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Medwyn Williams

Hello. I'm Medwyn Williams – eleven times Gold medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show, Past Chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society Fruit Vegetable and Herb Committee and President of the National Vegetable Society.

Growing Long Carrots


A completely different scenario to growing onions and leeks because you can actually follow their development right through the season and well before the show day you know exactly what you have, or indeed what you haven’t got to place on the show bench.

Growing Show Quality Vegetables

There’s no doubt that growing long carrots, indeed most of the long rooted crops can be a very exiting part of growing show quality vegetables, particularly on the day that you are pulling them from their bore hole. If you pull a particularly good specimen and the body of the carrot just seems to go on forever it”s a great feeling, because that will be the first time that you will have set your eyes on the final product that you lavished attention on for months. A completely different scenario to growing onions and leeks because you can actually follow their development right through the season and well before the show day you know exactly what you have, or indeed what you haven’t got to place on the show bench.

On the other hand the euphoria of pulling a decent carrot can quickly dissipate when the next one, and the one after turns out to be worse than anything imaginable; in other words the long carrots can be heart breakers as well. From now on their destiny is really in your hands and if you followed my advise on how to prepare the site for them, as well as the mix to grow them in the bore hole, then the end result will often depend on how you treat them from now on.

Early Stages of Growth

They can be extremely finicky during the early stages of growth and I have yet to get a season when all the bore holes germinate well leaving me with a hundred percent success rate. Even though the seed I use in the bore holes is my own stock and every bore hole is treated in exactly the same way, yet one station will have nothing germinating whilst right next to it will be 4 or five coming through. On top of all this they can be prone to collapsing just after you have thinned them down to one in each station which certainly doesn”t help matters.

Next Stage

From this point on however, once the carrots really extend their roots down the bore hole and the weather really warms up, your teething troubles should be over as the carrots can be seen to be growing away. Allow plenty of air to get around them at this time, in my case the glass around the side of the timber structure which forms a small cold frame around them will be removed and the once along the top will be fully open. These however are closed if there is a sign of heavy rain coming along as too moisture in addition to your normal watering programme can often leave you with very rough specimens.


More important though than this is the fact that rain water contains some element of Nitrogen, particularly in my case living in a relatively clean atmosphere. Nitrogen of course in small quantities is necessary for sustained growth but any excess will very quickly show up on the roots as they will be rough with lumps showing all over them where eventually other side roots would develop from. From the middle of July onwards the tap root will have reached it’s optimum length and the carrot will be well on it’s way towards developing it’s body bulk. From this point on the panes on top of the structure are closed so hardly any rain water gets at the crop at all minimising any chance of them getting too rough as well as the possibility of them splitting. You must remember that if your carrots are grown in drums or raised beds, the volume of material contained within those structures is considerable and though the top of the compost might well be very dry, there will be adequate moisture further down the drum or bed where the long tap root can get access to.


Feeding is another contentious issue and I have to admit that most of my better carrots have been produced with hardly any feeding being carried out directly on top of the compost and around the plants. However you need to watch the plants foliage very careful and if they appear to be lacking in growth then I would much prefer to use a foliar fee on them such as Phostrogen or Chempak 8 which is high in phosphates for root development. If the foliage is looking pale or yellowing slightly then add a little bit of Epsom Salts to the spray to give the plant some extra Magnesium You must always remember that it’s relatively easy to grow very large heavy rough specimens, but much more difficult to fit the judging requirements by producing well shaped, slowly tapering roots which are smooth all over and posses a bright red colour.


Always bear in mind this year that Condition is paramount if you are being judged to RHS rules as it is 6 points with Colour and Uniformity having 5 points each between them making a total of ten. However if your long carrots are going to be judged to the new NVS handbook then condition on it’s own is even more important as not only has it 6 points but colour has only 3 points and Uniformity 4 making a total of 7 points, so as a single criteria, Condition, and rightly so, bears more weight if judged by NVS rules than by RHS rules.

From now on, gently water your carrots as and when needed keeping the surface of the compost uniformly moist, and feed only as a last resort, forcing the growth along at this stage will do you no good and you will live to regret the day you fed them on the day that you pull them from the bore hole. Time is still on your side, and if you prepared the beds and your mixture thoroughly, you should be pulling some excellent roots from the middle of August onwards.


Growing Parsnips

25th July 2007 I am often asked what is the best method of growing both long carrots and parsnips for the show

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