Page 22 - Simply Vegetables Winter 2020/21
P. 22

                                early shows), Octavo F1, Cazo F1, Match F1 and Speedo F1. This year I am trying a new variety called Tangerina F1. There are many other varieties you can try. Look on the back of seed packets and you will see which ones are suited for exhibition.
I allow about 20 weeks from sowing to harvest. As all my shows are in September my sowing date is early April. When sowing the seed, I mark out sowing stations in the compost in the top of the boxes. Fifteen stations to each box are arranged in three rows giving 150mm apart each way. Three or four seeds are sown at each station 10mm deep and watered in. A clear polythene sheet is fixed over wire hoops in the top of the box forming a sort of cloche. The seeds will take about two weeks to germinate. During this time it is important to keep the top of the compost moist. If the weather becomes hot, I replace the polythene with fleece.
Growing On
There is not too much to say here as carrots are so easy to grow using this method. Where we live in the south we can grow successfully in the open garden. When the seeds have germinated I remove the polythene covers and replace with Enviromesh to keep the dreaded carrot
fly out. The mesh must cover the boxes completely, sides and top. Beware, if you leave the top open then the fly will get in! When the seedlings are about 60 - 70mm high I thin to one per station. I’m left with fifteen carrots in each box. The compost is kept moist at all times, watering little and often. No further feeding is necessary. As the roots develop, their shoulders will sometimes push through the top of the compost and be exposed to the light. This causes greening
of the top of the root which is a serious defect for show carrots. As a prevention I place 75mm deep collars made from plastic drain pipe over each carrot and top up
the compost inside the collars to keep the shoulders covered. Some carrot varieties have strong upright foliage whereas others have more floppy foliage. Support for the foliage is provided where needed with string. Keep an eye out for pests! Carrot fly, slugs and aphids are all common problems.
Harvest and Preparation for the
Show Bench
My three shows are spread over three consecutive weekends. I do not need to lift
Winning set of Sweet Candle at the Kent DA Show
Matching up for uniformity before cleaning
all the carrots at once. For the stump carrot class you are typically looking for three roots in good condition, uniform in size, shape and colour and having a definitive stump end. For our Kent DA show five roots are required.
In order that your carrots are looking fresh and in the best condition, it is best to lift the carrots as close as possible to the show date. I try to lift the day before the show. Defects to avoid include carrots with no pronounced stump, those having missing or broken tap roots, rough skin finish, poor colour, green shoulders and pest damage.
Before lifting the carrots some foliage
from each root is cut to leave stalks of
about 150mm in length. Then carefully the compost is removed from around the top of each carrot to inspect their diameter. Choose a few roots with the same diameter. You can pull roots dry or wet. The risk is that you may break the fine tap roots which will lose points on the bench. I make a ‘well’ around the
top of the carrot and pour in plenty of water. Then the carrot is slowly lifted by grasping the stalks and pulling upwards in a vertical motion. The beauty of growing in a complete compost mix is that as you lift the root with one hand, you can use your other hand to carefully push your fingers down into the
wet compost to feel for the fine tap root and gently release it. So, no broken roots!
As the carrots are lifted I lay them out on the lawn and match them into sets of three or five. Always aim to have at least one spare root in case of any mishaps. The stalks
are cut down further to leave them about 100mm long. Then the roots are given a careful first wash in the garden to remove any compost before being taken into the kitchen and prepared for the show bench. All fine root hairs are removed from the body of the carrots before washing them again gently with a sponge in clean water. Do not use anything even slightly abrasive to clean your carrots as the skin will get scratched. The shoulders and stalks can be cleaned with a fine soft toothbrush under running water. I then wrap the carrots in a clean damp tea towel and place in a large plastic tray.
Make sure that you have plenty of time for staging at the show. I think that carrots look best staged on a black background. You could use either a black cloth or black painted base board. Trim the foliage stalks down to their final 75mm length. Set your carrots out on the bench in a row with the fine roots at the bottom. Place your entry card beside them and label the variety.
You should definitely be in with a chance of some red cards with this method. I’ve been fortunate to win at both the Kent DA Show and the Kent County Show.
  22 Simply Vegetables

   20   21   22   23   24