I think the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium

Forgive the film quote but I couldn’t resist for the title of this post. Like many people I have had no real success in growing standard carrots in my first couple of years. There were a few last year which got me 2nd prize in the local summer show but the fact that the judge couldn’t bring himself to award a first prize tells its’ own story. People round my way struggle with carrots!

I am a Finance Manager by trade; not anything to do with banking I hasten to add, and although I am not one of those that talks in ‘management speak’ one thing that has sunk in is that “if you don’t change something you will continue to get the same result”. So this year it’s all change on the carrot-front. So following my usual ‘run before you can walk’ approach I’m having a crack at growing exhibition standard long carrots! Why not I can’t do much worse than I have already.

The seeds have arrived, they are ‘Javelot’, a long carrot from Exhibition Seeds. If they get anywhere near those in the photo I’ll be well chuffed.

I’m growing the majority in a raised bed but the main effort will go into two sand-filled dustbins. These have been ‘settling’ for a couple of weeks.

An Internet trawl led me to Ted Bailey’s “Grow and show guidelines” and a recipe for the growing medium as follows: to 25 litres of John Innes number 3 compost add 16 ounces of silver sand, 8 ounces of medium vermiculite, 8 ounces of calcified seaweed and finally 4 ounces of lime. I bought the John Innes and lime from Scats, the Silver sand from Homebase and the vermiculite and seaweed from eBay. I mixed the ingredients in a wheelbarrow and then seived the lot throwing any lumps onto the plot.

First I watered each dustbin to get the sand nice and moist. Then using a long thin iron bar I made a 3″ diameter tapered hole in the sand near the outer edge of the dustbin. I then filled with the growing medium, I did this carefully by hand tamping down with my fingers to get rid of any air pockets. I then packed in as many as I could (Ted recommends 6 inches apart, mine where a bit closer together than that). I managed to get 12 holes into the first dustbin and 15 into the second as I got a bit better at it.

I then carefully watered each of the filled holes and sowed 4 or 5 seeds in each. They will be thinned to leave the strongest one and the foliage supported in some way eventually to prevent any damage. I covered in fleece to speed up germination a bit.

That’s it, all in all it took me a couple of hours to do and hopefully it’s just a case of keeping an eye on their progress and I should have some exhibition standard carrots. We’ll see!

It was a lovely afternoon, and as I wandered around the garden I found some more signs of spring.

And my one and only rhubarb crown is growing for the 2nd year.

I picked any dying leaves of the overwintered lettuce (winter density) and was pleased to see some signs of growth. I wish I’d put the plastic bottle cloches on earlier, like before the snow, as they may have been bigger by now. Still they’ve survived.

Finally I made up the two plastic cold frames I bought cheap from B&Q last year. I set them up on one of the raised beds and sowed some salad veg in them. Lettuce (Salad Bowl and Red Deer’s Tongue), Spring Onions (White Lisbon and Lilia), Radish (Mixed, Saxa and Albena) and some Wild Rocket.

All in all a satisfying afternoon. Off to the coast tomorrow for a well earned family day out.


11 responses to “I think the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium

  1. Impressive, as always, Dynamo. I had a hell of a job getting a decent sized bag of lime this year. The garden centres have dispensed with bags and now only sell little post. I had to put in a special order.

    I’m having a carrot surge this year too, but only for eating. I’ve bitten the bullet and bought some agrimesh nets to keep the root fly off.

    Do your bins have holes drilled in the bottom?

    Your parsnips were impressively long last year. Were they grown in your raised beds?

  2. Sorry about coming up as FEARN. I’m trying to keep my rent protest activities separate from my plot blog but one keeps overwriting the other, even when I’m logged in as Mal’s allotment blogspot.. On the plus side I get my own wordpress picture!

  3. Mal, Scats is a good store round these parts catering for farmers so you get decent sized bags of stuff. I drilled some holes in the bottom of the bins hoping I get something for the effort. The parsnips are in raised beds, they seem to do pretty well with a couple of spade depths of well dug soil. I’ve read that carrot fly keep low to the ground so hoping they won’t get to the ones in the bins but a mesh will work well. Good luck with the protest I think it’s scandalous what they are doing, although Salisbury is cheaper there have been a couple of letters in the local paper recently so they must be trying it on here as well.

  4. I have real trouble with carrots too! I think this year I am going to dig over and sieve the soil on one particular spot so there are absoloutely no stones anywhere. Add some sand to my clay soil and see how I get on. I think if a developing root goes down and hits a stone, that is why carrots fork! fingers crossed.

  5. I’ll be following your carrot experiment with interest. My carrots were rubbish last year, most didn’t germinate, and those which did didn’t seem to want to grow. I’ll give it another go this year though.

  6. I had exactly the same problem Jo, I couldn’t even call them baby carrots they were that small! Matron, removing all the stones is a good move and I think carrots do best in poor sandy soil. We’ll see the last ones I dug from the plot were about an inch long, if I get the same results from the ones in the dustbins after 4 months or so I think I’ll just give up on them! Best of luck!!

  7. Bloody Hell you deserve 1st prize after all that effort. I hope it’s worth it!

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