the pumpkin beds to deliver water and nutrients. The pumpkins themselves rest on beds of sand or on styrofoam to keep them from rotting from damp. Nearby are several pup tents, thrown over the pumpkins during hot sun to save their skins.
The pumpkins can gain dozens of pounds a day during their fastest growing season, noted Scott. The big danger is that they’ll grow too fast and split. He lost several to that already.
Some of them he probably lost because he was experimenting and pushing to see how big he could grow one of the giants.
As far as Scott is concerned, he’s already been successful.
"My goal was to grow something over a thousand (pounds)," he said.
Some of the ones he’s already lost to splitting, and some of his current crop, definitely surpassed that mark. Scott guesses he’s hit 1,000 pounds four times already.
Once the contest is over, one of the biggest pumpkins will wind up as the most impressive jack o’lantern on the block.
It’ll be hard to cut, Scott said. "A full saw barely makes it through," he said.
The work should be worth it for the reactions from kids. Last year they carved up their second-prize winner and put it out by the driveway, and heard many kids who doubted it was even real.