From late August until November it’s time to start pulling out the carrots and parsnips. In itself the carrots are a very easy crop to grow. As long as you make the ground nice and loose they will grow. If you use crop rotation most of the plagues will stay away.
Carrots have only one major plague on them, the carrot fly (Chamaepsila rosae), which can do a lot of damage. It is not the fly itself that does the damage, but the larvae creamy white maggots that do the most damage. The fly lays their eggs next to the carrot and the maggot starts digging and eating.
The carrot fly can have up to 3 generations in 1 year after that the larvae lie dormant for the winter. While the 1st generation of larvae only eat the little hear roots of the young carrots, it is the 2nd generation that does the most damage. They eat themselves straight trough the carrot leaving brown boring holes in it. Making it inferior in taste and, well it doesn’t look very appetizing either. Also carrots that have damage cannot be stored well.
Now except for pesticides which are not an option for me, what can we do?
The carrot fly does not like wind, so if you can, put your carrots unsheltered from wind. I my case there is not to much wind in the garden so I need a different solution then this.
The larvae lay dormant for the winter in the soil. So if you put the carrots somewhere else next year, tough luck for the flies!
If the soil is disturbed by for example thinning, harvesting or walking it is easier for the fly to lay the eggs and the larvae to get to the root itself. So thin early and don’t disturb the soil.
“According to Misses E. Smit from Westernieland, carrots in her garden grew undamaged and more beautiful if she planted some onions in between them. Where she got this knowledge is unkown to me. ” This is an passage in an article from the Dutch Phytopathological Society in May 1923. This article further teaches us that shallots have the same property. According to Mister Heidema, the author of the article, the repelling properties of the onions comes from the strong scent which is not appreciated by the flies.
So unions, shallots an garlic work well, I’ve tested it and until harvesting the unions and the garlic I did not see any carrot flies. Remember for onions to efficient there need to be lots of them, think 1 row carrots, 1 row onions.
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare).
Another effective plant against wormflies is the tansy, in dutch it is called boerenwormkruid, farmers-worm-herb. Tansy has a mix of oils and one of them is called Eucalyptol, which is used as a insecticide an insect repellant (and a number of other things). The tansy also contains camphor which is also used to repel moths. If you break a leaf and rub it on your finger you smell those two clearly.
It turns out that the tansy is a very versatile plant;
-Tansy is highly toxic to internal parasites, and has been used by herbalists to expel worms for centuries.
-It can be used to keep flies, moths and even ants out of the house by hanging it in the windows.
-It keeps flies and worms away from berries.
-And, my wife is going to love this: it can be used as a natural dye in colouring wool to a golden yellow.
I can also find lots of recipes where tansy is used, like this one:
‘Beat seven eggs, yolks and whites separately; add a pint of cream, near the same of spinach-juice, and a little tansy-juice gained by pounding in a stone mortar; a quarter of a pound of Naples biscuit, sugar to taste, a glass of white wine, and some nutmeg. Set all in a sauce-pan, just to thicken, over the fire; then put it into a dish, lined with paste, to turn out, and bake it.’
Tansy is a flower that grows a lot in the area around our house, so I think I’m going to cultivate some next year among the carrots, and probably in other places in the garden. For now I picked some here and there and put in the windows and amongst the carrots. And I’m drying some seeds.
The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Oliva (1861–1928)
One more thing….
According to wikipedia (and others) the tansy is toxic for herbivores (some among them horses) and humans (if eaten in large quantity) mainly because it contains Thujon. One of the components in Absinthe and the component that made it prohibited in 1907, however you will probably die of alcohol poisoning before thujon poisoning. In the Netherlands Absinthe is legal again since 2004.