Gardening > Grow Your Own... Parsnips

Grow Your Own... Parsnips

Parsnips © Jonathunder
Parsnips are a slow growing root vegetable. They do not need a great deal of attention and can safely be left in the soil during winter and dug up as and when they are needed. During the summer months quick maturing catch crops such as radish or lettuce can be grown between the rows of parsnips. (In a loose sandy soil grow a long variety of parsnip and in a stony or clay soil choose a short variety).

Traditionally, parsnip seeds are sown i February but germination is slow if the weather is wet and cold (below 12 deg. c) so it may be better to wait or even April.

Choose a sunny or even slightly shaded site and dig the soil deeply in autumn but use only really well-rotted manure or compost. Over-fresh organic matter can lead to root forking. Break up any large clods of soil and remove big stones.

Dig 1/2" deep furrows and sow 3 seeds together at 6" intervals. Leave 12" between each row of seeds. When the seedlings grow thin them out to leave leave just one growing. Discard the thinnings because parsnips do not transplant well.

As the parsnips grow keep the weeds down by careful hoeing. Water regularly – an even water supply is important for good roots. Parsnips do not suffer from many problems but one serious disease is Parsnip Canker.

Parsnip Canker


- Parsnips become discoloured, blackened and then they rot.


- Fresh organic matter in the soil; damaged roots; extremes of moisture and dryness.


- Add lime to the soil (parsnips prefer a p.h. of about 6.5).
- Do not sow too early.
- Choose a resistant variety.
- Parsnips can also be attacked by the carrot fly.

Because parsnips are so slow growing they need to be well marked when sown. Some gardeners sow some radish seeds with their parsnips to remind them where the parsnips have been sown.
To grow long straight parsnips in a strong soil make very firm holes 18" deep 6" apart. Fill them with good friable compost. Sow 3 seeds in each hole and then thin out to one seedling.