The green-fingered Fortey family from Cwmbran, Wales, have grown the world’s heaviest sunflower head – again.
Weighing in at 6.44 kg (14.21 lb) – roughly the same as three bricks, two newborn babies, or the most-commonly selected size of bowling ball – it’s 1.23 kg (2.71 lb) heavier than their previous record head from 2021.
The superlative sunflower was a “real surprise” for 44-year-old Kevin Fortey, who grew it with the help of his brother Gareth, son Jamie, and mother Marjorie.
“I was shocked by the weight of this monster flower,” he said.
The hefty head - which was so large it had to be weighed at the local post office – grew “far bigger” than any of their other sunflowers in 2022.
@guinnessworldrecords Heaviest sunflower head 🌻 6.446 kg (14.2154 lbs) grown by Kevin Fortey, Gareth Fortey, Marjorie Fortey and Jamie Courtney-Fortey 🏴 #garden#gardening#sunflower#flowers#guinnessworldrecords♬ original sound - Guinness World Records
Planted during a heatwave in late May and harvested in October, the sunflower grew for just over 20 weeks, reaching a height of 3.35 metres (11 ft).
The seed used was from the Fortey family seed line, which is “well over 100 years old,” according to Kevin.
Aptly named the "Fortey Giant Sunflower," it was originally bred on his father’s family farm in Suffolk and was then brought to Wales.
When Kevin and Gareth’s father passed away in 1996, the brothers continued to carefully cultivate the now-record-breaking seed line.
In addition to using a special seed, the Forteys have mastered the art of growing sizeable sunflowers.
Before planting, they test the soil’s pH level and check for any nutrient deficiencies.
They also use a variety of supplements to boost the health and growth of their plants, such as green manures; organic rooting inoculant; compost tea; plant food; and a high-potassium guano (bat excrement) blend.
“Growing any plant takes time, dedication, commitment, experience and skill. The heavier-headed sunflower plants need a better-planned structure to grow up as the sheer weight of the heads couldn’t be grown without some form of support.” – Kevin Fortey
A large water pipe was also inserted into the ground next to the stem, which was used to encourage the roots to widen their search for water during the early stages.
And throughout the rest of the 20 weeks, the Forteys never watered the sunflower by hand. Rather, their plants were fed once every 12 hours by a dripper system linked to a battery timer.
The drip system penetrates far deeper into the soil than hand watering, and the strict schedule helps produce healthy (and heavy) plants.
This is the eighth Guinness World Records title the Fortey family have achieved, and they still hold four of them:
- Largest sunflower leaf: 68 x 87 cm (26.77 x 34.25 in)
- Heaviest beetroot: 23.99 kg (52.89 lb)
- Tallest potato plant: 2.84 m (9 ft 4.1 in)
- Heaviest sunflower head: 6.44 kg (14.21 lb)
Their newest GWR title is dedicated to Kevin and Gareth’s father, who never achieved a world record but started a number of seed lines which are still used in giant vegetable competitions today.
He also cultivated his sons' competitive spirit from a young age, which Kevin has now passed on to his own son, Jamie.
The family have their sights set on breaking 10 records overall, and would particularly like to reclaim their record for the world’s longest radish, which they lost in 2016 to Joe Atherton (UK).
Joe’s record-breaking radish is 6.70 m (21 ft 11.8 in) in length - almost three times longer than the Forteys’ – however, Kevin is working on sourcing some Japanese radish seeds which could help him snatch the title back.
Although they have two sunflower world records now, Kevin isn’t keen on completing the collection with the world’s tallest sunflower, as he’s scared of heights. With the current record being 9.17 m (30 ft 1 in) high, we don’t blame him!
Through achieving these records, Kevin hopes to inspire others to grow their own plants.
“Gardening is therapeutic, rewarding and sometimes disappointing when your near-record-breaker melts, dies off or just doesn’t make the weight you had hoped,” he said.
“Growing is in our genes and hopefully by sharing our passion for growing throughout the world, we can hopefully get others to sow giant seeds, develop even more community events and draw even more attractiveness to our sport.” – Kevin Fortey
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