We recently harvested our maincrop carrot trial. Alongside familiar orange carrots the trial includes a range of purple, white and red cultivars.
The RHS Vegetable Forum recently gave 13 of the 39 cultivars in the trial the Award of Garden Merit (subject to a ratification meeting next February).
The carrots were assessed on yield, pest and disease resistance, appearance, size, uniformity of crop and, of course, taste!
We sowed two 3.5 metre (11ft 6in) rows of each cultivar, with 30cm (1ft) between the two rows and a 40cm (1ft4in) space between each trial entry. We prepared the seedbed by rotavating, raking to a fine tilth and applying fertiliser using recommendations based on soil analysis. We marked out the rows using lines and canes and made seed drills using a useful multi-row marker.
This magic tool saves time by making three drills in one go. The small seed was sown thinly along these 1cm deep drills and covered by 'shuffling' the soil back in with our boots. The dreaded carrot fly can smell carrots from miles away, so we covered the rows with horticultural fleece that was dug in at the sides. Seedlings were thinned to 2.5cm (1in) and kept irrigated and weeded through the summer and into autumn.
Some of the carrots are still in the ground, as they can be stored in situ until March. Digging them up is easier in the frost if they are covered with a 15cm (6in) layer of straw. However in colder regions they are best stored in a box of sand in the garage or outside in an earth-covered ‘clamp’ (as recommended in a wartime leaflet).
We have now delivered the carrots to our restaurant, where visitors can find them in delicious coleslaw, sandwiches and Christmas dinners.