Feeling the Pressure - Short Carrots
7th Jun 2001
The pressure of growing and showing vegetables for Chelsea whilst at the same time trying to concentrate on my competitive exhibits for the National Vegetable Society Championships gets worse every year. During April and early May I find it rather difficult to complete all the tasks that I would like to on time so some, unfortunately, have to be completed on a more staggered time table.
The carrots for the short classes for instance is a typical example, the first batch of the variety Gringo was sown on Thursday 19th April and the next bed to it was completed the following day on the 20th where my new variety Caroline was sown.
Each bed has 70 carrots in it and this year every station has really germinated well, and nothing is so pleasing after all the hard work of being able to thin out a bed of a carrots with no gaps at all in it. One problem that I have here in Anglesey, because of my location near the Menai Straits, my plants are exposed to some very cold biting winds during early Spring blowing in from the straits and these winds can be devastating for young carrot seedlings. This year therefore I decide to build a structure around each bed so that the seedlings as well as the developing carrots would be able to grow away unhindered.
The structure is a simple one but very effective, as the two beds are filled up with concreting sand I was able to easily drive in some inch square wooden posts at each corner as well as one in the centre along the outside edge. These were 3 ft long and driven down until 18 inches were exposed above the bed. Frames were then made from tanalised or treated wooden battens from the timber yard and they even allowed me to select them myself. This is important as some of the battens are misshapen as well as having some large knots in them which can easily split the batten in half.
These battens were then formed into squares and rather than jointing the corners or end nailing them, I purchased some lightweight angle brackets from the local DIY store as well as some screws for chipboard. These screws have the thread worked right down to the point and so these can be screwed into the wood much easier and without a prior pilot hole. I was able easily to construct completely one bed in half day. The next task was to cover each frame over with Enviromesh and this nearly took as long to complete as the actually making up of each frame. The enviromesh was stapled around whilst at the same time being pulled as tight as possible. I found that using scissors with a serrated cutting edge was far better to trim the nylon material than a sharp knife as the mesh is incredibly tough.
With the top frames these were fixed at the far end with two hinges so that I could lift them up for weeding or watering and I am pleased to say that the effort was well worth while as the carrots are now looking tremendous. The added benefit as well of course will be that I will not have to constantly spray my crop with chemicals as no fly will or aphid will be able to get through this fine mesh. At the end of the growing season, the panels will be removed and at this time each one will be numbered so that next season, I shall; be able to re assemble them in a few minutes. The panels will; be stored over the winter months so, in theory at least, they should last me many years.
I also have my other two raised beds for short carrots, these were my original ones and I do hope to construct the same type of cover over these as well at some future date. These two beds each have 56 stations in them and I was only able to sow these on the 6th May.
The first bed was sown with another brand new variety called Canada which will be featured in my new catalogue next season. This a Chantenay F1 hybrid cross with marvellous colour, so this variety together with Caroline will, I predict, earn a lot of red cards all over the country. The second bed was sown with Barbados which has won prizes at the highest level and although not commercially available again, I still have enough seed available for the next few years.
I am not unduly worried that both these sowings were later as the warmer weather which we enjoyed during early May germinated the seed very fast. I can also remember a few years ago winning many classes with Corrie during August time when they were sown at around this time. However I have one concern, whether or not they will have developed a distinct stump end by the end of August to satisfy the newer judging criteria.
My last sowing of stump carrots deliberately went in later, these are my own re selection of the traditional Chantenay type and these were sown on the 11th May in half drums inside my polytunnel, six stations per drum. These were used last year as well and sown a month earlier and I wasn't able to use one of them as they had grown much too large and rough. Finally I also sowed on the 11th May four stations in four drums filled with sand of my own variety of long carrot, again deliberately sown later as the ones sown a month earlier last year were much too big to be of any use on the show bench.
This means that I now have 276 stations sown which, in theory anyway, should give me some decent carrots to select from. With stump carrots I always like to keep the top of the beds evenly moist to try and keep the carrots short. Keeping the beds dry and watering below them, as some do with long carrots, has a drawing effect on the carrots, pulling it down in search of moisture. This of course is fine with long carrots, but with the short ones it will have a tendency to make the carrot grow longer that it should do.