Growing giant vegetables

Champion gardener’s secrets revealed at Harrogate Autumn Flower Show

Kevin Fortey marrow
Giant veg grower Kevin Fortey, who will be at this year’s Harrogate Autumn Flower Show. Picture; NOEHS/Harrogate Flower Show

The world of giant veg growing is one of closely guarded secrets and rituals… until now.

British record holder and author Kevin Fortey will reveal the tricks of the trade at Harrogate Autumn Flower Show (September 15-17), with talks to mark the launch of three new classes for novice growers.

Aimed at gardeners who have never won a prize for super-sized specimens, the beginner classes will invite entries for marrows, tomatoes, and runner beans.

Flower Show director Nick Smith said: “We have seen many records set here at Harrogate over the years and our champion growers are without doubt among the very best in the world.

“The amazing array of monster specimens is incredibly popular with our 40,000 visitors, but there is always one very big question left hanging in the air – how do they get so huge?”

Kevin, from Cwmbran, South Wales, started growing giant veg as a boy with his father. Now 39, Kevin and his family hold the British records for the heaviest marrow (77.56kg), bell pepper (560g) and field pumpkin (72kg).

Kevin Fortey marrow
Call that a marrow? Giant veg grower Kevin Fortey. Picture; NOEHS/Harrogate Flower Show

He said: “Growing giant veg can be fascinating, rewarding and frustrating all at the same time. I learned alongside my late father, Mike, and am now passing on the knowledge to my son, Jamie.

“It is great to see novice classes being introduced at a major show like Harrogate because, despite the cloak and dagger reputation, we would all like to see new growers trying their hand at giant veg.”

Kevin will be giving talks on getting started with giant veg at 11am on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16. At 1pm on Saturday, he will also give a talk on growing veg the hydroponic way.

world record onion grown by Tony Glover
The world record onion grown by Tony Glover, at 18lb 11.5oz, at Harrogate Autumn Show 2014. Picture; Sue Welford

There are 13 other giant veg classes, plus the annual world record weigh-in for the heaviest onion.

Since the National Onion Championships started in 1983, 12 new world records have been set.

The record holder is Tony Glover, from Birmingham, who topped the scales in 2014 with a whopper weighing in at 18lb 11oz (8.47kg).

The closing date for entries to the North of England Horticultural Society’s fruit and veg show at Harrogate Autumn Flower Show is Saturday, September 9. For details, visit

Tickets: Friday and Saturday: £18 on the gate, £15.50 when bought by Tuesday, September 5. Sunday: £16.50 on the gate, £14 in advance.

Under 16s free when accompanied by an adult. Parking is free. Visit or call 01423 546157 for more information.

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