Thursday, 21 August 2014

Abysmal carrots!

Carrots are usually a staple for the summer and into the winter but not this year.

The early sowing was almost a complete failure, there were so few germinating that I pulled them out in the end and sowed again in a different spot.

The second sowing in the polytunnel had a better germination rate but the seedlings have been slow to develop. Later sowings outside germinated reasonably well but, despite a mesh to stop carrot root fly, they are riddled with the worms and I will have to remove the carrots to try and prevent the worms pupating and causing more problems next year.

Why the failures? I had heard that other growers were struggling with germination during early spring, and this was put down to dry weather and it being unusually warm. Certainly with the second sowing in the polytunnel I ensured that I watered more frequently and watered the drill before I sowed the seed. Germination was better but it was a hot summer in the polytunnel and this has not been to the carrots' liking. By now we are usually eating plenty but I pulled one a couple of days ago and the carrot (well-flavoured) was too small to have more than a bite or two.

Why did the outdoor ones get carrot root fly? Unfortunately it can be difficult to judge when the carrot fly is on the wing, and it is a very small fly. Possibly it either got through the mesh or hatched from overwintering pupae underneath, although I think that was unlikely as the carrots were sown in a very different spot from the previous year's carrots. Certainly I have plenty of potential host plants around the croft and carrot root fly has become more of a problem, though never as bad as this.

Next year I plan to grow the carrots in tubs and avoid the vegetable patch to try and break the cycle. Even with removing the carrots and, hopefully eradicating the fly larvae, I would expect a few to slip through. If they are in deep tubs, new growing medium and in the other polytunnel I expect to get a clean crop. I'll let you know!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Be careful what you wish for!

We have been enjoying a wonderful summer, which has kept me busy outside in the vegetable garden, and watering copiously in the polytunnel.

Little rain has fallen since the potatoes went in and unfortunately the carrots have not appreciated the hot dry days. Onions have thrived with bulbs the size of tennis balls, and all from seed sown in January!

For days now I have watched the forecast in the hope that the showers indicated would help the potatoes, which are beginning to look in desperate need as the soil is dust dry. Nothing has arrived of any note; drizzle which made the foliage damp. I did resort to an earlier watering with the hose but the foliage is so thick that the hose needed to be put underneath it and consequently the watering was patchy. To get decent sized potatoes the plants need a reasonable quantity of water as they start to flower and boy did they get it last night!

The tail end of Hurricane Bertha arrived during the night with squally winds and heavy showers. The potatoes got the soaking they wanted and managed to withstand the wind, but my sunflowers at the end of the brassica patch are prostrate. The rain is unlikely to make much of a difference to the carrots, I should have watered more frequently during June/July, but a prolonged holiday didn't help with that plan.

I recently sowed some spinach, mizuna and rocket outside, and have been watering daily so now I can take a break from that for a few days. Even the polytunnel plants will benefit as water will flow through the ground under the tunnel and get to the deep roots which they are encouraged to develop. (The raised beds are only a few inches above the ground level, and I water well but not frequently, a good soak once a week or so when the plants are beyond seedling stage ensures they seek for water at deeper levels rather than relying on regular light waterings.)

I'll stop wishing for rain now as I have yet to assess the impact that the wind has had on the fruit trees, and if wishing for rain brings hurricanes, even if they are at the end of their strength, then I'll put up with watering by hand.