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Carrots

UK Garden Centre - Information about Carrots

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It seems that the British eat more carrots than any other nation in Europe, but it was the Dutch who first brought this vegetable to our shores during the reign of Elizabeth I. if you want to impress the family of win a prize at the local horticultural show, the secret of growing exceptionally long and straight-sided carrots is to make a deep hole, shaped like a giant ice cream cone, with a crowbar. Fill this hole with potting compost and sow three seeds of St Valery at the top. Thin the seedlings to leave the strongest and spray regularly with a foliar feed. Of course this is no way to grow carrots for the kitchen – these days we want shorter ones which are easier and quicker to grow. Varieties continue to change and so do our ideas about cultivation. The modern recommendation is to grow a carrot bed with the plants close enough to eliminate the need for hoeing. Sow very thinly to reduce or eliminate the need for thinning – a labour-free crop to grow nowadays but the menace of the dreaded carrot fly is always there.

Seed facts
Mix seed with sand or fine peat to prevent sowing too thickly. Better still, sow pelleted seeds 1in (2.5cm) apart.
Expected germination time: 17 days
Approximate number per ounce: 20,000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 8lb (4kg) early; 10lb (5kg) maincrop.
Life expectancy of stored seed: 4 years.
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 12 weeks early; 16 weeks maincrop.
Ease of cultivation: Not difficult if soil is good and carrot fly keeps away.

Soil facts
· Carrots are hard to please. The soil must be deep, fertile and rather sandy if you want to produce fine long specimens. If your soil is rather heavy or stony, grow short-rooted varieties. Where land has been manured during the past year, don’t grow carrots at all.
· Pick a sunny spot – dig in autumn, adding peat if necessary but not manure nor compost. Prepare the seed bed 1-2 weeks before sowing – rake Bromophos and a general-purpose fertilizer into the surface.

Seed sowing
Sow very thinly ½ in (1cm) deep in rows that are 6in (15in) apart. Cover with soil.

Calendar
· For a very early crop which will be ready in June, sow a short-rooted variety under cloches or in a cold frame in early March.
· For an early crop which will be ready in July, sow a short-rooted variety in a sheltered spot in late March or April.
· For maincrop carrots sow intermediate- or long-rooted varieties between mid April and early June for lifting in September and October.
· For a tender crop in November and December, sow a short-rooted variety in August and cover with cloches from October.

Looking after the crop
· Thin out the seedlings when they are large enough to handle. The plants should be about 2-3in (5-7cm) apart. Take care when thinning or the root-ruining carrot fly will be attracted to your garden by the smell of the bruised foliage. Water if the soil is dry and thin in the evening. Firm the soil around the remaining plants and burn or bury the thinnings.
· Pull out or hand hoe any weeds between the seedlings, but once well-established the use of a hoe is not recommended. The dense foliage cover provided by the closely-packed plants should keep down annual weeds – others should be removed by hand.
· Water during periods of drought in order to keep the ground damp – a downpour on dry soul may cause root splitting.

Harvesting
· Pull up small carrots as required from June onwards. Ease out with a fork if the soil is hard.
· October is the time to lift maincrop carrots for storage. Use a fork to lift the roots and then remove the surface dirt. Damaged roots should be used in the kitchen or thrown away – only sound carrots should be stored. Cut off the leaves to about ½ in (1cm) above the crowns and place the roots between layers of sand or dry peat in a stout box. Do not let the carrots touch – store in a dry shed and inspect occasionally so that any rotten roots can be disposed of before infecting their neighbours. The crop will keep until March.

Varieties
Short-rooted varieties
Golf ball round or finger long, these short-rooted carrots mature quickly. They are the first to be sown, and the early crop is either used immediately or frozen. The favourites are Amsterdam Forcing and Early Nantes, but there are now many others. Small, perhaps, but top of the league for flavour. Sow every 2-3 weeks between early spring and July to provide a steady supply of succulent roots.
Amsterdam Forcing: Reputed to be the earliest of all – cylindrical with a blunt (stump) end. There is little core and it is an excellent carrot for freezing.
Early Nantes: The roots are longer and more tapered than Amsterdam Forcing, but it is similar in many ways – early, tender and good for freezing.
Early French Frame: The round one – an excellent choice for shallow soils. Can reach 2in (5cm) across but is best harvested before reaching such a mature stage. The variety Rondo belongs to this group.
Champion Scarlet Horn: A good carrot of the Nantes type which is recommended for sowing under cloches in early March.
Tiana: An F1 hybrid which has been highly recommended for it earliness, smooth skin and flavour. Obviously a good choice for the exhibitor.
Kundulus: A good carrot for bad soils, say the catalogues. The short cylindrical roots are almost ball-like – a wise choice for the small plot.

Intermediate-rooted varieties
These medium-sized carrots are the best all-rounders for the average garden. They are generally sown later than the short varieties, the young roots being pulled for immediate use and the remainder left to mature as maincrop carrots for winter storage.
Chantenay Red Cored: The popular choice, which seems to appear on everybody’s list of recommended varieties of medium-sized carrots. Thick and stump-rooted, the flesh is deep orange and the skin very smooth. There are many good selections, such as Royal Chantenay.
Berlicum Berjo: An improvement on the old variety Berlicum – the cylindrical roots are stump-ended and it has a good reputation for keeping well, high yields and attractive colour.
Autumn King: The roots are unusually large for carrots in this group, but they are distinctly stump-rooted with none of the finely-pointed taper of the long-rooted varieties. Autumn King has several virtues – it is extremely hardy and will stay in the soil over winter, and carrot fly find it less attractive than other varieties. There are one or two excellent strains, including Vita Longa.
James Scarlet Intermediate: An old favourite with a good reputation for all-round performance. It is half-long, broad and tapered.
Flakkee: Like Autumn King, this Dutch variety has roots which are too long to warrant the label ‘intermediate’. But they are blunt-ended and so cannot be classed with the long-rooted varieties.
Mokum: An F1 hybrid which produces cylindrical roots up to 9in (23cm) long. It matures very rapidly, and can be sown from March until July.
Nantes Tip Top: The aristocrat of the Nantes group – a popular choice for showing. The 6in (15cm) roots are uniformly cylindrical and core-free.

Long-rooted varieties
These are the long, tapered giants of the show bench. They are usually grown in specially prepared soil and are not really suitable for general garden use unless your ground is deep, rich and light.
New Red Intermediate: Despite its name, one of the longest of all carrots. It has good keeping qualities.
St Valery: This is the one which the exhibitors so often choose. The roots are long, uniform and finely tapered.

Carrot and Parsnip troubles
Carrots are not considered easy to grow successfully – if your soil is heavy and sticky then long, straight roots are virtually and impossibility. The answer is to choose a short-rooted variety in such a situation, but this won’t help you against carrot fly. In some areas pest attacks reach such proportions that the growing of this vegetable is hardly worthwhile. No variety is resistant, and no single control method can be relied upon to be completely successful. The answer is to use a combination of control measures. Parsnips are less susceptible to pests – canker is the major disease and growing a resistant variety is the answer.
Carrot Fly
Green Top
Black Rot
Clayburn
Small Roots
Violet Root Rot
Sclerotinia Rot
Fanging
Motley Dwarf Virus
Carrot-Willow Aphid
Parsnip Canker
Splitting
Swift Moth


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