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!!
In the previous post I mentioned I’d soaked the carrot box a few times to try and ensure the sand was as compact as possible. At the weekend I had time to core out and fill the holes. This was the first time I’d used this method and fortunately had Darren on hand to give me some pointers and he also did a fair amount of the work as well which meant I was just about finished in time at 6 p.m. on Sunday when darkness fell. Without his help I would have needed another weekend to get the job done! For anyone who has not done this before there’s definitely a knack to it and quite a bit of hard work involved!
I had marked out a grid to get 25 holes in but on reflection this was too many to fit in so I ended up with 20 holes leaving a reasonable amount of space in the centre. Hopefully this will allow enough air circulation around the carrots and allow each one to grow successfully to full size.
Each hole is 3 inches in diameter and 4 foot deep. Gradually the sand is removed using 3 different pipe diameters with the final one being the 3 inch pipe. Then each hole is filled with a mix of Levington’s F2S and calcified seaweed. The filling takes the longest to complete – using a funnel the mix is slowly added ensuring that no sand is knocked into the hole. The mix is “tamped down” after every funnel full using a broom handle that is carefully lowered down the centre, again making sure no sand is knocked down the hole. Finally the mix reaches the top and is tamped down again until it is slightly raised above the level of sand. Once all the holes are filled 4 carrots seeds are sown into each one and then a layer of fleece on top and polythene to keep the rain off. Then it’s over to nature to take its’ course over the next couple of weeks.
There’s a lot of work that goes into this when you consider the F2S is shredded and bagged up initially then mixed with the calcified seaweed added. Then it’s a days work to core out and fill the holes – I just hope it works after all that!!
Despite the sub-zero temperatures the work has started on the Two Chances Plot. The mixes for the long parsnips and carrots have been made, passed through the shredder and the pipes are filled. I was going to sow this weekend but it’s too cold so I spent the time fixing four layers of bubblewrap around the pipes, then a couple of layers of fleece, then two bench covers – hopefully this will help warm the soil ready for next weekend’s sowing. There’ll be 6 pipes for the parnsips and 16 for the carrots so I should get some good ones for the end of August show I’ll hopefully be entering. The varieties will be Palace (parsnips) and New Red Intermediate (carrots) and I also have some bins to sow a stump carrot variety Sweet Candle.
Apart from starting some chillies and aubergines off indoors, planting the garlic out, and a few shallots and broad beans in the greenhouse that’s all I’ve done so far. I think it’s going to be a busy March,hopefully with some milder weather!!
Another job on the show veg front is almost complete. The pipes are in the raised bed and ready to be filled. Eventually I’ll construct an environmesh cover to keep the dreaded carrot fly out. There’s 12 6″ diameter pipes and 16 4″ diameter (the ones that I started with last year). The first job is to fill up half a dozen of the larger pipes ready for the parsnips. I’ll be sowing in a couple of weeks so will fill the pipes up next weekend and allow them to settle before sowing a few seeds in each one and covering with fleece until they germinate and can be thinned.
Looks like an alien installation at present!
Following on from my last post when I showed you my latest carrot growing success I put the 3 long carrots on the showbench at our NVS Hampshire DA mini-show last night. It was really interesting to hear newly appointed NVS Chairman Barry Newman’s expert judging feedback and he gave my carrots some favourable comments and 2nd place to Mr Blick’s superb set that also took overall best in show. Considering it’s my first attempt and I only had 3 long carrots to choose from I’m pretty happy with that. Pictured below you can see how great Darren’s set is and they would have graced any showbench at any level. No wonder he’s smiling and a nice little trophy for the mantlepiece too! You can follow Darren’s progress over at Blicky’s Blog.
So that’s it for this season. Good luck to all those entering the Midland Championship at Malvern a week on Saturday. Next year it’ll be an all out assault on the NVS Southern Championship at the New Forest & Hampshire County Show for me. I’m going to busy over the winter planning for that!!
I went to the New Forest & Hampshire County Show yesterday for the first time since I were a lad. Mainly to support my mate Darren who was entering his first ever show. He doesn’t take the easy option as his first ever veg show was the National Vegetable Society Southern Championship which is hosted every year at the New Forest. It’s open to all NVS members, not just those from the South and attracts some of the top veg showers in the country.
Darren had entered 3 classes in the NVS side of the competition (there’s also an open vegetable show that’s a lower standard than the NVS but still a good standard). Long carrots, parsnips and cabbages. I’d driven down with him the previous evening to help lift the cabbages and it was a good experience seeing the top showers staging their exhibits and picking up some tips for next year hopefully. The next morning I arrived around 10am to see them all stood at the entrance to the marquee and the judging still going on. You could feel the tension but it wasn’t long before the results were in.
And he’d only gone and done it, a 1st place for the long carrots, beating his mentor and ex-national champion Bob Brown and another ex-champion Jim Thompson into the places. What a result! I can safely say from knowing Darren over the last few months nobody has put more effort into this than he has and it was well and truly deserved, I was made up for him! To read more on the stress of the last few days visit Darren’s blog.
He also picked up a 3rd place for his cabbages, the class was won by Chris Hewlett (who ended up getting the most points overall). I’m very interested in showing veg so I took a few pictures of the other top exhibits and from around the county show.
A great day out and I hope to be showing there myself next year!!
Time has come to thin the long carrots and parsnips I sowed in pipes a few weeks ago. Following an in-depth, scientific analysis, and after weighing up a long list of pros and cons I went for the ‘pull’ approach rather than the ‘snip’ approach advocated by Darren. Two reasons, I couldn’t find any scissors, and I thought it would be a lot faster (it was getting a bit nippy outside this evening). And I was right, in a couple of minutes the job was done and I was back indoors with the kettle on!
And here’s the results. Now all they need to do is grow. With one huge variable in the equation……me!! Will I be able to nurture these chaps to the August show bench??
And to top it all off the Two Chances blog received a nice mention from Dobbies. Just waiting for that chap from the Observer Sunday supplement to give me a call now. Not a bad day all in all!