Every family’s got its traditions – but Kevin Fortey’s family has one which seems to be unbeatable.
For three generations, the Forteys have been growing giant veg which is so large that it keep breaking records.
Kevin’s been growing massive squashes and cabbages since he was just four-years-old, when his late father Mike started the giant veg movement at his local pub back in the early 1980s.
Mike came up with the idea of having a giant onion competition while shooting the breeze with his pals over a pint at the Mill Tavern pub in Cwmbran, South Wales.
So many folks were keen to compete that he then founded the British National Pumpkin Championships – which people entered into from all over the country.
‘After a few years, the show grew in popularity and the pumpkins got bigger and bigger until they couldn’t fit through the pub doors,’ recalls Kevin.
The weight of pumpkins back then, Kevin says, was ‘a mere 100 to 200lb’ whereas today, they can reach in excess of 1600lbs (114st).
Kevin, 39, and his brother Gareth, 37, were recruited by their father to tend his allotment – and it was there that imparted his award-winning horticultural knowledge to the next generation.
‘I think that’s what really set off our competitive edge. He would tutor us and passed all of his considerable knowledge down to us,’ says Kevin.
‘He taught us how to grow and maintain a variety of flowers and vegetables and we loved helping him.’
And after Mike passed away, the pair continued to grow giant veg.
They’ve gone on to win numerous awards, including the world’s longest radish – measuring just over 88 inches back in 2016.
Kevin, who’s also won prizes for his huge 36lb beetroot, has passed his horticultural wisdom onto his 11-year-old son, Jamie.
Like Kevin, Jamie has been helping his dad ever since he was able to hold a trowel and today, he’s the reigning king of massive sunflower heads – he’s grown the widest sunflower head in the UK, measuring 26.2 inches across.
The father-son-duo also recently received a Guinness Worl Record for growing the world’s heaviest chilli at the 2017 Malvern Show, weighing in at a whopping 0.767lbs.
So, what’s their secret?
Kevin uses the traditional art of seed production combined with hydroponic growing – their Mexican Poblano chilli is the first record winner to be grown hydroponically. Hydroponics is a method for growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solution in water.
They also use coconut fibre and a self-watering pot system called GoGro, which regulates the nutrients being supplied to the veg.
‘Jamie loves hydroponics. He just loves the science behind it and actually wants to be a scientist now,’ says Kevin.
‘He didn’t take any encouraging at all. He just got stuck in straight from when he could walk really and has been fascinated with it all ever since.
‘Our dad would be amazed how the family history is still ticking along into the third generation of giant vegetable growers within the family.’