Growing Parsnips at the Allotment

Growing Parsnips at the Allotment

Growing Parsnips and Germinating Parsnip Seeds: An Ultimate Guide

Without a doubt, Parsnips are the royalty of root vegetables. Whether you plan on roasting them or adding them to a hearty winter stew, these lovely vegetables add a real depth of flavour to any meal. 

A popular autumn and winter crop, Parsnips are an absolute must-try for any gardener, from beginners to experts alike. After germinating Parsnip seeds, you simply sow them in spring and you’ll have scrumptious home-grown Parsnips to enjoy by Autumn.

Parsnips are a much-loved root vegetable that can be left in the ground until you are ready to use them. They are a low-maintenance vegetable once they get going! Although slow-growing, these delicious, earthy root vegetables are well worth the effort.

Thinking about adding Parsnips to the allotment? Explore our guide for insider tips on how to germinate Parsnip seeds, tackle common pests and reap a beautiful harvest.

How To Germinate Parsnip Seeds

When it comes to germinating Parsnip seeds, the plants are slow to germinate and are best sown directly in their permanent position. 

Some growers like to soak their seeds before sowing them to speed up the germination process. This process is known as chitting and involves germinating Parsnip seeds in paper towels. 

When chitting Parsnip seeds, use a lidded tub like a Tupperware box or old ice cream tub, lay some kitchen roll/absorbent tissue and soak in lukewarm water. Lay your seeds on top and close the lid. Place the box in a dark and warm place for 4-6 days and then check the germinating Parsnip seeds for sprouting. 

Once they are sprouting, this marks the end of the chitting for the Parsnip seeds. You can then sow them promptly in their growing position. 

When and How To Plant Your Parsnips 

After germinating your Parsnip seeds, you can begin sowing them during February and if you are based in a cooler location, wait until March or April once the soil has warmed up before sowing. 

Parsnips like light, deep soil and can be sown thinly in rows approximately 6 inches apart and an inch deep. Sow a few seeds together due to the poor germination rates; these can be thinned out later to prevent overcrowding and smaller, misshaped parsnips. 

planting parsnips one taste and youll want to grow your own
parnsip seedlings

Harvesting and Storing Parsnips

As the parsnips grow, thin them out if required. They will have luscious green, bushy foliage and when this starts to die off during late summer and early autumn, the parsnips are ready for pulling up. 

You can leave them in the ground until you want to use them; smaller, younger parsnips tend to be sweeter and for a fuller flavour you may want to wait until after a couple of frosts. Parsnips can be difficult to lift, especially when the ground is harder during winter so do plan and watch the weather forecast for Christmas dinner! 

You should not leave the parsnips in the ground beyond February of the following year, they can become woody and also start to re-grow using all the roots' energy. 

Parsnips are delicious roasted and make a perfect accompaniment to a roast dinner. Parsnips can be blanched (briefly boiled) and frozen. 

Common Problems with Growing Parsnips 

Generally, parsnips are healthy and easy-to-grow plants. However, germinating Parsnip seeds can be quite challenging, especially in cold soil. They will require watering evenly to help prevent the roots from splitting and for the bed to be weed-free, taking care not to damage the top roots.

When you’re learning how to germinate Parsnip seeds, avoid sowing them too early. Always use fresh seeds and protect your sowings with a cloche. This will keep them warm and help with germination.

At times, Parsnip roots may fork in compacted or stony soil, or if you’ve added manure or garden compost recently. 

When growing Parsnips, be mindful of carrot flies and canker. To prevent these issues, you could buy canker-resistant varieties.

parsnip plant leaves 1024x683

Growing Parsnips in Summary

Sowing Parsnips

  • Chitting parsnip seeds prior to sowing
  • Sow thinly in permanent growing position
  • Sow in deep, light soil

Growing Parsnips

  • Thin out seedlings as required
  • Water evenly and keep weed-free
  • Protect against carrot fly

Harvesting Parsnips

  • Pull up as required when leaves die off
  • Wait for a couple of light frosts before harvesting
  • Leave until no later than the following February

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