Long Cultivars of Carrots
22nd Mar 2001
There is no doubt that the vegetable that I've had more success with over my years of exhibiting has been carrots, in particular the long cultivars. They are particularly rewarding when you can pull specimens from the bore hole that are as near perfect as you can get in every way. I have grown them in a variety of ways over the years using both pipes, raised beds and drums and just last year, I grew some fantastic specimens for the Chelsea show in wheely bins.
These were grown at Bangor University and I just happened to come across a few of these that had been prepared at some earlier date to grow rice in them so they had plenty of drainage holes incorporated. They are just over three feet deep and I filled every bin with fine moss peat and then bored four holes in each one and filled them with nothing more than Levington F2S. This is undoubtedly one of Levingtons better mixes as it is very fine with sufficient nutrients to grow the carrot well and the 'S" means that they have incorporated some silver sand into the mixture as well.
As a result of the really good carrots that I pulled from these bins last year I had another look around the universities store and came across some more, so this year I have a dozen wheely bins with four long carrots in each. What I also discovered was that even though the bore holes were not as deep as I would create normally at home, the root was still long as it had curled around the bottom of the bin. As they were grown in a warm greenhouse with the bottom of the bin raised above ground level by the wheels, the colour of the slow tapering roots were superb.
This year I hope to stage twenty roots and I have never found such an easier system; all I do is wheel each bin outside, cut off the foliage leaving about four inches of stalks and then slowly tilt the build up side down so that the whole mass of peat and carrots is removed intact. As a result of finding these extra bins which now means that I have 48 carrots growing away, I can save a couple of bins and gradually acclimatise them to the outdoor by first wheeling them into a cold greenhouse for two weeks and thereafter outside. I just wonder what they will be like by August.
Drums and Raised Beds
However my main thrust with long carrots will be at home and I have 5 plastic drums filled with sand on top of a raised bed inside one of my polytunnels as well as two other large raised beds with a timber structure overhead covered with enviromesh.
Last year a good friend of mine and a top grower of vegetables, John Branham from Aylesbury, had a phenomenal year with every piece of his jig saw falling neatly into place to make a perfect picture of astounding quality vegetables.
His parsnips, onions and long carrots were really impressive, indeed next to the Parsnips that Jack Arrowsmith showed at Brecon three years ago, these were the best I had ever seen. If anything, they were heavier and bigger than Jacks and at the National Championships at Dundee they were overhanging the bench on his collection by some two feet! As good as these Parsnips were it was the long carrots that really impressed me when I saw them first at the Welsh Championships, they were larger than some parsnips I have seen staged! and the heaviest top quality long carrots I have ever seen.
Not only were they indeed large, they had quality as well and when I discussed how john grew both the parsnips and carrots he emphasised that it wasn't so much the type of mixture that was crucial towards good growth, rather the method of growing and keeping them under covers and warm to give them a really good start. Later on this year I hope to visit John with the intention of writing a special article about the way he grows six of his main vegetables for staging on his collections.
As the National is this year held on the August Bank Holiday weekend at Margam Park South Wales on Sunday and Monday the 26 and 27th I need to sow the majority of my long carrots this coming week. I shall once more use a 3 inch diameter pipe to core out a hole in both drums and beds as, like with the parsnips, they have not been emptied out this year and the bore hole will be completed with a steel bar.
The mixture I shall use will be one bed of John Branhams and one bed of my own.
My own mixture is the one I have developed without the use of soil and is as follows: 2 builders buckets of Levington Multi Purpose passed through a quarter inch sieve, 1 bucket of Moss peat again passed through a quarter inch sieve in order to make sure that there are no hard lumps left in the mixture. Finally add half a bucket of washed concreting sand and half a bucket of Vermiculite. The above four buckets just nicely fills up my electric concrete mixer and once the material has been thoroughly mixed I add the following nutrients, 2 ounces of fine Calcified Seaweed, it"s important to use the finest particles so I pass the material through a very fine sieve. The next ingredients are 2 ounces of Superphosphate of lime, 2 ounces of Sulphate of Potash and 4 ounces of carbonate of lime.
John Branhams mixture is totally different and is as follows 1 - 3 gallon bucket of sieved soil, 3 - 3 gallon buckets of finely sieved Moss peat, 2 gallon of silver sand and 1 gallon of vermiculite giving a total mixture by volume of 15 gallons. To the above John adds 6 ounces of Chempak BTD (Base Top Dressing) 4 ounces of lime and 4 ounces of calcified seaweed.
It will be interesting to see how the results from the mixtures differ, I shall keep you posted.