There is no real secret in how to grow parsnips, but there are a few helpful tips that will make the process easier. So in this post I’ll reveal all the tricks and tips I’ve learned over the years to get the best from your parsnip seeds. Parsnips have such a poor germination reputation, this is due to a number of factors.
The First Trick To Growing Parsnips
The first tip is very simple always use fresh seed. This gives you the best chance of success the fresher the seed, the more viable it is, and so the easier it is to germinate. On the back of the seed packet usually towards the bottom, it will say sow by and then a date. The packet on the left of the two packets in the above photo has sow by 2020 and the right one has sow by 2017. I am expecting better results with the left hand packet.
The most important Factor In Growing Parsnips Successfully
This is the part where most people fail when growing parsnips. Mainly because the seed packet instructions as a guide indicate that sowing is possible from February. That may be the case but not in most of the UK.
For parsnips to germinate, the soil temperature must be 12 c or above. In my part of the UK this will more than likely be early to mid April. If the seeds are sown when the soil is too cold the seed will not only not germinate, but it will rot. So my advice, sow as late as you can in the season. To check the soil you can either use a soil thermometer or use the revised old fashioned method.
The old method was to check the soil temperature by sitting on the soil without any clothes,if it wasn’t too uncomfortable then it was time to sow. The revised version (and probably the safest) is to place a bare elbow on the soil.
Once the soil is warm enough, dig to a depth of about 12 inches and remove any stones, then rake to a fine tilth and sow thinly in rows 16 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep. Firm the soil gently and keep moist (don’t over water) seeds usually appear in 14-32 days so don’t be impatient.
When the seedlings are large enough thin to 3 inches apart and when they are about 6-8 inches high thin again to about 8 inches.
Growing Parsnips In Toilet Rolls
This a way to get an early start on growing parsnips. Sow two parsnip seeds into each toilet roll filled with potting compost water and keep in a greenhouse or propagator. This will ensure an ambient temperature and a more successful germination.
Once the seeds have germinated and the plants are showing 2 leaves, plant them out in their final positions still in their toilet rolls. The toilet rolls will compost down leaving healthy parsnips growing in the now warmed up soil.
When to lift Parsnips
Parsnips take quite a while to grow so be patient. The flavour of parsnips improve greatly after frost, they become much sweeter. So wait until late October to start lifting your parsnips. They will survive frosts but are not easy to lift in frozen soil. Whatever happens make sure to lift them all before the following spring.
Planting Parsnips In Containers
Growing parsnips in containers can be successful but keep in mind, parsnips are a root crop so the container needs to be deep, at least 12 inches and more if possible. The soil needs to be free draining, and should never be allowed to dry out completely.
How late can parsnips be sown?
Ideally April is the perfect time to sow parsnips but I have started some off as late as June. They never got to full size, but were edible by December. So give them a go, the seeds are cheap and plentiful so what have you got to lose?
The Fruits (vegetables) Of My Success
The vegetables above were lifted on the 24th of December for christmas dinner. As you can see the parsnips are just the right size. They were sown the previous April, and the flavour was delicious.