How To: Grow Parsnips

A classic roast dinner is not complete without roast parsnips, they add a whole new dimension to other dishes too.

Parsnips are easy to grow and require little maintenance. You can sow in spring and you’ll have delicious parsnips ready for autumn!

How To: Grow Parsnips

Sowing Your Parsnip Seeds

The first step to growing your parsnips is of course sowing them.

Parsnips prefer a sunny, open area with light and deep soil. Only fertile soil can cause the roots to fork so make sure you sow them where you haven’t dug in any compost or manure in the past year or so. Although it’s recommended to start sowing in February, this can also lead to failure. If you sow in March, April or early May, they will often grow much better.

You must warm the soil before sowing and leaving in place until the seedlings have developed into leaves. These can take up to three weeks to sprout so be patient.

Caring For Your Parsnips

Although parsnips have a rather long growing season, once the plants have established they more or less look after themselves.

Parsnips do not need extra watering – apart from in very dry conditions. A good watering every two to three weeks should be completely fine. They also don’t require specialist feed.

Make sure to keep the area around them tidy and weed-free to prevent seedlings from being smothered. Hand weeding is best rather than hoeing close to the plants, to avoid damaging the top of the root.

Near to early summertime, you could give your parsnip plants a boost by mulching between the rows with compost.

How To: Grow Parsnips

Harvesting Your Parsnips

Your parsnips will reach full size by autumn, so you can start pulling up fresh parsnips as required from September onwards. When the foliage starts to die down, they are ready to be eased out of the ground. Make sure to loosen the soil around the roots before lifting.

Your parsnips will taste sweeter the longer that they are left in the ground, particularly after a hard frost.

Problems To Look Out For

There are a few common problems you could potentially have whilst growing your parsnips.

Parsnip canker is an orange, brown or purple-coloured rot which typically starts from the top of the root of the parsnips. It can mostly be caused by drought, damage to the crown or over-rich soil.

To avoid parsnip canker, sow resistant cultivars, improve the soil drainage and avoid damaging the roots. You could also avoid sowing seeds too early in the year.

Carrot flies are small black-bodied flies which feed on the roots of root vegetables. The larvae tunnel into the developing vegetables causing them to rot. Once you have a carrot fly attacking your parsnips, there is no way to get rid of this pest. Prevention is by far the best cure, sowing thinly and avoiding crushing foliage will help. You could also surround your parsnips with barriers made of polythene or cover the plants with fleece – which will exclude the pests.

Parsnips are a rich source of vitamin C which will help to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Extremely high in dietary fibre, they will help to reduce cholesterol. They are a healthier version of potatoes for those who are limiting their carbohydrate macronutrients. Loaded with vitamins and packed with subtle flavours, why not grow your own? 

Visit Holt Garden Centre to browse our range of Parsnip seeds and much, much more!

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