Carrots and Parsnips

This year the carrots and parsnip are following a crop of Broadbeans undersown with green manure. The bed was cleared recently and topped up with some compost lightly forked in. Once I was satisfied that the green manure was not going to regrow it was time to sow directly. Carrots and Parsnip should be sown directly into prepared ground as there fragile roots do not transplant well when grown in modules and planted out. Becides there is a lot of unnessary work involved if one goes that route. I have heard of carrot seeds being broadcast mixed with compost, sown stuck to strips of sticky paper and even piped into possition with pastes, it’s all good.

I,m sowing into an 8 x 4 foot raised bed and decided to sown half carrots and half parsnips. This is part of a rotation plan for the bed and they belong to the Umbel family which also includes celery. Remove any larger stones from the soil and level the surface. A stone is something the sort of size that you would not want it thrown at you. I use the golden gark rake/shovel/ sieve for this type of thing as well as hand picking.


Carrots can be grown as close as 10mm apart or up to 3 to 4 cm apart depending on what you ready or who you read. The packet of Autum King from Brown Envelope says 10mm while the book say 3 to 4 inches apart after thinning. For now none of that matters much as one can decide for ones self after germination.

So I made the drills using the side of my hand to a depth which is slightly moist.


Drills at 20cm spacings


Parsnip seed in the drill. They are light so best sown on a calm day and thinly.


Once sown cover in the drills using a rake or by hand and then using the back of the rake slightly firm. Its really important to mark the line of the drills with a bit of a twig or similar on both sides of the bed. This will help especially if there is a large seed bank in the soil and one has to figure out what is a seedling or a wild flower.


Water in to ensure contact between soil and seed.


It’s important with carrots to create a barrier that prevents the carrot root fly getting at the bed. The seedlings will grow beneath this. Here I am using a Environet which is also useful for Brassicas.


Once the carrots germinate  in 14 to 21 days regular weeding is essential and then that decision regarding thining will have to be made. Try all the spacings, 10mm right the way up to 3 and 4 inches as testing is the key to learning.


It’s really worth saying that regarding the spacing of vegetables the more space you give something the less competion for water/nutients, root space and light the plant will have and the more chance it will have at reaching its full potential. However I think in a small garden for personal or small family use a closer spacing works best as one might only need a little of something at a time rather than a monster veg harvested in one go with possible waste. It also spreads the eggs between a few baskets if taking a sink or swim approach.

It’s great fun to go for a daily forage in the garden for whatever looks good to eat and this can include a bit of weeding by eating with plants like chickweed, hairybitter cress (in salads) or  cleavers, nettles, plantains (boiled ) at the same time. Earlier today while ‘weeding’ a bed of onion in work I was struck by the weight and volume of edible plants being removed for composting that can be eaten. The edible ‘weeds’ over the growing period might actually provide more nutrition that the crop itself.  It’s purely a case of cultural perception and a small shift is all it would take to put these plants back on table. If our parents fed us plantain then this would be normal.

When harvesting I tend to take a few leaves from a few plants ( not all veg) rather that harvesting the whole thing. For example Kale will grow back again if one does this so in a way it’s like a minor setback much as a garden slug might inflict. Any damage cause by the ducks is worth it for their slugging services .

In magazines one often sees images of huge vegies but it worth questioning how these  were produced. These body builders of the plant world are force fed all sorts of chemicals. The tastiest and nutritionally best vegies are not necessarily going to look and conform to our perceptions of a standard carrot, apple or Tomato. Nutrient density would be a good way to price food as this is the all important factor in determining the quality of foods. Images of how vegetables should look grace the walls of our supermarkets and shops and we are being misled into thinking that by eating our greens any greens we are automatically eating healthy.  By growing even some of our veggies we are making a very important contribution to our health both mentally and physically.



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