A parsnip growing with carrots and spring onions
Our experience with growing parsnip has been mixed, although we're getting
better. As with a couple of other vegetables, growing good parsnips comes
from mistakes. So hopefully you can get quicker results by learning from
Parsnips look like white carrots with celery-like leaves. Apart from
roasts and soups we're not sure what else you can do with this sweet tasting
In our subtropical climate parsnips are usually sown in autumn, growing
in cold winter soils. In cooler climates they're usually sown in spring.
Parsnips prefer full sun but can grow in partial shade.
Avoid adding manure to the soil, otherwise your parsnips will fork.
They like beds manured in the previous season.
Parsnips delve deep so make sure your soil is friable to at least
8 inches (20 cm).
In a 4 bed rotation system parsnips
are grown with onions, garlic, carrots, leeks and other root crops.
But when planning your bed make sure you keep parsnips away from carrots.
When it comes to growing, parsnips and carrots don't get along very
well. They're bad companions.
Directly sow seed where you intend your parsnips to grow.
Parsnip seed does not keep very well. Our first season in August
1996 was fantastic. We used the same seed again in March 1997. The
seven months that the seed packet was open was enough to deteriorate
the seeds' condition with only one seed germinating. Moral of the
story: always buy new seed each season.
The easiest way to sow parsnips is to mix the seed with river sand,
pouring the contents into seed drills. The sand makes germination
easier; but because sand drains so quickly you need to make sure the
parsnip seedlings don't dry out at this crucial stage.
Thin the parsnip seedlings out when they're about 5cms (2 inches)
tall to a distance of 2cm (a little under an inch). And again when
15cms (6 inches) tall to a distance of 5cm (2 inches) apart.
Intersperse parsnip rows with onions. The onions' smell confuse pests,
keeping them away from the parsnips. You can also achieve similar
results using garlic and to a lesser extent shallots and spring onions.
Parsnips take around 4 to 5 months to reach maturity.
Parsnips sweeten after a few frosts (which we don't get here).
If you encounter problems harvesting deeply rooted parsnips try watering
them. Then slowly rotate them around to loosen the parsnip from the
Don't forget to twist off the leaves. If you don't the leaves will
draw water out of the root which will dry it out.
17 November, 2008
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