Traditionally before hybrid varieties were freely available parsnips were always sown in February , and sometimes with limited success due to poor conditions. Now with modern varieties that are full of vigour, sowing can be delayed until April or even early May and you will still get a good crop.
Andrew Tokely explains:
Many gardeners sow their parsnip seeds into shallow drills that have been drawn out with a swan neck hoe. Parsnips can take up to eight weeks to germinate, allowing plenty of time for weeds to grow and make seedling identification difficult. To help with this problem I like to sow several radish seeds along the rows at precisely the same time as these will germinate quicker and help me identify the rows readily when hoeing in between them. Once the drills happen to be sown they’re lightly covered and once germinated the seedlings are thinned to 15 cm (6in) apart. This approach of growing parsnips is OK if you’re not worried about length or the quality of the root you harvest.
However, if you want better quality, longer roots for eating or exhibition then you could try the method I now use. First, I punch a hole in the ground with a crowbar about 45-60cm (18-24 in) deep. This is then filled with multi-purpose compost that has had a little sand added to it. As the holes are filled they are firmed down with a stick to avoid air pockets, then three or four seeds are sown at the top and covered over.
Once germinated these will be thinned down to one parsnip per hole and should grow long and straight.
I explained my method of growing to fellow plot holder Charles Heath, who grew one row punched in the ground using my method. When he harvesting the roots, those from the punched holes were long and straight and those from the rows direct were quite disfigured.
Pick of the options
‘Sensitive and True’: A traditional range with great canker weight, of producing long flavoursome roots capable.
‘Gladiator ‘: One in the first compounds but still among the best. Extended easy-skinned sources with canker resistance that is great. Excellent for an event or the home. Compounds for example ‘Gladiator’ might be planted later while in the season but still give a great harvest.
‘Excalibur’: Easy virtually bleached white origins having a very sweet flavour. Able to creating a fat that is superior with canker resistance that is exceptional.
‘Dagger’: Easy-skinned sensitive origins ideal for increasing at spacings that are close as little parsnips.
Soak parsnip roots thoroughly prior to lifting.
By the beginning of June, the young plants are growing away strongly.
For best results the long roots of parsnips require a deep, free draining soil.
Alternating radishes with parsnip seeds helps to mark the rows – and gives you a bonus crop!
Parboil parsnips, coat in a beaten egg, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and roast in the oven until golden. Simply delicious!