Mar / Apr, May / Jun
Jan / Feb, Mar / Apr, Sep / Oct, Nov / Dec

Why Grow It

Earthy and homely, parsnips really do provide the quintessential taste of winter. Unlike carrots, they are relatively easy to grow (once you have persuaded them to germinate) and need very little attention. They will also stay in the ground quite happily – through even the worst winter weather – until you’re ready to eat them.

  • Parsnips grow best in a well prepared, deep, fertile soil. Addition of well-rotted compost and a general fertiliser one or two weeks before sowing gives best results.
  • Sow parsnips direct into the soil in April or early May. For large parsnips sow in rows 30cm apart, and for smaller roots 20cm apart.
  • Seeds can either be sown thinly along the row 1cm deep or can be “stationed sown”, where three seeds are sown at the point you want each plant – these are then thinned to one plant after emergence (germination).
  • Final spacing for large parsnips is 15cm apart, and smaller roots 10cm apart.
  • Weed carefully until established.
  • Watering shouldn’t be necessary except in dry spells.
  • Parsnips are ready to harvest when the foliage starts to die away in autumn, but flavour improves after the first frosts.
  • Leave in soil until ready to eat, but lift by March. Lift carefully with a fork.
  • If you have water-logged soil in winter you should lift the crop and store in a box of sand.
  • Canker (a fungus that produces brown/black growths on roots) is the main issue. Avoid sowing too early and use canker resistant varieties.
  • Harvest if soil is waterlogged.
  • Carrot root fly can be a problem – to prevent, use an insect net.
  • Always use fresh seeds – parsnip seeds don’t store well.
  • Try sowing seeds indoors in toilet roll inserts filled with compost. Once seedlings are established, pop the whole insert in to a hole in the ground. This method works a treat!