Not many people grow parsnips, over the last few years parsnips have become less and less popular. I was just reading through one of the seed catalogues and the particular company now sells one variety of Parsnip, last year they sold 7.
Parsnip germination rates can be extremely low and it can be very difficult to get a full row of seeds that have all successfully geminated. However, once parsnips have geminated they are really easy to grow. They also provide a crop when other vegetables are scarce.
Parsnips are not fussy about what soil types they grow in. If you wish to grow the long, ‘perfect’ looking parsnip you will need deep soil, that has been manured the previous autumn and is stone free. If parsnips hit a stone while growing they tend to fork.
Sowing and Planting
It is vital that you buy fresh seeds every single year as germination rates can be incredibly low especially if using old seeds so it is best to use only the freshest seeds possible.
Sow four seeds, six inches apart in rows that are 10 inches apart in March or April. Sowing four seeds at each station will ensure at least one successfully germinates, if more than one seed geminates they can be thinned out later in the season.
Looking After the Plants
Seedlings should be thinned to one seed per cluster once geminated. Don’t leave this job long as parsnips need room to grow. Water regularly, don’t allow the parsnips to dry out!
Keeping the area weed free is also essential as it is when growing most vegetables. Use a hoe or weed by hand but be careful not to disturb young seedlings.
You can begin harvesting parsnips in November, harvesting can continue right up until late February. The tops will die down once the parsnips are ready to be harvested however it is traditional to wait until after the first frost to harvest. This is said to improve the flavour.
Once the tops have died down you can harvest parsnips as required, don’t harvest all of the parsnips immediately and store them, the best method of storage is to leave them in the ground.