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Growing Stump Rooted Carrots for Show – Cultivation to Showing

John Trim

John Trim

Show grower John Trim has won the national championship with his carrots. In this second article on growing stump rooted carrots (normal size!) for show, he reveals the secrets of  sowing, cultivation, harvest, preparation and staging for stump rooted carrots for exhibition to get you the winner’s red card at the show.

This is part 2 of a 2 part series of articles on growing prize winning stump carrots for the show bench by John Trim, Fellow of the National Vegetable Society, show judge and horticultural lecturer.

Sowing the Carrot Seed

This is where it can get a bit tricky. If you are using an open pollinated variety such as Chantenay Red Cored ‘Favourite’ then you should sow 17/18 weeks before the show date. Any less than that and the carrot would not have reached maturity. A carrot is mature when it forms a stump end. Pull one too early and you will find they nearly all finish in a taper to the tap root.

Washing Stump Rooted Carrot

Washing the carrots taking care to clean round the circumference NEVER rub up and down.

Selecting Carrots

Making the final selection – comparing for size, shape and quality

Show Winning First Prize Carrots

A National show winning entry of stump rooted carrots.

The F.1 varieties such as ‘Sweet Candle’ and ‘Trevor’ can take 22/24 weeks to form a stump end. If grown under cover this time can be reduced to as little as 18 weeks. But personally I would never pull the carrots until at least 20 weeks had elapsed.

The reason for being so fussy is that you want to pull the carrots at the peak of their condition. You could leave them to grow on well past 25 weeks but the skins would rapidly lose condition.

Before sowing begins water all the bore holes with warm water. This will assist rapid germination. Make a shallow depression in the middle of the borehole, sow 3/4 seeds at each station and cover with a sprinkle of compost.

Once you have completed sowing give the bed a light watering with warm water containing a copper fungicide such as ‘Cheshunt Compound’ as a precaution against the emerging seedlings damping off. Cover the whole bed with a sheet of fleece or enviromesh. Germination will normally take 10/14 days.

Thinning out Carrots

About a month after sowing the young carrots will be ready for thinning. You should try to leave the strongest plant in the middle of the borehole. Snip the unwanted seedlings off with a pair of scissors or alternatively gently pull them out. Spray the plants with Garlic Barrier to ward off the carrot root fly and as a further precaution erect a 1 meter high barrier using enviromesh or 30g fleece.

Cultivation & Care of Carrots for Show

Keep the surface of the bed evenly moist. This should help to stop the carrots growing over long. As the plants develop keep an eye out for aphids at the base of the foliage, a favourite place for them to congregate. Use an appropriate insecticide if you spot them.

Every week examine the carrots for any side growths on the shoulders of the carrot, these occur alongside the main foliage. They can be pared off very neatly with a scalpel blade bought from a hobby shop. The scar will grow out as the carrot develops in size.

A week before the show go round the bed and select carrots all at the same diameter in width across the crown. Mark each one, this will save time when lifting on the day before the show.

Lifting & Staging Your Stump Carrots for the Show

On the day of lifting cut back the foliage to 150mm/6”. Grip the foliage and with a gentle pull draw up the carrot. There is no need to soak the compost. Keep a bucket of water with you to give the carrots a quick wash, then wrap them in a damp towel prior to final cleaning and selection.

The final clean up is done under running cold water. Never rub a carrot up and down it’s length to clean it. Instead with a sponge or a cloth grip the carrot and clean around the circumference by turning the carrot in your hand whilst holding a wet cloth. Don’t over clean as it is very easy to remove a layer of skin. Pay attention to the crown and wash the foliage thoroughly.

After cleaning make your final selection for uniformity. All should be the same length, girth and colour. The taproots must be intact and all the fine root hairs on the sides of the carrots removed. Never select a carrot that has suffered any form of pest damage. Even in a small village show no judge will award those a prize.

Wrap each carrot in a damp towel plus bubble wrap. Transport in a solid box, I use those large plastic boxes with clip down lids. At the show arrange your exhibit in a straight line one alongside the other. Use a black board, ‘if the schedule allows’. If the board is slightly raised at the back it will show the carrots off a treat.

Finally trim the foliage to 75mm/3” long and cover the dish with a damp cloth to keep the skins looking fresh until judging takes place.

The prepared carrot bed can be used year after year. All that needs doing is to sterilise the bed in January by forking over and drenching each square meter with 2 gallons of water containing a tablespoon of Jeyes fluid. (Editor’s Note: The use of Jeyes fluid for sterilising soil is not approved under EU regulations and we are not suggesting you do it)

Growing Carrots for Show Articles by John Trim

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