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No flies on my carrot – Part Two

[continued from Part One]

2. THE RIGHT VARIETIES

2 a) Long Rooted Varieties

Choose these only if you have, or have created, carrot-friendly soil. The majority of main-crop varieties are long rooted. Long rooted carrots become misshapen or fork when they encounter obstructions in the soil. These obstructions can be as minor as a wee lump of clay, or a dollop of dung. (Which reminds me, do not add organic material to the carrot-growing area. Carrots ideally follow from a crop which was heavily “mucked” the previous season.) If you can create the right conditions, try Autumn King or Chantenay Red-Cored.

2 b) Stump Rooted Varieties

These are the short, dumpy ones, and many of the earlies fall into this category. Early Scarlet Horn is an RHS Highly Commended, and will perform well in most soils. Or try the very popular Early Nantes. Pull these varieties when they are young and sweet, and don’t sow them all at once. Sow a little at two to three week intervals throughout spring and early summer, and keep pulling them young.

2 c) Garden-Free Varieties

I’m not joking. If all else fails, or indeed for an early crop, or even if you don’t have a garden, grow your carrots in a pot, tub, or growbag. Grow them on the patio, in a window box, or for early crops, in the greenhouse or conservatory. You are in control, because you can fill the container with carrot-friendly compost. For container growing, use early, stump rooted varieties. One of the best is Amini, from Suttons.

Hey, I like this structure thing. Maybe I’ll do it again.

Reverting to type, though, let’s ramble on.

I’d better mention the dreaded carrot fly. And by the way, this also attacks the carrot’s close relatives, parsley, parsnips and celery. They tunnel into the root. At worst, the foliage yellows and the carrot dies. At best, they disfigure the root, and look unsightly as little corpses on the dinner plate. The important thing to know is that there are two generations of these maggots during a growing season. Sowings made after the end of May will usually miss the first generation. Early sowings, perhaps under cloches in more northerly parts, will be harvested before the second generation strikes. The fly is attracted by the scent released from bruised foliage. Bruising occurs during thinning. So avoid thinning by sowing thinly and pulling young, or using pelleted seed which can be spaced out. If you don’t have an aversion to chemicals, there are several branded products which can be applied to the drill when sowing.

If you have grown maincrop carrots, and want to store them in the traditional way, lift them carefully with a fork, and avoid damage or bruising. Discard (or eat) any that are damaged. Cut the tops off an inch or so above the root – no closer. Pack in layers in dry sand, in a box or other suitable container. The sand must be dry, or there is potential for rot to set in. Store in a frost free place.

That’s the party line on storage. Me? I’m lazy. I leave them in the ground. They are rarely damaged by frost, and indeed a touch of frost sweetens them. A proportion will suffer slug damage, but the answer to that is just grow a few more than you need!
Right. Anything else you need to know?

In summary, the long ones are fine if your soil is ideal. Otherwise stick to the stump rooted varieties.

I’m not going to say anything more about seeing in the dark, that one’s been done to death.

Nor will I mention that you can make carrot wine. Because it tastes earthy, and is the devil of a job to clear. Make it once. For the experience.

PG Author: Mike Clark

Mike discovered the joys of horticulture when, as a small child, he overheard a neighbour say she'd dropped a sixpence in the tattie patch. He has been digging ever since, with the tenacity of a true Scot, hoping one day to find a fiver. Despite now running his own landscape gardening business, Mike claims to be permanently broke, due in part to his quest for fame resulting in writing gardening columns for free. He likes trees, Jack Russells, and 12 year old Glen Ord, but not necessarily in that order. Gifts of any of these can be sent c/o britishexpat.com, but he would like to point out that the third item is by far the easiest and cheapest to post. One of the highlights of his life was winning a toilet brush in a raffle. He persevered with it for ages, but he's back on the paper now... Mike approaches gardening and writing with exactly the same formula. Throw in plenty of manure, and something good will eventually spring up.

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