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Parsnips

UK Garden Centre - Information about Parsnips

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The popularity of parsnips continues to decline. They occupy the ground for a long time and when plain boiled provide a dish which is not to everybody’s taste. Do think twice, however, before rejecting them. They need very little attention and you can sow a catch-crop of radish or lettuce between the rows. The roots can be left in the ground during the winter and dug up as required, and there are several appetising ways of serving them. There are not many varieties from which to make your choice – pick a long one if your soil is good and you want to show off your skill, but a short variety is usually a better choice for most gardens.

Seed facts
Seed is very light – sow on a still day. Germination is slow in cold weather.
Expected germination time: 10-28 days
Approximate number per ounce: 8000
Expected yield from a 10ft row: 8lb (4kg)
Life expectancy of stored seed: 1 years.
Approximate time between sowing and lifting: 34 weeks
Ease of cultivation: Easy

Soil facts
· If you want to grow long and tapering parsnips you will need a deep, friable and stone-free soil which has been well-manured for a previous crop.
· Any reasonable soil in sun or light shade will grow a good crop of one of the shorter varieties. Dig deeply in autumn or early winter and refrain from adding any fresh manure or compost. Lime if necessary. Break down clods and rake in Growmore fertilizer when preparing the seedbed.


Seed sowing
· Sow in groups of 3 seeds 6in (15cm) apart in rows ½ in (1cm) deep and cover with soil. The rows should be 12in (30cm) apart. Thin the seedlings to leave one plant.
· Use fresh seed every year. February is the traditional month for sowing parsnips, but it is better to wait until March when the weather will be warmer or even April if you are growing one of the shorter-rooted varieties.

Calendar
Sowing time: March; can extend from mid February to the end of April.
Lifting time: November to February; can include late October and early March.

Looking after the crop
· Parsnips seldom produce satisfactory roots after transplanting, so throw thinnings away.
· Hoe regularly to keep down weeds. Take care – never touch the crowns of the developing plants. The crop requires very little attention and it is not usually attacked by pests. The leaf-mining celery fly is occasionally a nuisance – squash the blisters between the fingers.
· The soil should not be allowed to dry out, but it will be necessary to water only when there is a prolonged dry spell.

Harvesting
· The roots are ready for lifting when the foliage begins to die down in autumn. It is claimed that the flavour is improved after the first frosts.
· Lift the crop as required, using a fork to loosen the soil. Leave the remainder in the soil for later harvesting. It is a good idea to lift some in November and store as for carrots. In this way you will have a supply of parsnips when the soil is frozen or covered with snow. Lift and store any remaining roots at the end of February.

Varieties
Tender and True: Still the most popular long variety, widely recommended for exhibition. There is very little core and resistance to canker is high.
Hollow Crown Improved: Another long variety for exhibition and kitchen use. As with all the long ones you will need a deep, clay-free soil or you will have to sow in specifically-prepared soil pockets.
Avonresister: One of the shortest – 5in (12cm) cones which are resistant to canker and capable of growing in poor soils. Sow at 3in (7cm) intervals – not the standard 6in (15cm). Sweet-flavoured.
Offenham: For many years Offenham was the standard medium-sized parsnip – broad-shouldered and recommended for shallow soils.
White Gem: Similar to Offenham but resistant to canker. Easy to lift, excellent flavour – taking over from Offenham in the catalogues.
The Student: Medium-sized – thick and tapering. The one to choose for flavour.

Troubles
See Carrots.


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