Two easy to grow root vegetables were the subjects of this weeks #BritishVeg hour.
Carrots were generally thought to be well worth growing because they taste so much better freshly pulled from the garden rather than pre-wrapped and of uncertain age from the supermarket. It’s all to do with the natural sugars in the carrot breaking down to form starches after harvest – fresh is best.
Favourite varieties were –
‘Resistafly’ – because it shows some resistance to root fly attack
‘Paris market’ – a short rooted variety – good in containers
‘Autumn king’ – one of the best maincrop varieties
‘Chantenay red core’ – old variety with very good flavour
‘Sugarsnax’ – sweet and early maturing
And for a bit of variety in colour – ‘Atomic red’, ‘Cosmic purple’, ‘Solar yellow’
Carrots are a good crop to grow in containers – this way they can also be started off early in a greenhouse or polytunnel for an earlier harvest. Containers are also a good option for gardeners with heavy clay soils, which carrots don’t like.
It is possible to start carrots off in modules – just need to take care when transplanting, and do it before the root reaches the bottom of the module. Short rooted varieties are easier in this respect.
Pests & Diseases
You can’t really have a discussion of carrot growing without talking about carrot fly… just about everyone who has grown carrots will have come across the rusty brown tunnels eaten out of the root by the fly larvae. Possible solutions generally involve barriers to prevent the fly reaching the crop, or growing another plant with a strong scent close by to disguise the scent of the carrots (the female flies use the scent to find them and lay her eggs). Covering the crop with fleece or enviromesh keeps the fly off the carrots, but the cover needs to be put in place as soon as the seeds are sown. Suggestions for strongly scented plants to grow with carrots included onions and coriander. Another idea was to water the carrots with a garlic solution whenever they are touched.
Slugs can also be a problem.
The variety recommended by just about everyone was ‘Boltardy’, a good reliable beetroot.
Also mentioned were ‘Chioggia’, which has a nice striped effect to the root, and the golden beetroot ‘Burpees golden’, which has good colour and doesn’t ‘bleed’ the way red varieties do, but may not be so sweet and juicy.
Beetroot are easy to start in modules. You just need to remember that each seed is in fact a cluster of seeds, so you may well get more than one root from each seed.
And you don’t need to grow beetroot just for the roots – it’s a very versatile vegetable that can be used as microgreens, baby leaf, baby veg, edible leaves, small roots in salads (grated beetroot and carrot mixed is lovely), or larger roots for roasting.
Beetroot stores well too, and will keep all winter if kept moist and frost free in containers.
Pests and diseases seem to be less of a problem with beetroot than carrots. Plants may get holes in leaves – possibly caused by flea beetle. This isn’t really a problem, although it may slow growth a little, and if growing for leaves it can look unsightly.
Next Tuesday it’s peas and sweetcorn up for discussion. Join us between 8-9pm on Twitter using #BritishVeg.