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Spud Grubber's Blog

Guy Barter

  • Date Joined: 15 Jan 2007

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Tide turned

Posted by Guy Barter on 09 May 2008 at 11:15 PM

At last the tide has turned and I can now sow at will in good weather and with warm moist soils – perfect.

Carrots for winter harvest were sown this weekend.  For rotational reasons they are not grown on my raised beds this year but in open ground.  This sandy soil is ideal for carrots, but it is also ideal for carrot fly and annual weeds.  The weeds have been allowed to germinate and then killed before sowing.  A narrow, 90cm bed was drawn out with line and hoe and rows pressed crossways into the soil 15mm deep with a lath of timber.  The firm soil at the base of the drill ensure plenty of moisture and a firm grip for the seedling root.  The bed was loosened with a fork before sowing to eliminate any compaction that might lead to forked roots.  This bed is fertile because masses of compost was rotovated in last year so the only fertiliser used was the usual 15g per square metre of sulphate of potash.  Such a narrow bed is very easy to reach into for weeding.  Carrot foliage is too feathery to inconvenience weeds with shade so much laborious weeding is usually required and anything to speed up this task is worthwhile.

I like a big, rich coloured and flavoured roots for winter use, so I go for Autumn King types;  ‘Campestra’ is the root of choice this year.  It has recently become available again in small packets.  Carrots are very heavy yielding, about twice the yield of parsnips for example, so only a relatively small area is needed.

To follow the fingerling carrots sown last autumn and in February I sowed some ‘Nelson’ which has cylindrical roots and did very well indeed last year for summer use, ‘Purple Haze’ for eating raw in summer (its purple colour disappears on cooking) and ‘Columbia’ an Imperator type that is long, thin and sweet.  I am unconvinced by Imperators, but as they seem very popular with commercial producers for raw consumption, I am trying again. 

Once sown the bed was covered with fleece to exclude carrot fly.

The last of the broad beans were sown – after this time broad beans do poorly, so I can only assume those sold in late summer in supermarkets come from farms in Scotland.  French beans follow the broad beans but I am unsure if the soil is warm enough. It is hardly rocket science to find out: a 1.5m row was sown.  If they look good next weekend the rest will follow.  An 84cell module tray has already been sown and is now in the heated propagator, in reserve.

The previous sowing of peas is now 3cm high and vulnerable to pigeons.  Already these vermin have started lifting the protective fleece off earlier crops and pecking off the foliage.

Netting and posts were taken from the spent spring cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower crops and erected over the pea and bean patch. 

As soon as the peas reach 5cm the next sowing of peas will go in, so that they mature in succession without overlap or gaps.  The seedbed was raked level ready to receive the seeds.


Digger said:

Hi Guy, How long do you leave the fleece covering over the carrots for? I have seen some fly screen mesh, but it's black and I'm not sure if it will exclude too much light.

on 10 May 2008 at 09:35 AM

Guy Barter said:

Good question - in theory replace with insect-proof mesh before June, but many gardeners report perfectly good results from leaving fleece on all summer and indeed all autmn, and yes, all winter too!  As the best carrots I have ever seen were growing in a Tunisian oasis I think carrots might take more heat than one might imagine.

In my case, the fleece will be replaced with a 60cm tall plastic barrier fence as soon as I find time to drive to Wickes and buy more battens to build the fence.

on 15 May 2008 at 09:05 AM