Long Carrots and Leeks
28th Jul 1999
My first sowing of long carrots is doing rather well in contrast to my second one which is very patchy, but even these I hope will be good enough to exhibit during the middle of September. One job that I do at about this time of year is to check each individual carrot to make sure that there is only one central growth coming from the centre of the carrot. What happens very often is that the carrot throws up another side shoot, right next to the main central growth. If this side shoot is allowed to develop, it will ruin your chances of winning at the highest level as well as having a tendency to make your carrot grow to an oval shape. If there is evidence of any side shoots developing, clear around the shoulder of each carrot very carefully, making sure that you do not scratch the tender skin at all, and remove the side shoot by pressing it up towards the centre. This will snap off the shoot cleanly, just as you would with side shoots on tomatoes. The resulting wound will then heal on its own and will hardly be visible when the carrot is fully developed.
As my carrot bed has a timber construction overhead with sliding panes of glass, from the end of this month onwards the side panels will be completely removed and the ones above will be kept closed. This will prevent the carrot bed from being over moist, particularly if we have a period of wet weather. The watering will be drastically reduced as well as all the beds will have sufficient moisture within them and hopefully the carrots will be well down and capable of getting all the moisture they require. One reason for easing off on the watering is to prevent the carrot from being rough, by which I mean the small lumps that often develop along the root, rendering the carrot unfit for staging at national shows. Another reason for easing off on the watering is to prevent the carrot from cracking or splitting which can be heartbreaking and, as sods law dictates, it always seems to happen to the best specimens.
During the middle of August last year my father appeared to have some tremendous long carrots if the size of the tops was anything to go by. A week before a show he very carefully cleared around each carrot and had at least six to seven matching carrots, none of which had split. The following week it rained nearly every day and on the Friday of that week, when he came to pull them, every one had split and they were the best carrots he had grown in years. They matched perfectly and were so long that the he won the longest carrot class with one at the Gwynedd Branch of the NVS District Association.
It is therefore important, if you possibly can, to give them some cover, particularly from incessant heavy rain falls. If you are growing the carrots in drums or containers or perhaps in an allotment situation, then you have to try and be a little inventive by creating a temporary structure that will support some polythene sheeting.
Keeping the leeks ticking over now with no sudden jolt in their nutritional needs is the order of the day. Keeping the beds uniformly moist seems to have prevented the deep splitting that I experienced last year, the theory being that if the beds are uniformly moist, then the leek can access the water as and when it needs it. On the other hand, if the beds are dry, any sudden rush of water will make the leeks split, just as tomatoes do.
One other thing to keep your eye out for at this time of year is the rust disease which shows up primarily on the older outer leaves as small red spots. These spots eventually burst open, spreading their spores onto other leek foliage and if it's not kept under control, it can devastate your leeks. Certainly any leeks on the show bench with rust heavy on them would be severely down-pointed by any decent judge.
The secret to the control of rust is to be vigilant and act quickly, as soon as the first spot is seen. I have sprayed mine with Nimrod T and with Hexyl in the past which seems to help. At the initial stage I have also used some Fairy Liquid in a sprayer which seems to form a hidden barrier on the flags and prevents any spores from spreading as well as preventing any from settling on the foliage.