By Joe Pagnelli
A giant vegetable grower is hoping to squash the competition with a 12 STONE marrow he wraps in a duvet each night.
Green-fingered Kevin Fortey has lovingly tended to the gargantuan veg for eight weeks and credits this summer’s record-breaking weather, and his tender bedside manner, for its mammoth size.
The 4.5ft long green squash, which is the height of an average nine year old, is to be formally weighed but Kevin believes it will beat his 2010 record which tipped the scale at 171lbs (12st 2lbs).
The dad of one has his fingers crossed that his growing efforts will be rewarded at the Harrogate Flower Show’s giant vegetable competition today [SEP 14].
Kevin from Cwmbran, South Wales, said: “These vegetables are like another part of my family, only they don’t answer back to me.
“My marrows are nurtured and taken care of, that’s our secret. We cover them in blankets and when it gets really cold they get tucked in with nice duvets to keep them warm.
“It’s important for their growth to keep them at an even temperature.”
The civil servant has been gardening with his younger brother Gareth, 38, since he was just four years old.
Kevin was inspired to cultivate giant veg by his dad Mike Fortey, who kickstarted the bizarre tradition over a pint in the pub in the 1980s, and he now shares his passion with 12-year-old son Jamie Courtney-Fortey.
Mike challenged his pal George Williams to grow the largest pumpkin he could and from there the competition grew.
Kevin’s dad passed away in 1996 and the brothers decided that they would continue the family legacy and see how far they could take it.
Kevin, who spends 35 hours a week in his garden, said: “We started doing this when we were just four years old.
“My dad would give us all the skillsets to be able to work with him and grow vegetables – it’s in our genes and in our blood.
“Jamie has been growing vegetables from a young age, just like I did.
“He’s been helping in the garden while on all fours, he pretty much learned how to work in the garden before he learned how to walk.
“Jamie absolutely loves the gardening because it is part of our heritage and our family history.
“It’s great to be able to come home to something that does give us such a strong sense of purpose.
“It’s just crazy, it’s about trying to grow something oversized – something that isn’t normal that you can’t get in the shops – and having fun in the process.
“Sometimes you get disasters in your bid to achieve your giant vegetables but that’s all part of it.”
Kevin sometimes stays in his specially lit garden until the early hours to tend to the vegetables, much to the chagrin of girlfriend of five years 39-year-old Emma Thompson.
Kevin said: “I don’t do much else, really. I don’t watch much telly, I just go back to tend to my garden.
“Emma does enjoy it although she finds it crazy. She definitely doesn’t want to turn out like Margot [The Good Life] but I couldn’t really hide these massive vegetables from her.
“I’m proudest of our marrow, as every year they keep getting bigger.
“It’s just great because my dad started all of this by growing with seeds and to do this every year is a great way to honour him. They’re bigger and better than he could have ever imagined.”