Unlike many other exhibition vegetables such as leeks, celery and onions where there is the constant work of potting them on; with the carrots and parsnip roots, once the holes are bored, filled and sowed, then after thinning down to one seedling, there is comparatively little to do.
I always get revitalised at this time of year with the warm dry weather and the morning sun on your face giving you a real urge to get to grips with the outside work and the first task this week is to sow my exhibition long carrots. Undoubtedly this is hard work, but at the same time there is an immense feeling of satisfaction from knowing that every bore hole you complete is a finished job for the season. Unlike many other exhibition vegetables such as leeks, celery and onions where there is the constant work of potting them on; with the carrots and parsnip roots, once the holes are bored, filled and sowed, then after thinning down to one seedling, there is comparatively little to do.
On the above basis, do take time to carry out the work thoroughly, don’t rush the job and if you can”t finish it in one day, don’t worry about it, there is always tomorrow.
My long carrots for the past few years have been grown in three raised concrete block beds all filled with clean concreting sand and every bed was completely emptied out last November and on completion the whole surface area was given a thorough soaking with the strongest recommended solution of Armillatox. My reason for this was that last year I had an incidence of the shoulder of a majority of the long carrots going black and splitting down the sides. I”m still not certain what this disease was but it certainly ruined my crop because over half of the those sown succumbed to the disease.
This year I shall spray the carrots when relatively young, when around 4 to 5 inches high, with a protective fungicide such as Hexyl hoping to prevent any spores from settling on the foliage and the crown.
When Jack Arrowsmith won the Welsh Championships last year, pushing me into second position with a beautiful set of three long carrots, I was more than pleased when I asked what mix he used to hear him say that it was the one I mentioned in my carrot book.
This mixture is completely soiless as I have found out over the years that by adding soil to the mixture it was the only commodity that would vary from area to area across the country. Whilst some growers would tell me that they had marvellous results using my soil mixture, others would have awful results having rough or deeply grooved specimens. I therefore decided to concentrate my efforts on a soiless mixture which should work the same for every one across the country.
The mixture in my book 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 and it’s no wonder my wife gets upset when she can’t find her flour sieve! The next ingredients are 2 ounces of Superphosphate of lime, 2 ounces of Sulphate of Potash and 4 ounces of carbonate of lime.
Over the last two years I have used a plastic pipe to bore a hole into the sand to a depth of three feet or so and then the hole is completed using a steel bar with a pointed end. The plastic pipe is an offcut from the pipes that are used as down spouts on houses and is approximately 3 inches in diameter. Once the hole is bored, carefully fill it up with the above compost making sure that it trickles right down to the very bottom of the hole. In order to be sure that you have no air lock in the bore hole the occasional prod with a cane will prevent this whilst at the same time ensuring that the compost is nicely compacted.
Make a small indentation with you finger on top of the compost and in the centre of the bore hole and sow three or four seed before covering them over with the same compost and water them in with a fine rose on a watering can. I always sow my own re selected seed of New Red Intermediate which is as long a carrot as you are ever likely to get and possesses an excellent skin colour when well grown. Cover each station with either bottomless jam jars or plastic drink bottles with the top and bottom removed to form a hollow tube. This can then be kept in position using a split cane down the side and some string or sellotape to attach the plastic tube to the cane. In my case the whole surface area of the three beds are covered over with a timber structure and sliding glass panes.
Germination at this time of year can be slow and is dependant to a great extent on the soil temperatures and they rarely break through in less than a fortnight. Long carrots sown from the middle to the end of March will make some fine specimens from mid August onwards and I have won at the highest level with one such sowing with the carrots being exhibited from mid August to the end of September. To be on the safe side always scatter a few slug pellets on the surface of the sand as young green shoots at this time of year make a very tasty snack to the dreaded slugs.