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.


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


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.


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.


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!!


13 responses to “Core Blimey!

  1. In GQT on Sunday they said thw cores should be seed compost with richer stuff beneath, the idea being that the seedling would send a long taproot down searching for nutrition. But all the show guys seem to have a superphosphate mix. Have GQT got it wrong?

    • For the long carrots it’s just Levingtons F2S with some calcified seaweed and nutrimate – I use F2S as a seed sowing compost so there’s not much nutrients for the carrots – so the taproot will search downwards and follow the 3 inch core. There’s more nutrients in the parsnip and stump carrot mixes – the parsnip mix is predominantly peat with some soil and silver sand with added superphosphate (7oz in a 10 gallon mix), sulphate of potash (6 oz) and dolomite lime (6 oz). The stump carrot mix is similar to the parsnip mix with some calcified seaweed added. While people showing will use different mixes they won’t be far off these ones and they’ll produce very good roots.

  2. When you say you “core out” the sand, what does this really involve? I don’t understand how you get the sand out.

    • Hi Mark, starting with the smallest diameter pipe push it downwards (vertically) into the sand. You will be able to do this a few inches at a time. Everytime you twist and pull the pipe slowly back out some sand will remain in the pipe which can be tipped out into a tub. Then repeat with the smallest pipe until you reach the required depth – I have a pipe marked with tape at this point. Slowly but surely you will get a perfectly round hole as deep as you need it to be. Then use the 2 1/2 inch pipe – you may need to tap with a lump hammer to get this right to the bottom, again sand will remain in the pipe everytime you lift it out. Then clean out with the 3 inch pipe and any sand you can’t pick out with the larger pipes can be hovered up with the smallest one. It would be good to try with stump carrots in any container that’s two foot deep, just fill with grit sand, make sure it’s well compacted then core away!

  3. Could I do that with superloose topsoil? Not in boxes at all?

    • I have used this method in my standard raised beds for carrots and parsnips by coring our the standard soil and replacing with a mix and sowing a few seeds in each station a few inches apart. There are advantages as the roots are already spaced apart so no need to thin. The roots have the nutrients they need and any stones have been removed. Disadvantage is it’s more time consuming then just sowing a row and leaving them to it.

  4. The purpose of the deep piping is to know exactly what your root is doing, since you fill the ‘cored’ cylinder, with soil of just the right specification? But it needs to be 5′ in depth?

  5. I cant really see the point of doing all that work for the sake of a parsnip with a super long tail. Is the length regardless of weight the object of the competition?!

    • It’s a number of things the judge is looking for really. The main one being condition followed by uniformity of the group of 3 parsnips. If you have both of these and size / length then great but I would always look to match up the first two before considering size or length important. For me a smaller set in great condition should always beat a very large set in average condition.

  6. I can see the point of the coring all too precisely. It provides a kind of pot-in-the-ground which for shrubs would be very useful indeed.
    I’ve got a very heavy clay bed, but also with vast quantities of top soil nearby. If I could core out the clay, I could then fill with the topsoil and do useful things by controlling the sapling, shrub roots.What do you think?

    • I can see this working although I don’t have much experience of growing shrubs. I guess the question of drainage would be the main issue on very heavy clay soil.

  7. Pingback: Belated Easter update | Two Chances Veg Plot Blog

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