Page 23 - Simply Vegetables Winter 2020/21
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First of all I’d like to thank everyone involved in arranging the virtual show which gave we exhibitors something to look forward to when it became apparent that pretty much all of the shows were going
to be cancelled in this genuine ‘Annus Horribilis’. I looked on in bewilderment
at a suggestion on Facebook that our volunteer NVS hierarchy had cancelled shows too easily and indeed gone into ‘hibernation’. Utterly pathetic, you have been watching the news this year haven’t you? So thankyou Trustees, show manager Ray Higgins and judges Ian Stocks and
Jim Williams for giving us a little light relief on Sunday 6th September. The way it was revealed on the NVS Facebook page class by class, with dramatic music, showing
all the entrants and the results in reverse order was absolutely inspired. Not quite the same as being at an actual show with your showing mates but the anticipation wasn’t far off so well done to all involved.
And I was delighted to win the stump carrot class, especially as my pal Mark Perry limped home in 4th, thus providing me with 12 months bragging rights as he usually beats me in everything carrot related! Which brings me to the reason for this article, the method I grew these carrots. For years I religiously did the boreholes, filling them with various mixes as specified by whichever stump guru I had decided to follow that particular season. And quite frankly, I was rubbish! I struggled for uniformity, roots were often bent or forked, condition often spoiled by cavity spot and I could never achieve a proper stump end. I could usually find a set good enough to win all my local shows, but when it came to NVS events I was always a country mile away from the tickets. It was a lot of effort for very little reward, demoralising at harvest time. Tasted nice mind!
In 2017 I decided I’d had enough of showing and would only grow for the kitchen for the foreseeable future, a life changing decision for all involved that lasted 12 months! During those 12 months I got very lazy in the garden and only managed to successfully cultivate the national collection of willow-herb and bindweed, ultimately proving that I was only interested in keeping my garden tidy if there was some level
of competition involved at the end of it. However, one of the decisions I took that season led to my winning virtual carrots. Running late to get a few carrots in I decided to simply sow a few rows raked into the old sand beds I’d previously gone to the trouble of doing so many boreholes in. They are old paving slabs on edge, with some subsoil dug out beneath to give a 2 1⁄2 foot depth. I’d noticed that some weeds grew quite happily even in the ‘pure’ sand around the bore holes so figured that sand, even the quarried washed concreting sand we grow
long roots does contain some nutrient value to sustain growth. Hell, you even see plants growing away quite happily on some sandy beaches and besides there would still be some residual nutrients from my bore holes remaining in the now sandy compost mixture.
After sowing I pretty much ignored them save for the odd watering when I could
be bothered. They germinated well (an
old packet of Sweet Candle), grew well
also, albeit under an enviromesh cover so I thought I’d have some reasonable carrots for the kitchen. It was Sod’s Law that I pulled some of my best ever carrots, all with proper stump ends, and if I’d been showing I could have made a decent set or two. Typical, but surely a fluke I thought!
Having decided to take up showing
again in 2019 I thought I’d give the stump experiment another outing, but this time
I made some raised beds in one of my greenhouses, taking out all the soil from a border where I had always grown tomatoes and replacing it with sand from the previous slab bed. They weren’t ready in time for the New Forest National, but I did enter 2 sets at Malvern in late September. Neither got in the tickets but I felt both sets were better than I’d produced for some time. Clean, stumped and no cavity spot despite being grown in the same sand that I’d suffered this disease in the past. Go figure!
In 2020 I repeated things, just giving
the sand a bit of a digging to add some air, made the drills and sowed the seed in early April. Easy peasy. After germination they were thinned out to every 4 inches or so, so they do grow quite closely together meaning you get more roots in a small space and it doesn’t seem to alter the size. I did sprinkle some insecticide (no names mentioned) along the drills also. I felt the foliage didn’t look as good as it had in previous seasons so I was delighted when I pulled a dozen good carrots in early September for the
NVS virtual show. I didn’t go to the usual lengths in trying to get as much tap root
out as possible, a detachable board will make that easier in future but upon cleaning up my selected set I was very happy with their condition and they were very orange. That’s now 3 seasons of good stump carrots in sand that has had no extra nutrients added whatsoever. Time will tell how long
I’ll get away with this but for now it certainly appeals to me as an easy, lazy method that you can quickly get sorted at a busy time in the showman’s calendar when you’re flying around getting drums prepared for long carrots and parsnips and potting on your onions, leeks etc. If anyone else struggles to get decent stumps by the standard borehole method I’d certainly recommend having a go. You might be surprised!
   One small footnote, I doubt the carrots would have been in the tickets at an actual show, the LH one having a bit of a ‘waist’ that I was able to hide by a bit of judicious positioning. No matter, the history books will say 1st S.Smith.......(big gap)........4th M.Perry!
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