"The easiest vegetable in the garden to grow," says the man with a deep, light, sandy soil. "About the worst you can have to do decently," growls the one with tenacious clay.
Carrot culture is a much more simple business in friable than in clinging soil, and if the ground is not naturally suited to the crop, the task of making it so is often undertaken with grumbling. Long Carrots of fine "grain" and rich colour are grown on the Surrey and other sands, and on the alluvial soil of the Lea and Medway valleys; moreover, they are produced without much labour. To get equal quality on stiffer stuff the cultivator has to exercise his ingenuity and his muscles.
Fig. 53. Growing Carrots On Ridges. The left-hand ridge at the top shows the soil drawn up, the others show drills made ready for sowing.
There are three ways of achieving the object in view. The first is to trench the ground, the second is to make holes with a crowbar and fill them up with fine potting soil, the third is to make ridges.
The trenching system is attended with such excellent results that it may always be safely recommended for general adoption on the lines already laid down in this book, but it may be usefully supplemented by one of the other plans. Long, symmetrical and clean Carrots may be secured by making holes 30 inches deep, filling them up with loam and sand, sowing three or four seeds in each, and thinning the plants down to one.
The ridge system is less familiar, and although it does not yield such fine individual show roots, it gives a heavy and clean crop with trifling trouble. By resorting to it on the Wealden clay I have doubled my crop and set the maggot at defiance. The following is the way to go to work: Early in spring fork the ground over, so as to give plenty of loose, finely pulverised earth, then set out the line, and with a draw hoe or other handy tool draw the soil up into a mound 1 foot high and as much through at the base. Make it straight and even, and then, holding the tool in a horizontal position, press the handle into the top of the ridge to a depth of about 1 inch; this forms a drill. Sprinkle the seed in thinly, and cover it by breaking over the top edges of the drill.
When the young Carrots are 1 inch high thin them, and press the soil close round the crowns of the plants which are left. Thus treated, the fly is kept out, and the young plants are given plenty of room to swell. After the next thinning, which should be when they are of the size of a Radish, and when they may be left 6 inches apart, close the soil up as before. By this simple plan grand crops of Carrots may be grown.
I have sometimes been asked if Carrots thus grown do not suffer from the ridges becoming dry. No. 1 take care to sow when the soil is thoroughly moist, and this gives the plants a good start. Subsequently, the luxuriant leafage which the healthy and vigorous plants throw up shades the ridges. Carrots grown in this way on the same plot, and of the same variety, as others on the flat, have given a far superior crop.
Carrots grown on the flat will yield good roots if the soil is deep and friable, if manure is kept away from them, if they are thinned early, and if the soil is always kept close at the crown. Gas water, at the rate of a gallon to six gallons of water, is splendid stuff to pour between the rows.
The types of Carrot have greatly improved in the last twenty years. Early Nantes, James's Intermediate and Long Red Surrey, the champions of my boyhood, have given place to improved varieties, but the French Forcing is still grown largely in frames. It is difficult to say which is the best in the various sections, as all the great seedsmen have furnished themselves with excellent strains. Amongst early short Carrots I have grown, and been satisfied with, Bunyard's Stump-rooted, Cannells' Improved Guerande, Carters' Summer Favourite, Daniels' Scarlet Perfection, Suttons' Early Gem, Suttons' Champion Horn and Veitchs' Model. I should not mind which of these I had if I were obliged to restrict myself to one. Of Intermediates, I have had the best results from Daniels' Telegraph, though Bunyard's Exhibition and Suttons' New Intermediate are grand strains. Of long Carrots, Carters' Red Elephant and Veitchs' Matchless are perhaps the pick. The latter is a beautiful root.
Fig. 54. How To Grow Fine Carrots.
A, a, plants unthinned; b, plants thinned.
B, c, d, unthinned and thinned plants at a later stage.
C, developing well.
D, ready for the show.