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Gardener's 'innocent obsession' becomes Fernwood's 300-pound pumpkin

Some fans are on an around-the-clock PumpkinTok vigil for the 136-kilogram specimen, which even has its own Spotify playlist

A Fernwood woman with a green thumb, social-media savvy and a desire to bring the ­neighbourhood together has ­banished the family car from her home’s driveway to make room for a giant pumpkin that weighs 136 kilograms — and is still growing.

Author and trauma-recovery practitioner Carmen Spagnola, an avid gardener, has turned her front yard into a kaleidoscope of colour with a profusion of flowers and vegetables.

But ever since she started growing small sugar pumpkins for pies more than 10 years ago, she has had an affinity for pumpkins.

Last year she grew one that was 68 kilograms, but that wasn’t enough for her. This year, in an attempt to go big — really big — she enlisted the help of Dave Chan of Richmond, B.C.’s record-holding giant-pumpkin grower, and Victoria’s Bryan Sloat, whose pumpkin won grand prize at the Saanich Fair.

“I get giddy with excitement every time it grows,” said Spagnola, 46, who writes books on cooking and spirituality. “I get swept up in the excitement — and so do all my neighbours who walk by.”

To spread the joy, she has documented her experience, from the “exhilarating highs to terrifying lows,” on TikTok. Since she started the video diary just over a month ago, it has gotten more than 12,000 views, with more pumpkin-growing fans joining the fun everyday.

Some commenters have said that they are on an around-the-clock PumpkinTok vigil.

The pumpkin even has its own Spotify playlist with music featured in the TikTok videos.

As a trauma-recovery practitioner, she believes people’s mirror neurons fire — releasing endorphins — when they see the joy on her face when talking about her pumpkin. “It’s cheaper than other types of therapy, that’s for sure.”

Neighbors have even started gathering in the evenings at measuring time. She has taken to posting the previous night’s weighing on a recycling bin at the top of the driveway.

To estimate the weight of the pumpkin without putting it on a scale every time, she uses a formula based on measuring the pumpkin from side to side, stem to stem, ground to ground, and around the diameter, parallel to the ground.

The final weighing will be with a scale that her husband bought for her — one rated to 500 kilograms.

While future ones may grow to that size, this year’s wet start to summer meant the season got off to a slow start. A giant pumpkin can sometimes grow about half a kilogram an hour and up to 32 kilograms in a day during a heat wave.

“It’s an innocent obsession,” said Spagnola. “But once you can grow a giant pumpkin, you feel like you can do anything.”

parrais@timescolonist.com

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