CHICAGO (CBS) — After a rough growing season Joe Adkins didn’t think he would bring home his championship belt — yes, there really is a belt — again this year.

But for the fourth year, Adkins brought the largest gourd to the Illinois Giant Pumpkin Growers Association’s annual competition.

At 1,258 pounds, it was by far not the biggest pumpkin he has ever grown, but it was still a labor of love.

“Pumpkins are year-round for me,” he said.

A lot of preparation goes into growing a giant pumpkin. Adkins says the growing season begins in April, and from there it’s constant care.

This year he grew five giant pumpkins, tending to his vines daily.

Vines, he says, can grow six to eight inches daily, and he chooses one pumpkin from each vine to “go all in on,” pruning others to send all the nutrients to his best hope.

This year, Adkins’ goal was to get a 2,000 pound pumpkin, “but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.”

Though his pumpkin was nearly 600 pounds shy of his best, Adkins beat the second place finisher by 50 pounds — a close call when a pumpkin can grow 50 pounds a day near the end.

Adkins did take home a monetary prize for his pumpkin and says he uses the money to buy candy for trick-or-treaters.

He sees about 450 kids at his door every year and sometimes more, he says. His giant pumpkins in his front yard draw a lot of visitors on Halloween and other days, and he enjoys carving faces into the gourds.

He hands out giant pumpkin seeds and full sized candy bars to the kids who stop by his home.

“You never get the satisfaction like you do on Halloween handing out the full sized bars,” he said.