Sharing my crop of carrots with garden wildlife
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The joys of midsummer and seeing flowers and edible produce start to show themselves is always exciting, especially if you can see it all sat with a drink in hand.
The sophisticated work is over and it's down to watering and keeping the space around what you want to grow weed free.
Pottering in the sun at your own leisure is the name of the game in early July.
Organised loafing in the guise of botanical perfection, or the art of doing nothing. I like to think that it’s an acceptable and unsaid way for us to nurture our minds.
At this time of year we aren’t the only ones at play in the garden.
Areas of greenery with lots of vegetables and flowers are the midnight destination for much of our wildlife.
If new building encroaches on wildlife habitats, this is more likely to happen.
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In my case, right now it’s in the form of badgers crunching my emerald-feathered carrot tops.
They look so good I’m never sure why we don’t eat them more ourselves.
During their night time raids I had naively thought they might stick to pushing over and eating the extra sweetcorn I plant for them every year.
The flattened carrot bed was more reminiscent of a Carry On film set when I first saw it.
Interestingly enough they didn’t unearth the roots, only the luscious greens, possibly as a starter until returning next week.
I shall leave the carrot bed for them and excitedly await what happens, the temptation will be too much for them, I'm sure.
All is not lost, and in the shape of the cavalry coming over the hill, is ‘late carrots’.
You can sow carrot seed now for harvesting in November time and storing indoors or in the greenhouse if you have one.
Two of the most popular late varieties are Nantes 2 and Berlikum.
I've settled on Amsterdam Forcing as a main crop for me and the badgers.
I’ll be sowing them in the deepest containers I can lay my hands on and in a sandy soil.
We aren't talking window box depth here, we are not interested in anything shorter than a filing cabinet, wheeled bin or medium-sized Dartmoor pony.
Containers are good as they offset the major threat posed by the carrot fly. These ephemeral destroyers can only fly low to the ground so it’s an easy and organic way of defeating them.
Should you have a problem with slugs and snails, you could always create a barrier with Vaseline.
You can then place containers in a badger-proof and sunny spot to secure your share.
Lightly cover or rake in the seeds before watering daily until their distinctive compound structured leaves appear almost overnight in two weeks.
If they start to look overcrowded, thin them out leaving the strongest looking.
There’s no need to be over precise about this as if the soil is sandy enough the roots will grown downwards quite easily.
My father-in-law swears by growing late carrots by planting them in a 4ft-length of drainpipe where the bottom half is made up entirely of sand underneath a gritty compost.
Obviously you can’t do this for every carrot but it is a tried and tested model for show bench carrots grown for straightness and size.
I'm loath to go down this route at the moment, preferring the taste of varieties grown for culinary purposes.
Having said that, growing carrots in this way is an exciting and practical project to enthuse children to have a future passion for gardening and everything else that brings.
My next wildlife encounter is likely to be when the resident mole inevitably pops his head up in my greenhouse.
Given it's full of exotic plants, I'm hoping he thinks he’s lost his way and leaves immediately.