Mix Up with the Mixes!
10th Nov 2004
I'm just starting now on some digging as well as clearing out the long carrot drums. The long carrots did quite well last year considering that I dropped a right clanger at the very beginning which by the time I had realise the folly of my ways, it was too late. Over the last couple of years I have taken all my requirements for mixing composts, whether it be for Parsnips, carrots, or potatoes, over to the glasshouses at Bangor University. Just outside the glasshouses area, but still under cover, there runs a wide corridor the width of two commercial greenhouses and about 12 ft wide.
Along one side runs the work benches for potting whilst at the far end there's a small storage area for keeping pots and trays etc. At this far end is the mixer that I use as well as my shredder which means I can shred, sieve and mix composts regardless of how cold or how wet the weather is. The requisite bags of Q4, lime, Calcified seaweed etc were placed in the boot of my car and taken to Bangor to prepare for the mixes. Having mixed about 5 mixer fulls the whole lot was brought back home, the bore holes filled with the compost and the seed sown.
Realising the Error
That evening I went and emptied the boot of the car of all the bags and realised to my horror that the bag I thought was Q4 was in fact Q4 HN (HN meaning high Nitrogen). A bag I thought I had long finished with. The letters HN had been inadvertently hidden when the neck of the bag, which was half full, had been tied together. There was nothing I could do short of emptying out the whole lot which I certainly wasn't in the mood to do after such a disaster. The initial germination and growth was first class and the foliage looked beautifully lush and green. Naturally the HN was certainly responsible for this growth which continued right through to the end of the season, a picture of health to look at.
When I harvested them, I expected very rough and knobbly carrots, this however was not the case, they were in fact as smooth as any other year. The problem was though that they hadn't carried their weight down sufficient and I can only think that the extra nitrogen in the mixture went towards producing the lush top growth at the expense of optimum root development. There you have it, a stupid mistake and one I won't repeat ever again I hope, I shall be keeping a close eye on the bags in future.
Whilst talking about carrots, I intend to change somewhat my growing method for the long carrots for 2005. For the last four or five years I have grown all the long carrots inside my polytunnel in blue plastic 45 gallon drums and I have to say that on the whole, I have been pleased with them. However, with the global warming that we are almost certain to have to live with, if we are not already witnessing the changes, I intend to grow two thirds of the carrots still under cover and the other third outside. Twelve of my plastic drums will therefore be emptied and moved on to one of may raised beds which I used to grow long carrots in a few years ago.
In order to achieve this properly I'm going to have to remove three layers of block work all around the first bed and dispose of the old sand. The drums will then be sitting on top of the what's left which should be at least three feet deep. I will be able to get two rows of six barrels onto the bed which will be filled with fresh concreting sand from my local quarry.
Although the idea is to grow these carrots in a more natural way I do intend to offer them some protection. This will be in the form of Enviromesh, whilst not the cheapest of materials, it's certainly tough and will last for years if looked after. The Enviromesh will help in a few ways towards achieving the objective of optimum growth from each carrot. The most important being that it very effectively acts as a barrier to prevent any pests from getting at them, particularly the carrot fly and willow aphid.
It will also maintain a buoyant growing temperature inside which is always a good thing with carrots. It's been scientifically proved that warm even temperatures are conducive towards producing a more even and deeper colour right along the length of the carrots. I'm sure that wrapping bubble foil around the drums would also help towards this end, but that's another story. How I'm going to construct the cover over the carrots I'm not certain yet bearing in mind that I will need access to them for boring the holes, thinning weeding and watering etc. Any construction idea would be thankfully received.