winter vegetablesIt seems strange to be thinking about winter now but vegetable growing is all about planning for the future. There can't be a better winter vegetable than a parsnip, roasted as part of a Christmas dinner, curried in soup and even as an ingredient in cakes. Parsnips have an earthy but sweet taste, they improve with cold weather and can sit in the ground through the winter meaning no special storage.  So what are the secrets of successful parsnip germination and growing?

The secrets of sowing parsnips

I have to admit to the fact that last year I had to sow parsnip seed three times before any germinated so all the following tips have been provided by fellow allotmenteers  via the Exmouth Allotment facebook group.

With most vegetables, any seed that you do not use up can be sown the next year. However, this is not the case with parsnips where fresh seed is needed each year; the seed is only viable for a very short amount of time. The other thing that you need with parsnips is patience: it can take up to 28 days for germination.  And finally, timing is important. Many seed packets will tell you that March is the time to sow parsnips. The soil needs to be warm before the seeds are sown and this year has been particularly cold and late so sowing in March probably won't have been successful. (Please leave us a comment if you did sow in March and your seed has germinated!)  Last night on Gardeners' World, Monty Don sowed some parsnips and told us that we were all leaving it a bit late but  seeds sown a bit later than normal often catch up.

Usually, I draw a drill in the soil and sow the seed as thinly as I can. However, one suggestion from facebook is to use a dibber to create holes where you want the parsnips to grow, fill the hole with compost and then sow 2 or 3 seed into the compost and cover lightly.  Which ever method you use, don't sow too deeply. Parsnip seeds are paper-thin and so do not need a lot of soil on top of them.


Growing on

Once the seeds have germinated, they will probably need to be thinned out. This can take place several times as the parsnips grow, providing delicious baby parsnips earlier on in the year.  The further apart the parsnips, the bigger they will grow so you can to some extent determine the size of parsnips that you want.  And then they can be left until you need them. They do require water when it is hot and dry and if I grow them near carrots, I do keep them covered with envirofleece as they can be damaged by carrot fly.  Fleece is sold in the shop and so can be bought at a very reasonable price.

Have you got any germinating parsnips?  Do post some pictures on facebook when they appear, letting us know when you sowed them and how.