Here I was, browsing through my horticultural notes (he sez, trying to sound professional), seeking a spring-orientated topic.
Yes, my thoughts turned to spring, and sowing time. Well, actually, I forced my thoughts to turn to spring, because I’m snowed in again, and gardening seems an age away at the moment. But since all the gardening programmes on the telly tell you to do things way in advance of the optimum time, ‘cos each wants to be first; and the Garden Centres stock plants well ahead of season for the same reason, to steal a march (March!) on their rivals; why should I be any different? Please don’t rush out and sow your carrots just because I’ve written this. And don’t sow them when the packet tells you. Or Alan Titchmarsh. Use your discretion, wait until the soil warms up, and the long-term weather forecast is somewhat less than miserable. And don’t trust Michael Fish.
So, anyway, my thoughts turned to vegetables.
And thanks to endless peering at this screen, I have a feeling my eyesight is deteriorating. So inevitably, the vegetable at the top of the list is the carrot.
The biggest problem with carrots is their dislike of heavy, or clay, soil. A carrot’s ideal home is a light, totally stone-free, sandy soil. Few of us are fortunate enough to have this carrot-friendly environment. If you are one of the fortunate few, you can skip the next bit!
We have two options. We can either alter the soil, or grow carrot varieties which are less fussy. So instead of the usual uncontrolled ramble, I’ll have a bash at structuring this. I’m going to try a couple of sub-headings, and see if I can exercise some self-discipline.
1. CARROT-FRIENDLY SOIL
1 a) Major Veggie Plot Overhaul
Double-dig the entire plot. Double digging (also known as trenching) means removing the top spit – ie the depth of a spade – and digging down a second spit, so that the whole area is cultivated to two spades’ depth. As you dig, remove every stone, or better still, pass every spadeful through a riddle (sieve) to produce a fine-textured soil. Then import sharp sand in a quantity which will give you a ratio of, at the very minimum, one part sand to two parts soil. Mix thoroughly, and you will have carrot-friendly soil. You may also spend the rest of the gardening season in traction.
I only recommend this option if you are completely off your trolley. Although, joking apart, this is exactly what a champion carrot grower would do.
1 b) Minor Veggie Plot Overhaul
Decide where you want to grow your carrots. Single-dig the chosen area (one spade’s depth), and remove all the stones. Acquire a few six-inch boards, and frame the area, to create a rudimentary raised bed. Fill to the top of the boards with a mix of sharp sand, peat or peat-alternative, or even the contents of last year’s grow bags. Make absolutely sure it is lump-free. You have created a one-season mini carrot-friendly plot.
1 c) The Crowbar Technique
Define the carrot zone as per b). Beg, borrow, or if necessary steal, a crowbar. Visualise where your row of carrots is going to be. Insert crowbar every three or four inches, along the imaginary row. Plunge to a depth of 15-18 inches, and rotate vigorously until you have created a tapering hole of about three inches diameter at ground level. Fill the hole with a finely sieved mix of sharp sand and planting compost. Sow three or four seeds at each position, and thin to one later. Champion carrot-growers do this, too.