The first batch of stump rooted carrots, as they are called by the National Vegetable Society, or other than long carrots as they are known by the Royal Horticultural Society will be sown this coming week. Sowing them as early as this will assure me of good roots from mid August onwards. Each bed will have 50 carrots sown so I should have plenty from which to select. The problem is which one to sow as the plant breeders are doing such marvellous work with carrots at the moment. Let me go through a few of them to examine their merits or drawbacks.
The first batch of stump rooted carrots, as they are called by the National Vegetable Society, or other than long carrots as they are known by the Royal Horticultural Society will be sown this coming week. Sowing them as early as this will assure me of good roots from mid August onwards. They are grown in four raised concrete block beds filled with concreting sand which have produced consistently good roots over the past few years. Last year I had five beds but the fifth, the one nearest the hedge, has now been converted to growing celery. The slight shade resulting because of the close proximity of my Leylandii hedge will be far more beneficial to the celery than the carrots. Each bed will have 50 carrots sown so I should have plenty from which to select. The problem is which one to sow as the plant breeders are doing such marvellous work with carrots at the moment. Let me go through a few of them to examine their merits or drawbacks.
My own selection of Chantenay is undoubtedly as near the perfect stump shaped carrot as you can get. At around 5 to 6 inches in length with a distinct and decided stump end, it has some of the meritorious attributes in both the RHS and NVS judging handbooks. The drawback with this particular variety is its colour as it is not as red as some of the newer hybrids and will therefore lose a fraction of the points awarded for colour. If carrots are to be judged to RHS rules, then ‘Colour’ is awarded 5 points which is quite considerable from the maximum of 18 points ie. 27.7%. In the NVS book ‘Colour” is awarded only 3 points from a maximum of 20 points which is only 15 % of the total.. There is clearly a strong emphasis on colour by the RHS. These percentages are worth thinking about because a good coloured carrot in the RHS class is more than a quarter of the way towards gaining its total points compared to the NVS class. I shall therefore exhibit my own selection stump at shows that are judged to NVS rules and an F1 hybrid in any show that is judged to RHS rules . Of course ultimately , success also depends on all the other meritorious factors such as condition, uniformity, shape and size.
Corrie, Barbados and Gringo
I am trying out a few new stump varieties this year as are a number of my customers, so one of the four beds will given over completely to these newer types. What to grow in the other two beds is difficult and the decision in the main rests between Corrie, Barbados and Gringo. I introduced Corrie to the show scene many years ago when most of the cultivars being staged were straight varieties (non hybrids) and when I first staged it at the NVS Championships at Wisley, it was a clear winner. It has superb colour and good skin condition with a lovely rounded shoulder: one drawback is that, for some growers, it can grow quite long and variable in length making a matching set difficult. The other problem is that it needs time to develop the distinct stump end that is now a prerequisite, but when you do have a good set, it’s unbeatable as it has proved for me over the years.
Barbados is definitely a good carrot, particularly if you can grow it as well as Peter Clark; it has a near parallel body with a good stump and excellent colour. The drawback with this variety is a tendency for the tap root to twist, making it sometimes difficult to withdraw the carrot without snapping off the root. Two years ago I grew twenty of these in 18 inches long, 6 inch diameter plastic pipes that I used to collar my leeks and they formed a row in my father’s garden. They grew really well and the tops were strong and really looked promising. As Dad only required three for the Anglesey County Show, I was really confident of pulling an exceptional set for him. In the end we were struggling to find a decent three as every one had a screw-like twist to the tap root close to the stumpy end, rendering them useless for the bench. At home I had half a bed of them growing in exactly the same mixture and I had some marvellous specimens, so where do you go from there?
The last variety is Gringo, this is a new type that I introduced last year in my catalogue and which proved to be a huge success. I first saw it staged by Tom Brown of Pembroke at the Three Counties Show in Carmarthen when I was judging there and they were so good that I awarded them the best exhibit in the show. The same variety was later exhibited by Jim Thompson at the Welsh and National Championships and they were superb. The skin condition is unbeatable and this variety possesses the strong colour of the newer hybrids as well as a distinct stump. It is longer than the traditional stump but Jim reckons that its consistency of shape and size makes it easy to get a matching set.
So the last two beds will be growing Corrie and Gringo with Barbados being sown in my friend Jim’s garden.The bore holes need only be 18 inches deep and around 4 inches in diameter at the top, the mixture will be the same as for the long carrots and for those of you who missed the mixture in my 30th March article it was as follows: 2 builders buckets of Levington Multi Purpose passed through a quarter inch sieve and 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 four buckets fill up my electric concrete mixer just nicely and once the material has been thoroughly mixed, I add 2 ounces of fine Calcified Seaweed (it’s important to use the finest particles so I pass the material through a very fine sieve), 2 ounces of superphosphate of lime, 2 ounces of sulphate of potash and 4 ounces of carbonate of lime.