Carrots by David Hodgson
There is a common myth that carrots are good for your eyesight and in particular for
night vision. Indeed the RAF pilots were persuaded to eat copious amounts of carrots
every day during the early years of the Second World War as were all service
personnel. The myth was created, not because eating them improved your night vision
when you were out on bombing missions, but because the government had mistakenly
set such a high price for carrots in 1941 that farmers produced a huge glut to capitalise
on the inflated price. The armed forces were forced to eat the lot.
Mind you, carrots are good for you and if you have ever taken a supermarket carrot and
eaten it raw alongside a fresh home grown organic carrot you might never want to
waste your money buying supermarket carrots again. The difference is truly a
Which brings me on to growing your own. Here in the Stour Valley, here at the Old Hall
community, we have been growing our own organic carrots for more than forty five
years. I have only grown them for twenty of those years however. If you want some
figures we grow about eight rows and each row is about eighty metres long. That is
enough carrots to feed 60 people from early June one year to February the next year
assuming the carrot fly don’t get to them first.
Carrot fly love carrots. They travel several miles in search of carrots and can smell them
from a mile away. Considering that they are poor fliers and cannot fly higher than
eighteen inches, 450mm to you millennials, that means one hell of a sensitive nose for a
creature smaller than a small fly. When they find your carrots in early spring they will lay
their eggs in the ground around the carrot heads. The larvae hatch and burrow their way
into the carrot, where they eat, live and grow. Rendering them inedible to you and me.
Four tips to avoid carrot fly.
One. Never plant your carrots in the same place year on year. Rotate your site on a four
year rotation if you can. There may well be larvae left in the ground over winter.
Two. Companion plant carrots alongside your onions and garlic. The smell throws them
into confusion. A sensory overload so to speak.
Three. Cover your carrots in carrot fly netting once the shoots appear, or better still, as
soon as you have sewn them. Carrot fly are a bit predictable, they hit carrots twice a
year. Once in early spring and then again in late summer. So avoid the early spring by
planting late April and May when the first wave offensive has waned. I usually plant my
Early Nantes on the first May bank holiday and my Autumn King on the last May bank
holiday. Or I pick the full moon closest to these dates. But that’s just the old hippy in me.
Four. Stop thinning and weeding your carrots once the onions have been lifted and
keep the netting on all the time after that. This way you will avoid the autumn attack.
Remember digging up or thinning or weeding around a carrot increases the smell. Push
the soil back around any carrots disturbed by this process to avoid this. Most important
in the autumn when the onions are gone.
Carrots seeds love a warm sunny sandy soil. Do not plant in clay. Dig, rake to a fine tilth
before planting, removing stones and weeds. Do not compost. April is a good time to do
this. Not once, not twice, but three times over a couple of weeks and your bed should
be perfect, ready for planting. Shallow drills, half inch deep should do it. If you want, mix
your seed with five times as much dry sand or bone meal. This helps spread the seed
more evenly and sparingly along the drill resulting in less thinning, therefore less
exposure to the squadrons attacking your carrots while you remove the netting to weed
and thin them. Watering twice a day is a must, early morning and again at sunset.
The River Stour Festival this year has a theme which encourages us to source our food
from as local a source as is possible. Eat all your food for thirty days from sources
grown no more than thirty miles away. Food miles being important factors. The best
thing you can do is to grow your own organic fruit and vegetables. Healthy eating, zero
carbon footprint, healthy planet.