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Guess who’s back? Parsnips! Truthfully, they never left, but we’ve learnt to cook them better (don’t ever think about boiling them again, please). Creamy, tender and sweet, parsnip roots are perfect roasted, pureed, and used in salads and soups.


Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) are very rewarding root vegetables to grow, and are easy to grow in gardens, raised beds, or large pots. The best time to plant depends on the climate, so please check labels or see Location for more detailed information. When planting, use fresh seed as the germination rate is typically poor if the seed is old. Though, you will need to be patient. Parsnip seeds can take anywhere between 3-4 weeks to germinate and have a very long growing season, taking anywhere between 18-20 weeks to reach full maturity. Here’s how to grow parsnips:

Location

This root vegetable is ideal in cooler climates, where you can sow seeds from late winter to late summer or early autumn. If growing in warmer subtropical and tropical climates, sow seeds anytime between late summer to early spring. It’s important that the soil temperatures are warm at sowing time, so don’t be too eager to get them in earlier – sowing seeds early may mean a premature death or poor growing root crops. Plant in full sun and shelter from strong winds.

Soil

For long, well-developed roots, parsnips need to be planted in loose, well-drained soil. Before planting, fork the soil well to help break it up. Spread Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser over the soil and dig in well.

Fertiliser

There is no need to feed parsnips throughout the growing season. The addition of Dynamic Lifter at planting time is plenty of nourishment for the developing roots.

Water

Water regularly to keep the soil moist, especially at germination time. Remember, they take time to come up, but this doesn’t mean you neglect watering! You may want to consider covering the soil with a shade cloth or place a plank of wood over the row to help keep it evenly moist. Continue to water plants regularly and deeply throughout the long growing season.

Pests and diseases

Snails and slugs love the foliage, and if it’s a particularly wet season, they will be out in full force. Protect your plants by sprinkling Blitzem Snail & Slug Bait around beds – do not apply to edible plant parts.

Harvest

While parsnips can take over 120 days from sowing to reach full maturity, you can begin to harvest roots earlier to make the most of the season. They don’t have a long shelf life, even when placed in the vegetable crisper, so if you have excess, cube and freeze them for long term use.

How to Grow Parsnips in a Garden

  1. Choose a sunny spot in the garden, loosen the soil with a garden fork and dig in Yates Dynamic Lifter Soil Improver & Plant Fertiliser. Ensure you dig around the soil really well and break up any hard pieces - parsnips love soft soil, which doesn’t have any hard lumps or stones in it, otherwise they might grow into some odd shapes! 
  2. Dig a shallow groove and sow seed around 6 mm deep. Cover, firm down and water well with a fine mist.
  3. Water regularly to keep soil moist – don’t allow seeds to dry out. In warm conditions, consider laying a plank of wood over the row to help retain moisture around the seeds.
  4. Thin seedlings after 4-5 weeks – gently pull out weak seedlings and leave a 7-10 cm space between plants.  
  5. Begin pulling roots early, leaving some in the ground to spread your harvest window. 
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How to Grow Parsnips in a Pot

Parsnips can be grown in pots, however, due to their size, it’s not generally recommended. You will need a pot at least 600 mm wide and deep. If you have the space, they’re better suited to growing in the garden.

  1. Position pot in a sunny spot in the garden. Fill with quality potting mix, such as Yates Potting Mix with Dynamic Lifter
  2. Dig a shallow groove and sow seed around 6 mm deep. Cover with Yates Seed Raising Mix, firm down and water well with a fine mist.
  3. Water regularly to keep soil moist – don’t allow seeds to dry out. In warm conditions, consider laying a plank of wood over the row to help retain moisture around the seeds.
  4. Thin seedlings after 4-5 weeks – gently pull out weak seedlings and leave 7-10 cm space between plants.  
  5. Begin pulling roots early, leaving some in the pot to spread your harvest window. 

Yates Varieties

Parsnip Yatesnip

Smooth creamy white skin and flesh. Popular, long-rooted variety with a tender core. Traditional favourite for winter roasts and soups. Rich source of vitamin C and folate.


Growing Tips

  • Parsnips can take 4-5 months to reach maturity, so it’s important that the plants are well settled in before the really cold weather arrives. However, once the plants are established, frost is said to sweeten the flavour of the roots.
  • Parsnips keep very well in the soil, so harvest can continue over a long period. Any spare space between rows can be used to grow small lettuces or other compact vegies, like radish.
  • Carefully weed around parsnip plants to avoid damaging the crown of the plant.
  • Seed germination can be slow; it can take up to 3-4 weeks particularly in cooler climates. It’s important to not let the soil dry out during this time.  
  • Planting parsnip tops is a fun activity, but just don’t expect them to grow new roots. They will continue to sprout leaves, which unfortunately, are not very good for eating, but they will eventually develop flowers.


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