This year more than ever it’s important to grow varieties that are going to fit the judging criteria of the show you intend to exhibit them in as all the National Vegetable Society Shows will be judged to their own Judges Guide and not to the RHS Horticultural Show handbook.
I was rather late getting my short carrots sown last year, mainly because both the Welsh Championships and the National were held late on in the year so the sowing dates clashed around the Chelsea flower Show time and the sowing had to be delayed for over ten days. This year more than ever it’s important to grow varieties that are going to fit the judging criteria of the show you intend to exhibit them in as all the National Vegetable Society Shows will be judged to their own Judges Guide and not to the RHS Horticultural Show handbook.
The reason I say to be selective in choosing the varieties to exhibit is that the Merits section in their handbook under Carrots stump rooted specifically says “With a decided stump and taproot intact”. The words “decided stump” are the important words as the judges will be looking for that sort of carrot and very often, some of the newer hybrids don”t develop a distinct stumpy end until late on in their growing pattern. One such carrot is Corrie, this variety has won many shows for me at the highest level but if it isn’t sown early enough, it will still have a tendency towards a pointed end rather than a stump during August time.
This criteria for a stumpy carrot is further mentioned in the section headed Judging Hintswhere the last sentence reads “Carrots that do not have a decided stump will be downpointed” This I feel is being unfair on some of the newer hybrids and I certainly know which one I would grow for eating.
Undoubtedly the one to grow therefore for the NVS shows or any other show that the schedule states will be judged to NVS rules will be Favourite. This is a selection of the Chantenay family and is available form Suttons and probably one of the best dishes of stump ended carrots that I have ever seen were shown by John Donne when the NVS Championships were held at Bridgemere and the dish of six Suttons Favourite were awarded the best exhibit in the show.
This variety will most certainly fit the criteria even though it has much paler colour than the hybrids, but as shape is now 4 points and colour only 3 then the shape must be considered to be more important than colour. Further more if you add the 3 points for size, then size and shape gets a total of 7 points which is the highest criteria from the maximum of 20. The one draw back with the favourite selection is that it can develop a a faint yellowish line that seems to pass right down the length of the carrots body and must, I”m convinced, be part of the genetic make up of this particular variety and very difficult to eradicate.
Another variety that looked promising on the show benches last year was Barbados, the ones that I saw exhibited by Peter Clark were superb having good colour and more importantly had a well decided stump end as well. I haven’t grown this variety myself to date so I can’t say what percentage of those lifted have a consistent stump end but it will be one that I shall grow this year.
Container Growing for Top Quality
For top quality the short carrots need to be grown above ground level and in some form of containers, mine are grown in 3 raised beds about 600mm above the pathways and for the first time in many years the three beds have been completely emptied down to the 300 mm level and the bottom well forked over. One of the beds had the sandy composty mixture from my parsnip beds whilst the other two were filled with fresh concreting sand.
The stations for growing them need to about nine inches apart in every direction and the bore holes will be cored out using my new plastic pipe that is slightly over 75mm in diameter and down to a depth of 450mm. This will allow me to pull up the carrots with the fine tap root intact. The mixture for the short carrots will be similar to the one I used for my long varieties which is as follows – 2 x 2 gallon buckets of Irish moss peat, 1 x 2 gallon bucket of washed concreting sand and fine vermiculite (half of each) with the sand being riddled through an eighth of an inch sieve in order to get rid of the larger pebbles. The above will make 6 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 faster 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.
Make sure that all the above is well mixed together so that the ingredients are not in pockets through the medium and fill the bore holes to within 25mm of the top. I do this for a reason because as the carrot develops it’s decided stump shape, so it has the tendency to push itself out of the compost. This of course will allow the sun to get on to the carrots shoulder which will make it green and definitely be down pointed by the judge. As the carrot develops this 25mm well can be filled up with compost from around the bed and I actually enhance this further by placing 150mm dia. rings 50mm wide over each station which allows me to fill them up with any spare compost to make absolutely certain that the shoulder will be as bright a red colour as the body itself.