The time of the year when you really can see your plants growing away.
16th Jul 2003
At this time of year you really can see your plants growing away, it's the period when most of the vegetables start to seriously put on some weight. You only have to go away for a few days to notice the difference in growth.
The root crops certainly start to expand outwards as well as continuing to put weight above ground as the foliage becomes heavier. The foliage of my parsnips are certainly amongst the best that I have grown in recent years, at the end of June they were well over two feet in height and the stalks were extremely heavy. They also measured at that time over an inch across the stalks at sand level.
I"m not saying for one minute that they are going to be the best parsnips ever but they certainly please me and that's very important. We all put a lot of effort into our hobby of trying to grow top quality vegetables for exhibition, so to have the odd one or two items that are really thriving makes it all worth while. Someone once said that it wasn"t all about winning, well it certainly beats coming second! The strange thing this year was that I actually bored more holes than usual in the four beds that I have under the new wooden structure. I have 16 plants per bed so that means I will have 64 to select from, they are all Gladiator in order to try making the matching up of a set a little easier.
With the stalks being so heavy they had a tendency to drop down across the path between each bed with the danger of them being snapped off when passing through. To prevent this happening I have used to some strong string in three rows along the front of each bed to support the foliage. (picture attached). The ventilation has certainly improved as well with all the roof lights now open as well as all the side windows and the window at the end. These opening lights will now remain open right through to harvest time. Once a year at about this time, I like to give the bed a small dose of carbonate of lime or ordinary garden lime. I put one heaped tablespoonful in a gallon watering can and as I continuously stir it, I soak over the whole surface area of the bed. It sweetens the compost and is also a good preventative against any canker spores that may be lurking around on the surface, some growers also firmly believe that it improves their colour.
The carrots are doing quite well and they will need a little attention now by way of removing any side shoots that develop from the crown this applies to both short and long varieties Each and every carrot needs to be thoroughly checked over to make sure that you only have the one single cluster of foliage growing from the crown. Any other growth can be removed while still young by simply snapping it off the shoulder, (picture attached) the wound will heal quickly and as the carrot grows it will hardly be seen at harvest time. Very often I have seen excellent carrots staged at a show which I have had to down point because the grower had not paid enough attention to this sort of detail. If you don't remove these growths now, the side shoot will still grow on and in the end you will have to cut it away with a knife after harvesting. If left to grow on they will also disfigure the carrot and can make the shoulders go slightly oval instead of round.
With the long carrots there is usually no problem with the shoulders greening over as the best specimens will always pull themselves downwards and therefore there is no need to cover them over. However the reverse is true of a good quality stump carrot, these will soon be forming their stump end and in so do doing they are unable to go downwards. As the carrot swells and further develops a good stump shape, it will push itself gradually out of the bore hole exposing the shoulder to sunlight. This will in turn green the shoulder over and no amount of covering over will remove this greening once it has occurred. It is of course considered to be a bad fault and in a good National class, the judge will take one look at them before he discards them from his selection.
Over the years I have tried various methods to prevent this happening, simply pulling up some sand from around the bore hole will help, as will covering them over with some peat. The problem however is that both the sand and the peat are inevitably washed away during watering putting you back to square one. You need to cover the crown of the carrot with either sand or peat in such a way that the routine watering won't wash it off. Many years ago I had some 6 inch diameter pipes 18 inches long which had been kept after I had used them, in those days, to collar my leeks with. These were taken to a joiner friend of mine who passed them through a band saw cutting rings from them an 1½" wide. These rings are then placed centrally over each station and slightly bedded in, in my case, they are then filled with sand and watered in. The reason I use sand instead of peat is that I don't want too much peat to be mixed in with the sandy bed at the end of the season which would make the whole bed too spongy.