Growing Long Carrots for Exhibition
16th Mar 2000
I have often said that growing long carrots for exhibition can be extremely rewarding, as it can be downright depressing and frustrating. For me there is no reward that can replace the sheer joy of withdrawing a near perfect specimen from the bore hole with good shoulders, bright colour and accompanied by good length in proportion to it's weight. Equally I have had some depressing seasons, struggling to pull what I would call a decent set of carrots.
The remarkable thing about all the long roots is that you can give them the exact compost mixture from year to year, yet some seasons are by far superior to others which must mean that seasonal variations have a real effect on the end results. The sad thing is that if I have a hundred long carrots growing in my three raised beds, if I haven"t lifted a decent one from the first three or four pulls, chances are that I wouldn't get a good set if I were to pull the whole lot. How we improve on that I'm not sure, but I do feel that it's important from day one that they have good protection so they are able to grow away as soon as they have germinated.
Another strange phenomenon, more so with long carrots than the short varieties is the failure quite often for one borehole right next to another to fail to germinate at all. I have had this happen to me quite regularly over the years, one station will germinate nearly 100% whilst the one right next to it fails completely. I have even wondered whether or not I actually sowed any seed in the station. I was pleased to realize that I am not the only one to have suffered this disappointment, I was talking to Peter Holden and Gerald Treweek a few weeks ago, both top long carrot growers, and they also have suffered from this same problem.
There's no doubt that Gerald has been very successful with his long carrots over the past few years, none better than last season when he won the collection of carrots at Harrogate as well as the dish for six long at the NVS Championships at Tunbridge Wells. Sadly Gerald hasn't got a single photo of his fabulous set at Tunbridge Wells and he would really love to have either a photo or better still a transparency of them. If you can help him out please forward any picture or transparency to Garden News for my attention and I will be more than pleased to forward them on to him.
It is now approaching the time to be thinking about sowing the seed so be prepared by making sure that you have all the relevant materials to hand. The items you need are good quality sieved soil, preferably sterilised but I have had some great results from using soil from the potato plot at my friend Jim's garden. Moss peat is the next ingredient as well as horticultural sand. The fertiliser elements are as follows: Superphosphate, Kisserite (a slow release form of magnesium) Sulphate of Potash, Carbonate of Lime and Calcified seaweed. Finally some Clorophos would be useful as well to prevent any soil pests from causing havoc. A friend of mine recently informed me that Clorophos was back on the shelf at my local Garden Center, when I checked with PBI, the manufacturers I was informed that it had never been off, and is widely available at all Garden Centers, good news indeed as it is excellent for keeping the dreaded carrot fly at bay.
Over the years I have always had great success with carrots by sieving all the bulk materials through a quarter of an inch sieve and the fertiliser requirements through a finer mesh such as is used in the kitchen, but don't tell my wife! However, having talked to both Gerald and Peter it appears that they sieve everything through an eighth of an inch mesh which makes it particularly fine and must, because of their undoubted success, produce finer roots.
I shall commence to sieve the materials as soon as I can giving me more time on the actual sowing date to be getting on with boring the holes. In the past I have always sieved, mixed, bored and sowed the seed all on the same day but with so many boreholes to complete it has to make sense to start mixing the material a lot sooner. The sowing dates for me have always been from the middle to the end of March based many years ago on my fathers sowing dates. These dates however were mainly used because the big shows for both of us in those days were the Anglesey County Show and Shrewsbury Show, both held during the middle of August.
When I won the best exhibit twice at the National Vegetable Society Championships with long carrots they were at Shrewsbury and Southport, all shows held in August. Lately however most of the top National shows have been held during late August to mid September so I really ought to have another sowing towards the first week in April to accommodate these venues as well.