Parsnips are a good vegetable for the inexperienced gardener as they require very little work and are easy to grow. Parsnips taste great used in stir-fries, mashed with potato or carrot or as an accompaniment to a traditional roast.
Where to grow parsnips
Do not grow parsnips on freshly manured ground - a bed manured for a previous crop in the preceding season would be ideal. Ideally the soil needs to be stone free and dug over during the winter to produce the best quality parsnips and adding compost from your heap will help to improve the soil without it becoming over rich.
Parsnips like an open sunny site, but will tolerate light shade.
Sow in late winter to late spring in drills 1cm deep and space seed about 15cm apart. Alternatively sow in rows and thin out at the seedling stage. Rows should be spaced 30cm apart and protection with Easy Tunnels will aid germination, which can take up to three weeks.
Intercropping between the rows is a good idea with rocket or radish working well.
Thin out the seedlings to 15cm apart and water the crop during dry periods - parsnips hate to dry out. Regular weeding between rows with a Speedhoe will help avoid damaging the crowns of the developing plants.
Harvesting and Storage
Start harvesting them when the foliage begins to die down in mid Autumn. The best tasting parsnips are lifted after the first frosts. Lift them only when required - the remainder can be left in the ground through to late winter.
A slight cautionary tale - parsnips are related tot he Giant Hogweed which means the leaves can cause severe skin irritation and blistering. So if you have sensitive skin then consider wearing gloves when harvesting or weeding around the plants.
Parsnip Pests and diseases
Generally trouble free but Parsnip Canker can affect the crop, especially in acid or over manured soils. Carrot Fly can be a problem in some areas so as a precaution it would be sensible to try a Micromesh Pest & Wind Barrier