Family: Apiaceae

Countries: Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, England, Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Wales

Parsnips (also known by their botanical name Pastinaca sativa) are supremely sweet tasting, delicious vegetables.  Parsnips are easy to grow, but their seeds often take a number of weeks to germinate and these vegetables require a long growing season to develop their full size and potential; therefore parsnips benefit from being started early in the season.

If you’re looking to grow parsnips, choose a sunny or partially shaded site, with moist but well-drained soil.  When sowing parsnip seeds, avoid areas with waterlogged soils, as parsnip seeds are liable to rot in very wet conditions.

In the UK, parsnip seeds can be sown from February to May (from late winter to early summer).  Sow parsnip seeds outside, make sure that you sow your parsnip seeds directly in the soil where you’d like your plants to grow; as once the seeds germinate these vegetables cannot be moved or transplanted.  Parsnip seeds tend to have a longer germination period with a lower rate of germination compared to many other vegetables; therefore sow your seed thinly and return in three to four weeks time and sow extra seeds to fill in any gaps you may have.  I like to intercrop my parsnips, by sowing fast-growing edibles, like radishes in the same row as my parsnip seeds.  The radishes will have grown, matured, and been harvested, long before my parsnip plants need the space; so when sowing your parsnip and radish seeds – there is no need to sow your seed more thinly or space your seeds further apart.  Both sets of edibles will have all the space they need – despite the seeds being sown in the same row at the same time; due to their different speeds of germination and growth.

I love growing parsnips!  Parsnips are utterly delicious to eat; I always think it’s wonderful to grow home-grown foods especially for Christmas meals.  These vegetables have so much going for them; you can sow parsnip seeds early in the year, you don’t need to protect parsnips from cold weather (mature parsnips are sweetened by frosts) and parsnips are rarely troubled by pests.  I have heard that occasionally parsnips can be attacked by the larvae of carrot root fly, but I’ve never experienced this myself and I’ve never once covered my parsnip plants.

Parsnip seeds don’t remain viable for long; it’s important to purchase fresh parsnip seed every year; as this year’s seed won’t germinate next year.  Keep some parsnip seed back to fill in any spaces created where seeds have failed to germinate and then share your left over seeds with your friends and neighbours (or in your local Freecycle or Buy Nothing Group).  It’s such a lovely feeling to share the joy of gardening with others and it’s always good to prevent seeds going to waste.

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