Deliciously sweet parsnips are the crowning glory of a Sunday roast! These tasty root vegetables are easy to grow and need next to no maintenance throughout the season. In fact, once sown they 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.
Here’s our complete guide on how and when to sow parsnips. When you’re ready to make a start, browse our full range of parsnip seeds to choose the best variety for your garden.
F1 hybrid varieties have vastly improved this useful winter vegetable crop to provide disease resistance, smoother skins and better germination rates. As a result, parsnips are definitely making a comeback. Here are a few of our favourites:
Don't be tempted to use last year's leftover seed. Parsnips have a relatively short viability period so it’s particularly important to order fresh parsnip seeds each year to get the very best crop.
Parsnip seeds can be direct sown outdoors from April to June, once the ground is workable. They need temperatures of around 12C (52F) to germinate, so don't sow them too early unless you use cloches to warm the soil first. Avoid sowing your seeds in cold or wet soils as it 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 tilth. 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'.
While many vegetable crops make excellent subjects for growing in containers, unfortunately parsnips are not well suited to this method. Because they develop such long roots, parsnips need deeper soil than most containers can offer. However, if you have a particularly deep container or a spare dustbin, there’s no reason why you shouldn't drill some holes in the bottom and have a go!
You can start to harvest your parsnips from late autumn right through to the end of January, once the foliage begins to die back. The crop can be safely left in the ground until you need it - just lift a few roots at a time, as and when they’re required. In fact, the flavour of your parsnips will be improved if they’re left in the ground until exposed to frost. This process converts the starch into sugars, thereby giving the roots a far sweeter flavour.
Alternatively, lift and store your parsnips in boxes of barely moist soil, peat or sand in a cool place like a shed, garage or unheated greenhouse. Roots can be stored like this for up to 4 months.
Want to learn more about growing your own root veg? Head over to our carrot and parsnip hub page to find more advice on growing carrots, parsnips, beetroot and more.
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.