Parsnips: Ground and Diseases

Parsnips can be the easiest of crops to grow or the hardest. Follow Andrew Tokely’s guide. When making a list of winter ‘vegetables to grow’, parsnips always feature very high on mine. A few roasted and added to our Christmas lunch is something I look forward to every year.

If you want to enjoy a few at the year’s lunch which seems a long way off, then you need to get that seed ordered as it won’t be long before they require sowing. Parsnips need a long grossing season and are often one of the first vegetables to sow, but the last to harvest.

Many plot holders I know have tried growing them and over time given up to lack of success either in germination or the quality of the roots harvested, which is a pity because in my experience a little care and attention, in the beginning, will reward you with a bountiful harvest.

Always buy a new packet of parsnip each year, as, like carrot seed, it deteriorates it over 12 months old resulting in very poor germination. Thin out seedlings in the evening when it is cooler to avoid seedling stress, and water them in after thinning to settle any soil disturbance.

Ground Preparation


Parsnips along wish all root vegetables do not require a very rich soil, but do benefit from the ground which was deeply dog in the winter to help with root development throughout the year. One thing that must be avoided is sowing seed into the ground that has recently had manure added to it. This is because parsnips are grown on the freshly manured ground usually produce roots that are forked and disfigured. I usually try to grow my parsnips on the ground on which I grew peas or beans the previous year, as these vegetables will have added nitrogen to the soil, so enriching it.

Prior to sowing the land needs gradually rake it into the surface and raking down into a fine tilth, with as many rocks removed as possible. Once the earth is prepared, I scatter some fertiliser into the earth.

Alternating radishes with parsnip seeds gives a bonus crop to you and helps to mark the rows!

For best results the long roots of parsnips necessitate a deep, free-draining soil.

Prevent sowing seed into recently manured earth otherwise, the roots may become disfigured or forked. Seeds germinate bed in the land that’s the absolute minimum temperature of 7C (45F).

Pest and diseases


The primary disease of parsnips is a fungal disease called canker. Canker typically assaults hoe damaged or roots that are poor. It may also attack roots which were sown into the soil which is deficient of lime or is badly drained.

Parsnips can occasionally be attacked by carrot fly so growing under fleece or crop protection netting such as Enviromesh and thinning when cool in the evenings will help prevent this. During very warm springs aphids can be a problem feeding on the soft young growth, if spotted and the infestations are severe I spray with a suitable insecticide.

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