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in Fruit & veg
Earlier this year I grew my parsnip seed in a plug tray and dug a patch over in the garden, ready for when the plants were big enough to be planted out. I made sure there was plenty of depth -- at least double spade depth. The soil is also very light, so my parsnips should have grown straight down, yes? NO! Every single one has balled and I cannot understand why. Could it be that the soil is too rich? They have had plenty of water throughout the year and have grown into really healthy plants. But not as they should be, more like cricket balls with tentacles. Any suggestions as to why this has happened and how I can make sure it doesn't happen again?
I think the problem may be sowing in plug trays - have tried once in deep modules and it was a disaster - they need to be sown in-situ I think. I remember reading that both carrots and parsnips send down a very thin long root very soon after germination and it is this initial root which later develops into the main body of the vegetable. If that root gets restricted, damaged or hits a stone on the way down, misshapen roots will result. On my clay soil it's a challenge to grow parsnips but I manage by digging a narrow trench about a foot deep and backfilling with a 50/50 mix of sharp sand and previously used MP compost and get good results. The sandy mix warms up quicker than the surrounding clay so helps the parsnips germinate which is always a problem on cold wet soils.
If you regularly water them, they won't have to punch their roots down to find water. I water them for the first month or so, then they're on their own (water once a week in a very dry spell but that's it).
And sow the seed into the ground. They HATE root disturbance
Couldn't agree more. Direct sowing is best. Bob's sowing idea is a good one, too. Parsnip seed can be flaky germinators at the best of times. They need all the help they can get. Covering the bed with something to warm up the soil can help, too.
Because parsnips require a long growing season and need to be sown early when soil is I still quite cold I chit the seed on kitchen roll paper kept permanently moist. As soon as the seed germinates I set them on edge into a seedbed already warmed a little by covering with polythene over hoops. By using this method the seeds have a good beginning and are less likely to rot in the cold soil. The cover is only removed when plants are growing strongly.
Carrots, parsnips and swedes are all very poor performers from transplanting, better sown direct. There are plugs of these available in the shops but they only guarantee a crop half a big as direct sown seed. Sowed some Autumn King carrot plugs for a veg growing class at work a while back, waiting to see how they get on.
Parsnips, like carrots must be sown in situ. I grow mine in deep raised beds or oil drums with the bottom cut off. I use a 50/50 mix of compost and playsand (it's cheap and sterile) and have never had any problems - All of mine are perfectly straight and grow well. As for poor germination rates - that's why you sow too many and thin out.
Thanks everyone. Seems the consensus is to sow in situ. I thought they were going to be good this year as all the seed I planted germinated. However, just goes to show how wrong one can be Emma, I did water them when the weather required it, but we did have quite a good lot of rain early on in Somerset so don't see that as adding to the problem. Old timer2: I haven't tried that way but I am thinking of using a raised bed next year that will be about 12 inches deep, plus very fine soil underneath that at least to the same depth. Watch this space!