The weather forecast for today wasn’t great, so I put in some extra work in the garden yesterday. After I lifted our first lot of Swift potatoes (which you can read about in my last blog post), I prepared the soil and sowed some parsnip seeds in the same area. Please don’t do what I do! This goes against the principle of crop rotation. It’s not a good idea to follow a root crop with another root crop due to the increased risk of disease in the soil, but I didn’t have much choice as there’s no space for the parsnips anywhere else in the garden at the moment. I needed an area that I could dig down quite deep to accommodate their long roots, which limited my options. There are many parts of our garden that contain parts of tree roots from trees that were previously on the property before we purchased the house. These areas are fine for things like lettuce and zucchini but are not so great for growing root crops.
I had a terrible year for parsnips last season. Despite sowing several packets of seed, not one single parsnip germinated! This year, I’m determined to grow parsnips successfully. To cover myself, I’m growing “Guernsey” from Kings Seeds, “Hollow Crown” from Egmont Seeds, “Supersnip” from McGregors Seed and “Yatesnip” from Yates Seeds. Some seed from each of the major suppliers in NZ! After lifting the potatoes, I spent several hours digging the area over and breaking up large clumps of soil. I thought growing potatoes was supposed to help with that, but there were lots of large “rocks” of soil. The idea was to refine the soil so that the roots of the parsnips can travel downwards without hitting an obstacle, thus causing them to become forked.
The process of growing parsnips is very similar to carrots, so I usually prepare the bed in a similar way (although these days I grow most of our carrots in large containers to save space). I like to add a little superphosphate fertiliser to encourage the growth of strong roots. I also added some Yates Thrive Natural Blood and Bone fertiliser to the soil to encourage healthy foliage above ground level. As with carrots, sow parsnip seed direct as transplanting seedlings may cause them to become forked.
Parsnips can be a little tricky to germinate. It helps if the seed is fresh. The best parsnips I have ever grown were from seed given to me by Carol Jane saved from her own plants, several years ago. I still remember Carol, thank you for the seed! I also store parsnip seed in the fridge, which is supposed to help, too. September is a good time to sow seed as the ground is still cool and moist (but not too much so).
Parsnips normally take around four months to mature. After that time I find it’s best to harvest them otherwise they can go a bit woody if left in the ground any longer. We enjoy parsnips as an alternative to potatoes, as they’re normally ready by the time we’ve run out of garden grown spuds (we get through them fast!). We enjoy parsnips roasted with some fresh rosemary from the garden and a bit of salt.
You can see the area I sowed parsnips in the picture I have included with this post.
Is anyone else growing parsnips this spring?