Protective Covers for Root Vegetables - Part 2
20th Jul 2000
Last week I discussed how well the root vegetables were growing under polythene covers and this week I intend to cover some of the finer points that might just make the difference between winning and losing at your local show. The long roots will have probably reached the bottom of their bore hole by now and from now onwards only need to develop their full potential in terms of weight and colour. For instance the stump rooted carrot doesn't fully develop it"s stump end until later on in the season and this is now an important criteria, particularly at the National Vegetable Society Shows where they will be judge in accordance to their rules and a distinct stump end is considered an important element.
The stump carrot therefore needs to be closely watched from now on, as it develops it's stump end, so it has a tendency to push itself out of the compost thereby exposing the carrots shoulder which will then green over rendering the carrot to be down pointed under the judging criteria, Condition. To prevent this happening I start at the very beginning when filling up my bore holes, I leave the compost just short of the top of the bore hole by an inch or so thereby allowing the sand around the bore hole to wash in during watering giving you extra cover around the shoulder.
This however is rarely sufficient so they will need to have an extra covering of peat or compost or just plan sand pushed around them. Inevitably though simply gathering the sand around them is insufficient as the steady watering during the last few weeks will wash it all away again. Some years ago I overcame this problem just at the same time that I started to alter my method of blanching the long leeks with 6 inch diameter plastic pipes and instead reverted to using the pliable black builders damp course material.
This meant that the pipes were redundant so I took a pile of then to a friend of mine who has a big band saw and they were all sawn down to form collars an inch and a half wide. These collars are placed around each individual carrot and then sand is used to fill them up to the rim, the ring then contains the sand and prevents it from being washed away. Good quality long carrots will react differently as will parsnips, they will always pull themselves down and rarely do you have to cover the shoulder over. Any long carrot that persistently pushes itself out of the compost will either be badly shaped or forked and useless for exhibiting.
Have a good look around your long carrots shoulders just to make sure that you only have the one main growing crown coming from the centre of the carrot. Sometimes you can have secondary growth growing by the side of the main foliage, these should be carefully pulled away and the resulting would will naturally heal up. If left to grow on the carrot may well have a large heavy top foliage but the shape of it will be prone to being oval rather than round.
At this time very carefully clear away some of the compost around the shoulder of each carrot and have a good look at it, I often remove some of the lighter stalks from around the shoulder giving you eventually a much neater and distinct shoulder on the carrot. The foliage of my own reselected long carrot is quite tall and can be anything up to 2 feet in height, it is therefore well worth considering supporting these foliage with some string and canes to keep them upright.
With parsnips very little needs to be done apart from a little foliar feeding that I intend to continue with right through to harvesting, a little Phostrogen seems to do the trick every ten days or so. Differently to carrots I don"t remove any of the foliage around the parsnips shoulder until they have well yellowed over and can be removed easily. I believe that pulling any green foliage will render the plant vulnerable to be attacked by canker that is the last thing that I need.
here is no doubt that growing long beet to perfection is far more difficult than any of the other roots and this is often in evidence at the British Tap Root competition where, more often that not, it's the long beet that is the weakest of the four roots required. My own re selected long black beet is still the one to grow in my opinion, I have been re selecting this for many years now and though it still has a slight twisting shape, it's not half as bad as some others.
One big snag I find with long beet is preventing the shoulder from cracking or splitting downwards which can often destroy an otherwise perfectly shaped beetroot. When I have grown these for Chelsea in 6 inch diameter pipes I never seem to have this problem and mainly I feel due to the more even watering that they seem to get over there. I have therefore watered mine much more uniformly this time as well as covering over the shoulder with at least another inch of sand so that the area around the shoulder will always remain moist and hopefully prevent the cracking. I shall also give them a few feeds of table salt, a level teaspoon to a gallon of water to my five drums about three times between now and harvesting will ensure that the internal colour and structure will be good as well.