Monthly Archives: February 2015

Core Blimey!

Lovely sunny day today so, with a day off work, I decided to crack on and core out for the long carrots. It’s the same approach as the parsnips, which went in three weeks ago. The carrots occupy a second sand box which is right next to the one with the parsnips in. The box is 3 foot square and approx. 5 foot high filled with 2 tonne of grit sand. This has been allowed to settle for a few months before coring. I planned to get 16 holes done which takes about 4 hours to complete. Starting off with a 1 1/2″ pipe I take out the sand to the required depth then move on to a 2 1/2″ pipe before cleaning the hole out with the final 3″ diameter pipe and going back to the smaller pipes to hoover up any sand that doesn’t come out with the 3″ pipe. It’s quite a laborious task and I core out 4 holes at a time before filling with the mix, then moving on to the next four.

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This picture shows the first few holes cored out with the 2 1/2″ pipe in shot.

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I use a tractor diesel funnel to get the mix into the hole, tamping down with the handle end of a hoe every so often to make sure the mix is settling properly. A small piece of pipe is then placed on top of the filled hole. This serves a couple of purposes early on – to mark where the hole is and to allow additional mix to be banked up around the emerging seedling so protect it in the early stages of growth. Once well developed the piece of pipe can come off.

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I then dampened the mix, sowed four seeds in each hole and covered the boxes with fleece and polythene. I’ll keep an eye on them every 2-3 days to keep the mix moist and check for germination. The seed is a reselected strain of New Red Intermediate from former NVS National Champion Bob Brown who lives over the hill from me and is kind enough to pass on his growing knowledge and spare seed.

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I also sowed some stump carrots (Sweet Candle) last weekend in an opened ended plastic container about 2 foot deep that I sat on top of one of my raised beds on a few layers of weed membrane. I filled it with grit sand and cored out a dozen holes 12″ deep. I’m hoping this will give me a few decent specimens in time for the New Forest Show at the end of July.

Glad that’s done, the roots are one of the big early season jobs which is great to get out of the way. I’ve also sowed chillies, peppers, aubergines and tomatoes in the heated propagator. Things are gathering pace now, time to draw breath for a couple of weeks before sowing cabbage at the beginning of March and then potatoes mid-March. Looking forward to milder and longer days to fit all of this in!!

Potato Prep

If you haven’t already now’s the time to buy your seed potatoes and set them out to chit. I ordered mine from JBA Potatoes – you should always buy them from a reputable seed potato merchant.

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I’m growing 3 varieties this year – Winston a first early and Kestrel & Charlotte which are second earlies. This should mean they’re lifted before any chance of blight later in the summer. The Winston and Kestrel are dual-purpose – I’ll be entering them in the New Forest Show at the end of July all being well to cover the white and coloured potato categories and they’re both tried and tested good eaters that we enjoy. Some people don’t like Winston in particular but I think they’re fine. For a white potato they are the only one to consider for the show bench. With coloured potatoes there are a few good showing varieties – Kestrel, Bonnie, Blue Belle and Amour for example all of which are good eaters. Finally Charlotte are my favourite potato, the best salad spud in my opinion.

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The seed potatoes go into cold water mixed with Milton baby sterilising fluid. The idea here is to protect the new crop against any surface diseases that may be on the seed potato. I leave them in for 48 hours before drying off and setting them out to chit.

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Find an area with plenty of natural light that is free from frost. I use our conservatory which is cold in winter but always above freezing and there’s loads of windowsill space which fills up quickly in Spring. Set them out in egg boxes or seed trays so the bottom-end (the part that was attached to the old plant) is facing downwards – the potato will sprout from the top-end. By chitting before planting you’re getting a head start under protected conditions. I will plant out in mid-March.

It’s Only Just Begun………

Well the new season has started with the long parsnips sown last weekend.  I’d cored out 16 holes the week before and sowed 4 seeds per hole before covering with bubble wrap.  They’ll take 4 weeks or so to appear.  The variety is Panorama and I’m hoping to enter a set into the New Forest Show at the end of July.

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Next weekend it’s the turn of the stump carrots – Sweet Candle – followed by the Long Carrots the week after.

I also need to get on with potting up the shallots and sowing the chillies – it’s already getting busy!!