Posts Tagged ‘Carrot’

GROWING CARROTS IN A POLYTUNNEL – 2nd week in September 2013

I was surprised to see carrots growing in a polytunnel at The Organic Centre, Co. Leitrim, on a recent visit. Klaus Laitenberger in his excellent book ‘Vegetables for the Polytunnel and Greenhouse’ mentions that growing carrots under cover like this ensures an earlier crop than just growing outdoors. Growing carrots indoors also ensures no carrot root fly attacks.

Klaus, who lives not a million miles from there, says November is when first sowings of early carrots can be made in a polytunnel or greenhouse. However, he prefers to wait until January to start sowing. Before this, he places black plastic on the seedbed for a few weeks to help warm up the soil first. After sowing, Klaus places fleece over the growing crop to protect it from the cold. Another key to success is choosing the most appropriate variety. Klaus recommends Amsterdam Forcing, Buror F1, Napoli F1, Rocket F1 or Ya Ya F1, which

Carrots growing in The Organic Centre under plastic, protected from the carrot root fly.

Carrots growing in The Organic Centre under plastic, protected from the carrot root fly.

is a Nantes type.



On Tuesday last, Dr Kim Reilly, Horticultural Research Officer with Teagasc in Kinsealy presented a comprehensive body of research to farmers and horticulturalists in advance of a farm walk around the organic and conventional trial plots in the North County Dublin research centre. This research was part of Dr. Michael Gaffney’s research group examining agronomic factors affecting the phytochemical accumulations in Irish grown vegetables. Interesting to note this research began when yours truly was Minister for Food and Horticulture in the Green/FF coalition in 2008.

Phytochemicals like anti-oxidants and flavonoids are also called plant bio-actives. Previous research on organic and conventional fruit and veg overlooked differences of plant varieties and farm locations. Dr. Reilly found these factors to be significant in measuring results. Accordingly, three control crops were sown in a multitude of  growing methodology variations. The patch work of trial plots demonstrated conventional and organic varieties of onion, carrot and broccoli. The pest control methods ranged from chemical biocides to beetle banks to garlic sprays, depending on whether a crop was organically grown or otherwise. Likewise the four year crop rotation and a winter ground cover crop featured in the organic plots.

The results were very detailed. For example, the conventionally grown onion bulbs were heavier, but the flavonoid and phenolic levels were greater  in the organic onions harvested. Likewise the organic broccoli showed higher levels of phytochemicals which have anti-cancer benefits. In the case of carrots, the organic carrots had higher flavonoid levels but the conventional carrots had higher phenolic levels, so the results had a couple of interesting twists too.

An overall analysis found that results can vary not just with the growing methodology, plant varieties, soil, climate etc., but year by year, the results varied too. Once again Nature has a way of keeping us curious about how she works and where she is going. The research is invaluable in moving on our understanding of the merits of working with Nature, not least because chemical sprays, being fossil-fuel based, are becoming unaffordable as the price of oil rises. Anyway, what farmer thinks it is a good idea to be handling poisins in one’s day to day work ? There are also clear market opportunities if labels can indicate health benefits in the fruit and vegetables grown in Ireland. Other research clearly shows biodiversity is richer in organic farming which goes down well with more environmentally aware consumers. Not surprising then,  that the demand for organic produce in Ireland and worldwide continues to outstrip supply.

When all is said and done, any encouragement for people to eat a greater percentage of fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet is to be welcomed. Supporting local farmers and growing more of our own diverse fresh produce is a key to living healthily without over-spending. Dr Kim Reilly, Dr Micheal Gaffney and their colleagues at Teagasc, Kinsealy, have done us all a great service in separating the facts from the fiction. Given a choice, I will always choose locally grown organic fresh produce if available – which all to often means GIY – Grow it yourself, unless you can call by the Sonairte organic stall at Balbriggan Fish and Farmers’ Market on a Friday 10 – 2pm or call to Sonairte, Laytown www.sonairte.ieor the Dublin Food Co-Op.

Dr. Kim Reilly of Teagasc showing local growers from as far away as Westmeath, the organic and conventional vegetable trial plots at Kinsealy, Co. Dublin.


Every garden needs a gaffer - Arthur the cat supervises seed sowing from the comfort of his bed atop a bag of old leaves.

Last week I mentioned that with a small garden, sowing most seeds in small pots or seed trays with a view to transplanting the seedlings to open soil in a few weeks is my preference. However, some vegetable seedlings do not thrive if transplanted. Root vegetables especially prefer to be sown directly where they are to grow to maturity.

A terracotta large pot suits my garden as a place to grow carrots. I use my largest pot which is about 50cm across and 50 cm high. Placing it in the middle of the brassica patch, I put a few stones in the base to help water to drain out at the bottom. Then I fill it with the finest soil I have. This soil grew beetroot last year so there is no fresh compost in it and hardly any large stones. Once almost full, I scatter a couple of dozen seeds spaced about 3 -4 cm across the soil surface. I cover the seedbed with a skim of soil, pat it down with the palm of my hand and then water through the rose spout of a watering can.

The carrot variety I used this year was ‘Amsterdam Forcing 2’. March to August is the period to sow this variety. In August, I might try sowing some seeds in the greenhouse for a late harvest. With 800 in the average packet, I will not run out of carrot seed in my small garden for a while.


Meanwhile, the radish seedbeds are windowboxes each filled with soil from the patch growing cabbage and kale this year, as radish is also a brassica like them. Only growing the brassica family in the same soil once every 4 years hopefully will prevent me having to deal with the bane of the brassica vegetables, clubroot disease. Rotating each veg family around a 4 year rotation has spared me any serious plant diseases so far, buíochas le Dia.

Last year, I sowed a well known radish variety ‘French Breakfast’ from Madeleine Mc Keever, the West Cork  organic seed producer This year, I am trying a heritage radish variety which originated in the 1890’s ‘Scarlet Globe‘ which I bought from in Scarriff, Co. Clare.

Each week from now to October, I will make a sowing of a couple of dozen radish seeds in a vacant window box each week. In about 5 weeks, the seed I sowed today will have become mature radish. Once those radish are harvested that week and their windowbox seedbed is cleared, I can handfork the soil over and sow, with fresh radish seed’ that windowbox anew – and so on week by week. The peppery crunchiness of a freshly harvested radish is impossible to find in a shop bought radish which was probably Dutch grown. One more reason to G.I.Y.  ( Grow It Yourself) and get involved with

Carrot – how to beat the carrot root fly

Mid April 2009

A problem that many gardeners face is the carrot root fly. This little pest can totally destroy a crop of carrots. Here’s a very simple method of protecting your carrots and keeping the carrot root fly at bay.