How to Grow Parsnips – A Guide to Growing Parsnips
Parsnip seed does not store beyond a year, so discard any seeds you don’t use after opening the packet. Suitable for container growing in large pots or tubs, or in borders as long as the soil is not too heavy. Choose varieties bred for close spacing.
The flavour of parsnips is improved by a couple of good frosts towards the end of the growing period.
Sowing and Growing Parsnips
- Sow March–April
- Harvest October–January.
- Parsnips like a friable soil, rich in humus but not manured in the previous year. If your soil is heavy, try growing a shorter-rooted variety, or grow in raised beds.
- The plants do not like being transplanted, so sow direct into their final growing position.
- Start off in March–April once the soil has warmed up a bit, rather than February as is often recommended.
- Sow thinly 1–2 cm (¾ inch) deep in rows 30 cm (12 inches) apart. As an alternative, to combat the sometimes poor germination, try station sowing three seeds every 15 cm (6 inches) and thinning to one seedling.
- Thin to 15 cm (6 inches) between plants. Don’t crowd the plants as you’ll end up with very small parsnips.
- Keep free from weeds and water during a dry summer.
- Start to lift parsnips after a couple of frosts.
- Parsnips can be left in the ground over winter, but are difficult to harvest if the ground is frozen – try mulching with straw to keep the soil workable. Or, store in a dry, dark shed as for other root crops.
- However, don’t leave in the ground beyond January–February or the plants will start to grow again using all the energy in the roots. In a mild winter this re-growth will start earlier.
Pests and Problems with Parsnips
- Carrot fly can be a problem, but not as much as with carrots.
- Slugs are the main pest, causing damage to the top of the root.
- Canker is the major issue you are likely to face. It causes a blackened area towards the crown (top) and the root rots. Grow canker-resistant varieties.
Varieties of Parsnip
- Avonresister and Gladiator are two canker-resistant varieties.
- Avonresister, Lancer, Dagger are all suitable for close spacing.
- Delicious if cooked correctly and a good source of calcium. Try roasting drizzled in maple syrup.