Long Carrots and Short Carrots
24th Jun 1998
Your Long carrots should have a good top on them by now and the length of that top being very dependent on the variety of long carrot that you have. My own long selection which I have been winning with for a number of years can have a top up to 60cm (24") and more whilst another variety that I grew for the Cincinnati show in America has a very short top and often will be no taller than about 22cm (9") This variety was given to me by George Armstrong and it's one that he has been re selecting from seed that was given to him by the late Jasper Burt who really grew some of the finest specimens during his long showing career.
The carrots will be filling out now and one of the first signs of this happening will be some fine cracks being noticeable along the surface of the compost, this is a sure sign that the carrot is really developing. Keep the surface of the compost evenly moist and make sure that there is plenty of air movement around the plants.
Another problem to be on guard for are pests, these are usually of the small kind such as greenfly and willow aphid, the latter being a real carrot destroyer if it takes a fancy to your crop. Spray the foliage every ten days or so ringing the changes between Polysect and Tumble Bug. The other larger pest can be the cat, for some reason they are determined to lie down right among my carrots and I've even had one of them inside my glass covers sunning itself spread-eagled amongst the foliage! Some wire mesh will prevent this happening.
At this crucial time in the carrots development I very carefully scrape the compost away from the crown of the carrot to make sure that only one main central growth is developing. Over many years of exhibiting at the highest level I have seen some excellent long carrots being spoilt because they didn't pay enough attention to the carrots development at this stage. What can happen quite often is that a secondary growth occurs from the crown of the carrot, very much like a side shoot on a plant. If this is allowed to develop it will form an extra top on your carrot and more than likely the carrot will end up being oval in shape instead of being perfectly round.
All of these side growths are better removed now when still young rather than leaving them until show time when they have to be cut off with a sharp knife rendering the exhibit certain for down pointing by the judge. Pull the growth away by pressing against it with you thumb then pulling it forward, this will snap the growth away and by the time you pull the carrot, the exposed wound will be totally healed up and will hardly be noticeable.
The short carrots will also be requiring some attention now as they are also vulnerable to the same pests and should therefore be sprayed.
Both the long and the short carrots develop differently in that when the short carrot is well developed it will always have a tendency to push itself out of the bore hole. This happens because the last part of the other than long carrot or stump carrot to develop is the actual base of the root. In some varieties this is very prominent as in the variety Favourite, others such as Corrie and Maestro take a longer time to fully develop. The reason it pushes upwards is because it has a flat rounded stumpy end, as this develops, so it gradually pushes the carrot out of the compost.
This must be prevented and can initially be helped at sowing time by not filling the bore hole right up to the top leaving it short by an inch or so. This slight dip in the bore hole will gradually fill in when watering during the summer but more importantly it gives you an area where you can pack any spare compost around the carrots shoulder with no fear of it being washed away when watering. If the constant watering is exposing the carrots shoulder then before you realise it that shoulder will turn green and this will most certainly render any carrots unfit for exhibiting.
Another method of preventing the short carrot shoulder from greening is to cut some rings from a 6inch diameter plastic pipe. I did this some years ago when I dispensed with using my 18" long plastic pipes for collaring my leeks; the majority of them were sawn to form collars 2 inches wide. These are positioned over each short carrot and filled up with any spare compost or with soil from between each carrot station. This really works effectively and is guaranteed to prevent the shoulders from greening.
With the long carrots the opposite is true, a well developed long carrot will always pull itself downwards and rarely have I pulled a good specimen that has it"s shoulders exposed above the level of the bed. If during the show season you have a long carrot with it's shoulder exposed above the bed then it's a sure sign, more often than not, that it will be either forked or badly bent preventing it from developing properly.