Sat in the sun, me and Hooves the cat fiddled about with carrot seeds for about an hour. I mulled over a Carrot Plan for 2011, while Hooves miaowed and got cross that I had commandeered her sunny table.
It’s a wonderful feeling to put the past experience into practise at the beginning of a new sowing season and reminds me that there is so much to learn every year.
Early Nantes for the Summer
I’ll sow the swift cropping Early Nantes from now until Autumn, every three weeks or so, to ensure a steady carrot crop throughout summer. My sowings during 2010 cracked and became woody quite quickly when winter arrived, so I’ll stop sowing after September.
Last year, I struggled with germination after sowing direct during April and May. To combat this, I’m going to make my first couple of Early Nantes sowings into the half toilet rolls, and germinate them in my cold frame. Once they’re hardened off, I’ll pop them out onto the allotment – rolls n’all – to grow on.
I’ll do this a couple of times, before reverting back to the old fashioned direct sowing for the rest of the season.
Autumn King Under a Fleece
The sturdy, bulky Autumn King did a sterling job of beating winter last year. I tried hiding them under a fleece during the colder months, and they kept perfectly. I only pulled my last one a fortnight ago, so I’ll be doing that again. It beats digging them up and storing in the sand, which made my carrots dry and soft when I did this.
I’m not going to bother sowing these now, as it’ll be the wintertime when I really need the Kings, so come late June, early July, I’ll put three rows into the ground. By then the ground will have warmed up, and germination won’t be a problem.
My idea is to treat the summery Early Nantes as successional crops, and the Autumn King as a leek-like winter staple, kept in the ground until needed.
Beating Crusty Soil
One difficulty I have had in the past is a crusting up of the soil after I’ve sowed. The seeds need to be Geoff Capes carrots to get through that, and my success has been patchy.
However, I picked up a super tip from the Grow Your Own forums this week (not from the woman that does mum’s feet this time), which involves covering the little seeds with multi-purpose compost, rather than the soil in the bed. When watered, the compost won’t go crusty, and the seeds can grow right on up.
Hopefully, this cunning plan will keep me in carrots right up until next spring. I’ve never quite nailed carrot growing, but last year felt like big progress. I’ve gained *carrot confidence*.
As they said on the tele once: the future’s bright. The future’s orange.