Sunday roasts just aren’t the same without some delicious sweet parsnips on the side! These tasty vegetables are easy to grow, and need next to no maintenance throughout the season. In fact, once sown they will virtually look after themselves. Better still, they don’t need harvesting all in one go - you can leave them in the ground right through to early spring, lifting just a few as and when you need them!
Growing parsnips couldn’t be simpler, so take a look at our full range of Parsnip seed available to buy online today.
F1 hybrid varieties have brought great improvements to this useful winter vegetable crop, offering disease resistance, smoother skins and improved germination rates. As a result, Parsnips are definitely making a comeback, so be sure to buy your Parsnip seed early as they tend to sell out quickly!
Don’t be tempted to use last year’s leftover seed. Parsnips have a relatively short viability period so it is particularly important to order fresh parsnip seed packets each year to get the very best parsnip crops.
Parsnip seeds should be direct sown outdoors from April to June, once the the ground is workable. They need temperatures of around 12C (52F) so don’t sow them too much earlier than this unless you use cloches to warm the soil first. Avoid sowing in cold or wet soils as the seed is liable to rot.
Grow parsnips in a sunny position in stone-free, well prepared ground that has been deeply cultivated and raked to a fine tilthe. Parsnips prefer a fertile, light, well drained soil. On heavier or stony soils you may find better results by choosing a shorter rooted variety such as Parsnip ‘Countess’ .
If space is limited on your vegetable plot then why not sow a crop of radishes in between your rows of parsnips to maximise the use of your land. These will mature quickly and can be harvested long before the parsnips will be ready.
While many vegetable crops make excellent subjects for growing in containers, unfortunately parsnips are not well suited to this type of cultivation. Parsnips develop long roots and therefore need more depth of soil than most containers can offer. However, if you have a particularly deep container or spare dustbin then there is no reason why you shouldn’t drill some holes in the bottom and have a go!
Harvest parsnips from late autumn right through to the end of January, once the foliage begins to die back. Parsnip crops can be left in the ground, and simply lifted a few roots at a time, as and when required. Simply loosen the soil around the roots with a fork before lifting them to avoid damaging the roots.
It is worth noting that their flavour will be improved if they are left in the ground until exposed to frost. This process converts the starch within the roots into sugars, thereby giving them a far sweeter flavour.
Alternatively you can lift and store parsnips in boxes of barely moist soil, peat or sand, and store in a cool place like a shed, garage or unheated greenhouse. Roots can be stored like this for up to 4 months.
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.