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Grow at Home: How to grow perfect parsnips

Written by Vicky Standing

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Posted on 27 May 2019

Parsnips are a good vegetable for the gardening beginners 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 as it gives lots of leaf growth and lulls you into thinking there is a great crop beneath but you will be disappointed when you pull up weedy roots.

Ideally, the soil needs to be stone free and dug over during the winter to produce the best quality parsnips. 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. 

How to direct sow parsnips

Sow parsnip seeds from 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.

Top Tip: place your Easy Poly Tunnel over the soil where you intend to plant a few weeks before you plan to sow.  This will warm your soil allowing your parsnip seedlings to establish more quickly. 

Intercropping between the rows will help suppress weeds and deter pests. Rocket or radish both work very well in between parsnips. 

What aftercare do parsnips require?

Once your parsnips plants are a few centimetres tall, thin out the seedlings to 15cm apart. 

The only other thing your crop will need now is watering during dry periods - parsnips hate to dry out. And you need regular weeding between rows with a Speedhoe so the plants do not have to compete with the weeds.  Be careful to avoid touching the plants as this will damage the crowns of the developing plants. 

How do you harvest and store parsnips?

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 to the 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. 

What pests and diseases affect parsnips?

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 If your area is prone to carrot flies then take a look at our Carrot fly blog for ideas you can use to avoid attracting carrot flies How to Protect Carrots from Carrot Fly

Best of luck in growing perfect parsnips!

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