Sowing Short Carrots - Corrie and Gringo
13th Apr 2005
When I was growing the short carrot variety Corrie, some years ago by now, I used to win with it at the highest level from a sowing made during the first week of May and staged from the end of August. When the variety Gringo came on the scene it was only natural for me to sow it at the same time as Corrie, but I was initially struggling to get a set. The carrots had not developed to their optimum and therefore I decided to sow them around mid April for the end of August shows and another sowing a fortnight later for the mid September ones.
Anglesey has the benefit of being located on the Gulf stream and we therefore enjoy good growing weather apart from strong winds that we are prone to now and then. I was talking to Graham Watson a few weeks ago who lives in Whitby and strangely, he can stage top quality carrots from an early May sowing using the variety Gringo. Graham has had some tremendous successes in the short carrots class winning the National Vegetable Society Championship twice in succession at Harrogate and at Tunbridge Wells last year. Graham is actually going to be one of my speakers at the Gardening weekend that I organise every year in November at Llanberis. However this November Graham will talk about Shallots for exhibition, both the large and pickling types, with which he's had great results at National level leaving the long and short carrot lecture until the following year.
My latest method of sowing the carrots is really quite simple but very effective. I don"t use a steel bar any more. I now prefer to core out a hole for each carrot using a plastic pipe that measures around 2½ in diameter an each hole is roughly 7 inches apart each way. This is about the size of hole that Jim Thompson cores as well giving you a chance of getting carrots that are straighter when pulled straight from the compost. Incidentally, if when you harvest your carrots they come out with a slight bend or curve on them, you can actually straighten them. One word of warning though, it's not a task to be carried out by the faint hearted as they can sometimes snap. However my philosophy is that if I don"t consider it any good for staging with a slight curve on it, then if it does snap in two, so be it, but if I have managed to straighten it then it becomes one to use in making up a set. If you are going to have a go at straightening them, you have to make the decision as soon as it's pulled out of the bore hole, while still fresh and relatively pliable. Hold the carrot very firmly between both hands and slowly apply pressure in the direction you want to straighten it. When you have applied sufficient pressure, maintain it for a minute or so before slowly easing off. Core out the holes in the sand down to a depth of 18 inches making quite sure that you keep the pipe as vertical as possible. If the holes are cored out, even at a slight angle, then the resulting carrots will probably be slightly bent as well. Naturally the length of the carrot body will be anything between 6 and seven inches in length, so why do I bother to core out a hole 18 inches deep? The reason is that I like to stage my carrots with as long a root attached as possible giving the set a good sense of proportion. In order to make sure that each and every hole cored will be exactly the same, I mark the pipe at eighteen inches using some insulating tape wrapped around the pipe.
I have tried many mixes over the years with a varying success rate, some mixes incorporating sieved top soil whilst others were a peat and sand mixture with no added soil. Ever since I have been growing carrots for Chelsea I have used mixes with no soil in them and for the past four years or so it's been Levington F2S with the addition of 4 ounces of fine calcified seaweed and 4 ounces of garden lime. The skin finish is tremendous when using this mixture being extremely smooth with no lumps or ridges evident. Graham Watson uses a similar mixture to mine which is even simpler - 1 bag of F2S and 4 ounces of Calcified seaweed. The difference between my mix and Graham is the addition of lime in mine. To see if there is any noticeable difference I will try out both mixes and I'll let you know how they worked out. If you have a problem getting hold of any F2S, sieve some Levington Multipurpose Compost and add some silver sand to it. Fill the bore holes with the mixture leaving them about an inch short of the level of the bed. Make an indentation in the centre of each hole about half an inch deep and sow 4 or 5 seed in each one and cover the seed over with the same compost. The reason for leaving an inch gap at the top is to help towards preventing the shoulder of the carrot from becoming exposed and greening over which effectively destroys your chance of winning. As you water your carrots throughout the season, a little of the surrounding sand will always get washed into the formed well thereby giving you extra cover. I have constructed covers for my beds made from tanalised or treated roofing battens and these are screwed together using lightweight steel corner pieces. The frames are then covered over with Enviromesh to protect them from being attacked by aphids as well as preventing any carrot fly damage.