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‘Pumpkin therapy’: How a Chilliwack, B.C. man’s 430-pound pumpkin helps him heal

Chilliwack, B.C. resident Darwin Gartner poses next to his 430-pound pumpkin, before donating it to the Imagine High Integrated Arts and Technology Secondary School.
Chilliwack, B.C. resident Darwin Gartner poses next to his 430-pound pumpkin, before donating it to the Imagine High Integrated Arts and Technology Secondary School. Twitter/Jackie Gartner

Darwin Gartner and his wife Jackie have been growing massive pumpkins for years, taking part in a friendly, annual pumpkin-growing contest with their family.

The Chilliwack, B.C., couple started the tradition in 2014 — the same year Gartner’s older brother was diagnosed with cancer.

When he passed away four years later, the pumpkins became a way to honour his memory.

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“I’m going to carry on with it as long as I can,” said Gartner, standing next to his behemoth 195-kilogram (430-pound) contender for 2021.

“It’s just one of those things that’s an awful lot of fun to do, and again, memory of my brother, I like to keep it going.”

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This year, Gartner said the power of the pumpkin was greater than ever as it helped him navigate an injury of his own.

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Earlier this year, he fell off of some scaffolding resulting in a number of injuries, including a broken leg.

Unable to work or weed their property’s raised garden, he spent a lot of time in the company of his growing pumpkin, which his wife calls his “baby.”

“Lots of times I’d just come out and sit by the pumpkin. I call it pumpkin therapy,” said Gartner.

“At times, (Jackie) thinks I’ve got a second girlfriend or something … she makes jokes about it.”

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Over the years, Gartner said he and his wife have learned many secrets for growing large pumpkins, which is not “an easy thing” to do.

It starts with the right seeds, he told Global News, a lot of water and a strategy for keeping the bugs out.

“I found out more than once that over-fertilizing can be your worst enemy — trying to get it too big too fast,” he explained.

“There’s a lot of little things that have to be taken care of. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.”

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According to the organization Giant Pumpkins British Columbia, the biggest pumpkin in the province this year belonged to David Chan, who smashed the provincial record with his 867-kilogram (1,911-pound) pumpkin.

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Every year Gartner donates his own giant pumpkin, usually to a pig farmer, he said.

This year, his massive “baby” will go to the Imagine High Integrated Arts and Technology Secondary School in Chilliwack, where his granddaughter is a student.

“They asked if they could have it, so I’m not 100 per cent sure what they’re doing with it yet, but they were excited about getting it,” he said.

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