Monday, April 4

Getting to the root of things

We have sown and grown carrots and parsnips in the same way for several years now. We create a shallow trench through weed control fabric. We then fill it with compost and sow the seed in a drill made in the compost. The sowing area is them kept well watered. These are then protected from carrot fly by creating an enviromesh tent. (This isn't really necessary in the case of parsnips but the length of mesh is such that it stretches the whole length of the bed. It also gives the sowing area some protection from any creature that would otherwise walk all over it).
We don't do any thinning out preferring a survival of the fittest strategy and we don't really mind bizarre shapes. We do, however sow the parsnips more thinly than the carrots.

Last year our parsnips - Gladiator - performed really well. Germination was excellent.
The parsnips seedlings grew on to produce a good crop of healthy decent sized roots.
So some were odd shapes and none would win prizes but we grow to eat and these roots fulfilled our requirements. I'd say that it was out best parsnip harvest but have no idea what made them grow better this year.

Despite many plot holders on our site declaring that trying to grow carrots here is a waste of time, we always seem to manage to harvest a good crop which carries us through winter.

This year we started out as usual and even applied nematodes to the carrot bed as an extra level of slug protection. The carrot and parsnip seeds were sown on 21 April and all seemed well as they began to germinate.
Unfortunately slugs moved in and mowed off the lot. The slimy pests seem to leave parsnips untouched. Not to be outdone we resowed on 26 May and exactly the same thing happened. 

It looked as though we would have to resign ourselves to a carrot free year. We decided to make a final attempt to beat the slugs and bought a couple of early carrot varieties - Amsterdam Forcing and Early Nantes. The basis for this choice was that we hoped early varieties would mature quicker as at this point it was the end of June.

We also decided to sow in a different area of the plot. The seed was sown on 26 June and as time was limited, a piece of enviromesh was just laid across the seed bed. No nematodes were applied.
The seedlings grew quickly and the mesh was loosened to allow space for the seedlings to push it up as they grew.
This time the slugs stayed away and we eventually achieved a crop.
So now we are left pondering some questions.

Why was the slug attack worse than usual? Did the wet March have a knock-on or did the previous mild winter cause a population explosion?

Why did the nematodes have no effect?

Why didn't the slugs move in on the June sown seedlings? Was it because the enviromesh was close to the ground? Didn't they like the feel of crawling around under it?

If you are interested our sowing method for parsnips is shown in more detail here and carrots here.



30 comments:

  1. Hi Sue--I always have trouble with my early sown carrots (but I keep trying!!!)
    Something always mows them down--methodically working it's way down the row eating each and every carrot. I finally found my pest last year--those devil pill bugs. I keep sowing and eventually, about mid-May, they just "quit"..and all my carrots are then "allowed" to grow.
    I agree that the food is to be eaten, not win a beauty pageant. As long as it is grown healthfully and produces, who cares if they're not perfect.
    Have a wonderful spring in the garden. (We just got a TON of snow--bah!)

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    1. Snow! I hope that it is the last you see of any snow. Maybe the timing was key in the last sowing of carrots.

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  2. I don't grow carrots on the same scale as you {due to growing area and local availability} but find I get my best crops grown in bins {which stand on hard paving not taking up any ground area} Since doing this I've never had problems with slugs, carrot fly, or marauding cats.
    As to the slugs, I give in! Even attacking them on every possible level, nematodes, beer traps, grapefruit, copper, eggshells and the worst ~manual removal and disposal~ the little blighters still decimate my garden.

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    1. If anyone comes up with a fail proof method of controlling slugs and snails they will be worth a fortune, Deborah.

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  3. I'm pleased to say that slugs are not a major problem here. I used to have big issues with Carrot Root Fly, but since I started using Enviromesh this has practically ceased. I think the height of my new-style raised beds is also an advantage because it deters all but the most persistent slugs / snails. I had a great Carrot crop last year, but my Parsnips were a pathetic waste of space. I always sow more than one variety of any veg, reckoning that at least one of them will be OK even if one fails.

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    1. Slugs were happy to eat all varieties of carrots, Mark.

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  4. Like Mark, my parsnips were disappointing last year. This was particularly galling because they were so very good the previous year and I thought that I had parsnip growing sorted! Carrots here vary from year to year too - as do slug numbers. I think the chickens help keep slug populations down, but they do little for seed beds. There is nothing better than the fine tilth of a seed bed for a dust bath!
    Your soil looks good in the photo - I know that slug nematodes don't do so well on heavy, wet soil. Was it very rainy after application? Some nematodes need quite specific temperatures, but I don't think this is so true of the ones you apply for slugs.

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    1. It was actually quite dry, Sarah although our soil is clay based.

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  5. It's difficult to guess what slugs think, Sue :) I prefer to cover all seedlings but you do this more professional.

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    1. I think their brains are in their stomachs, Nadezda.

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  6. I wont be growing parsnips this year and the carrots will be in troughs. It's amazing just how far a slug will travel to get a meal x

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    1. At least they don't seem to like parsnips, Jo.

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  7. I know a lot of people swear by them but I've never had success with nematodes. Given the faff and the expense I won't be trying them again. Interesting to read Sarah's comment about heavy wet soil.. that'll be me then!

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    1. It would be just too expensive to apply nematodes everywhere, Jessica and I'm not sure whether they are effective against snails so I doubt that they will be used on the plot again.

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  8. I have yet to germinate a parsnip. Just threw away a load of seeds sown in toilet roll tubes because nothing happened. I shan't give up. Finally grew some carrots last year by broadcast sowing a whole raised bed's worth. I think I shall try rows this year.

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    1. No seeds sown on the plot yet, CJ.

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  9. I had a particularly bed carrot year - as in NO carrots - a couple of years ago & I believe that slugs were the culprits as well when the seedlings started vanishing overnight...literally.

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    1. Same here, Margaret it was a case of now you see them and now you don't.

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  10. Our parsnips have always been great but we do have trouble with the old carrot growing, in fact we didn't get any last season :( Still, we never give up!

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    1. Good gardening mantra, Carrie. We keep trying regardless.

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  11. I hate snails & slug! I kill them the moment I see them! Usually i add snail poison to the soil...hahahha...

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    1. They are probably the most hated garden pest, Malar

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  12. When we used to keep ducks we never had snails as the ducks went along the rows of veg hoovering up slugs as they went. It was wonderful! And then of course the slugs were turned into eggs. Double plus.
    Recently I have been using 'Grazers' liquid to spray on my young seedlings and it works brilliantly and is harmless to all other wildlife and humans. I spray as the seedlings emerge or when I transplant, it lasts for four weeks and then I spray once more. That gets the new seedlings through the young and succulent stage and after that they are on their own. I'll never look back now I've discovered this:)
    Thanks for your post on growing carrots, very helpful. I never used to have probloms germinating either parsnips or carrots but for the last few years they are most reluctant to come up. I think at my altitude the wind of the last few years has kept the temps low.

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    1. We used Graziers effectively on hostas sweffling but we haven't tried on seedlings. It's easier to use it at the right time in the garden than on the plot

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  13. I've always struggled with snails and slugs. Last year they didn't seem as populated and I had a good supply of lettuces. This year.... who knows.

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    1. For some reason they didn't touch our lettuces last year, Kelli

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  14. You certainly pose good questions there....if only there were answers! My carrots germinated well last year and survived the slugs but didn't grow very big, I think it was the lack of rain for a month. What smashing parsnips!xxx

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  15. Shame the nematodes didn't work, they are expensive, from what I remember. I am about to start a new small veg bed and and going to try a few carrots, just to see what happens. I do like the way you can grow different colours and shapes when you grow your own, but I don't miss battling with the enviromesh every time I want to pick or weed!

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    1. Nematodes are expensive, Janet

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