Short Carrots - Germination, Varieties and Pests
26th May 1999
The weather that we experienced during late April and early May was most certainly a boon as I was able to complete all my sowings of short carrots in five raised beds.
The first sowing of the variety Barbados went in on the 24th April and the remaining four beds were sown from the 28th to the 30th of April. The last four beds were predominantly my own reselected stump from the Chantenay variety which did remarkably well for me last season. I also bored and filled 30 holes for Corrie, Goliath and the new F1 hybrid variety called Yellowstone. This is the first ever F1 hybrid yellow carrot and was seen for the first time on my display stand last year at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Germination was very quick indeed with the seeds all through just after the middle of May and they will, over the next few weeks, be thinned down gradually to leave just the one seedling in each bore hole. I used to thin them all down to a single seedling in one go but for the past few years I have initially thinned them down to two and when they were showing their first proper or rough leaf I would finally thin them down to one. The reason being that very often, when still small, the seedlings can collapse on you for a variety of reasons, too cold, too much moisture etc. and if you have thinned down to the one young seedling then it means you have lost valuable sowing time should there be a need to re sow.
A meritorious criteria with the short or stump rooted carrots is colour; this is awarded 3 points in the NVS judges guide and 5 points in the RHS show handbook. The colour must of course be uniform throughout the body of the carrot and must not have any greening around the shoulder. The short stumpy varieties are very prone to this greening condition because as the carrot develops, the last part of its development is the actual stumpy end. With my own reselected Chantenay, this stumpy characteristic is very pronounced and because of this it has a tendency to push the carrot upwards from the bore hole exposing the shoulders to sunlight which turns any exposed area green.
This is obviously a cultural fault and I prepare to counteract it in two ways; firstly I do not fill the bore holes right up to the top, I leave at least an inch of space so that during the growing season, as the beds are watered, so the sand surrounding the bore hole gradually gets washed down and around the carrot. This hollow area can also during late July/August be filled up level with any spare material such as sand or peaty compost.
Secondly, many years ago I utilised my old leek collars that were 6 inch diameter plastic pipes cut into 18 inch lengths, as these collars became redundant through using builders damp course to collar the leeks; each 18 length were cut into 1 inch wide collars. These collars are placed over every individual carrot and again filled to the rim with either of the above material. This is an excellent away of preventing the shoulders from greening. Merely pulling up the compost around the shoulder is inadequate as future waterings will wash it all away.
Any carrots exhibited showing a hint of greening around the shoulder will most certainly be down pointed by the judges, it specifically states in both the above judging guides that any greening is a fault and judges should "downpoint exhibits which are obviously inferior".
Since I have been growing short carrots for many years in nothing more than sand as the medium in the raised beds, I like to make sure that the beds are kept uniformly moist right through their growing season. Obviously the beds are extremely free draining so there is no risk of any water ponding or rotting away the carrot roots. The reason for maintaining the beds moist evolved when I first grew the variety Corrie. It seemed to have a tendency to grow quite long when the beds were kept on the dry side as the variety seemed to lengthen out in search of moisture. When I keep the beds moist I can pull plenty of Corrie carrots at around 6 inches in length.
A major problem last year with both long and short varieties was the pest called Carrot Willow Aphid. This is a small fly that seems to attack the tender young shoots of the carrot leaving the leaves distorted, discoloured and stunted. Worse however is the fact that whilst nibbling away at the young shoots, it also at the same time transmits motley dwarf virus which leaves the outer foliage with a reddish tinge. This drastically reduces the yield and size of the plant, particularly if they were attacked at the seedling stage. After the seedlings have been thinned, spray them with a half strength solution of a pesticide containing Permethrin, Heptenophos or Pirimicarb; these can be found in Rapid, Murphy's systemic action insecticide and Tumblebug. Increase the dose to full strength when the plants are about 4 inches tall and ring the changes using a different product, continue spraying every fortnight to ensure that the carrots will be kept free of all aphids.