The Welsh Chelsea- Long Carrots
20th Mar 2003
My fathers 'Chelsea' was our local Anglesey County Show and everything he ever grew was timed to be perfect on that day. The show is usually held around the middle of August which is comparatively early so he had to sow most things early as well.
He always had a saying that the long carrots had to be sown before March went out otherwise they wouldn"t have enough bulk on them. I have also tended to stick to this theory as well but I do now tend to have a later sowing as well to cover shows such as Harrogate and Malvern.
What I would say is, if showing in any show throughout August and growing directly outdoors, sow before the end of March, any show during September sow during early April. These of course are just guidelines as your location will also have a big effect on your sowing date. If you live in Devon for instance your sowing date will differ a lot from a grower in Aberdeen. The best answer really is to ask a good grower who lives near you, he will certainly have found out the best sowing time for his area. Don't be shy in asking either, from my experience and, particularly if he or she is a member of the NVS, they will always try and help a novice grower out.
Pipes and Drums
I have been growing good long carrots for many years now, starting with growing them in pipes, then progressing to drums filled with sand and the drums positioned on the soil in the open garden. The only protection these had were some jam jars with their bottoms removed and used as small cloches until the carrots were well through and above the glass. Some growers still grow this way with some amazing results. Gerald Treweek is undoubtedly the one to beat at the moment with long carrots, he is very consistent even though all his long carrots are sown outside in 45 gallon drums with no protection at all.
The majority of other top growers however do use some form of protection to grow them under. John Branham undoubtedly moved things along regarding the weight of long carrots when he first staged them at the Welsh Championships three years ago. The size was phenomenal, they were, as one grower said to me, ‘parsnips painted orange' John grows his roots under a cover that he constructed himself and is made from panels of polythene that he can completely remove at the end of the season allowing plenty of rain to get at the sand in the boxes. When I visited him last July his long carrots looked superb with plenty of strong tops to be seen and as was evident later, the roots he harvested confirmed the quality that the tops were telling me weeks prior.
I progressed on to grow mine under a cover that was glazed with sliding horticultural glass and I grew some excellent carrots over the years winning the National on more than one occasion. However I still I had the feeling that under the glass, unless it was rigorously controlled, temperatures would soon soar on a sunny day as there was very little height on the wooden structure. Last year therefore was the first time that I had tried to grow them inside a polytunnel and the quality of the roots that I harvested were superb. The drums were all positioned along the outside edge of the tunnel forming an ‘U' shape on three sides. Incidentally, this is the same tunnel as I grow my leeks in and has wind up curtains along two sides together with plenty of headroom for the heat to lift from above the plants.
The bulk of my long carrots will therefore be sown in these drums with the original concrete block bed being utilised for some long carrots but predominantly will be used to grow long beetroot at a later date. My method this year will be to core out the sand, three in each barrel, down to three feet in depth with a three inch pipe and then finish the hole off with a steel bar to a minimum depth of four feet making sure that the bore holes are all the same size at the top.
The mixture will be as follows and the basis of it is the same as I used many years ago, 1 builders bucket soil, 1 builders bucket moss peat and 1 builders bucket sand. The soil will be Westland sterilised top soil (picture attached) which did so well for me last year, the peat will be sieved through a quarter inch mesh and the sand will be silver sand. To the three buckets of mixture, which will be mixed in my electric mixer, the following will be added - 3 ounces Superphosphate of lime, 3 ounces Calcified seaweed, 4 ounces of lime and 2 ounces of potash.
The mixture will be poured down the holes and prodded after filling half way with a cane to make sure that there are no air pockets in the mixture. Make a small indentation, quarter of an inch deep, on top of the mixture and sow four or five seed per station covering the seed with the same mixture. Use a watering can to moisten the compost well and keep moist throughout until the seed have germinated. The seed that I will use will be my own reselected New Red Intermediate.