Exhibition Long Carrots
18th Mar 1998
My father has always maintained that to get top quality exhibition long carrots for the August shows they have to be sown before the end of March as they need a long growing season to achieve their potential. They can of course be sown later if you have shows that run from around the middle of September through to October. Over the years I have followed my fathers advice and have found that if the seed is sown between the middle and the end of March I have had excellent success at the highest level.
I only have the one sowing of long carrots and this sowing will cater for all the shows that I exhibit in from mid August through to mid September. Last season was the first time for me to grow them in beds, my successes prior to that had been in bottomless drums sitting on sand, however I am confident that the raised concrete bed method can, and will produce the best carrots. Even though last year was a "seconds" season for me being placed second in the Welsh Championships and second in the National, I was more than pleased with the carrots that I pulled.
The beds are constructed in such a manner that along one face in each bed I have built in a row of planks that measure 4ft in length and these can be removed right down to floor level so that the emptying of the beds is a relatively easy task. This removal of the sand is essential because having bored the holes the previous year, the sand would be under extreme pressure and with the continuous rains pounding it over the Winter months it can compact really hard. The timing of the emptying and refilling needs to be carried out so that the sand on it's return to the beds has sufficient time to settle naturally before you start coring or boring the holes.
The system that I use now is to core out the sand down to a minimum depth of three feet using a downspout pipe that has been well constructed for the job. At the top end of the pipe my Joiner friend Will Jones has constructed a tight fitting piece of hardwood with a steel pin going through the plastic and the wood to form a strong solid handle. This handle then has a piece of old hose pipe pushed over it to make it easier and softer to handle. The holes are bored at a distance of 9" each way and you must take great care with each bore hole to ensure that the pipe is perfectly erect in every direction.
The bore hole is completed with my old steel bar which is nearly 5 ft long, this means that there is sufficient room for the body to develop as well as room for the tap root to grow down. A few friends I know have now actually made a mould out of wood on a lathe in the shape of a carrot and a parsnip, the top end being 4" across in the case of the parsnips and 3" across for the long carrots and about an inch in diameter at the bottom. with this method the hole is bored first to a rough size with the bar and the mould is then pushed in or driven in with a sledge hammer to form the final shape. This means that every bore hole is exactly the same shape as each other therefore, given the same growing conditions, they should all be about the same size and shape.
Once bored the holes are filled with the following mixture which has no soil in it and is the one used by Bob Herbert who won the long carrot class in the National last year and contains the following nutrients - 2 x 2 gallon buckets of Moss peat 1 x 2 gallon bucket of washed concreting sand. In my case this is always sieved through an eighth of an inch sieve as the material I have this year is very open textured and contains some pebbles that are far to big. The above will make six gallons of compost by bulk.
To the above mixture the following is added, 3 ounces of Superphosphate, 3 ounces of sulphate of Potash, 2 ounces of Seagold or Calcified Seaweed, fine grade if you can get hold of some; if not sieve the ordinary one through a very fine sieve. This is done so that the Seagold can get to work fast in the compost where as a coarse material would take many weeks to break down. 2 ounces of Epsom salt or Kisserite, the latter being my preference as it lasts longer in the mixture giving you a slower and longer release of Magnesium Sulphate. Finally two ounces of Carbonate of lime. Bob uses no pesticide in the mix but some Sybol dust can be scattered on top of the drums as the plants are growing if you are regularly pestered by the carrot fly.
Make sure that your compost is friable and able to trickle easy out of your hand down to the very bottom of the bore hole with no risk of any air gaps in between. To make sure this doesn"t happen, prod the compost down with a cane after filling up to half way. Once filled, make a small indentation with your finger in the centre of the compost and scatter three to four seeds in each one and cover over with the same compost. Each sowing station can then be covered over with bottomless jam jars to help germination and best of all, prevents cats from trampling all over them.