How to grow parsnips from seed

Do it:

Mar, Apr, May, Feb

Takes just:

30 minutes

At its best:

Feb, Mar

Parsnips can be difficult to germinate, but they're well worth the extra effort. Follow our simple steps to pre-germinating parsnip seed to ensure bigger yields, and look forward to parsnips roasted for the Christmas table, or in warming winter soups.

You will need

  • Parsnip seeds e.g. 'Gladiator F1'
  • Plastic bag
  • Seed compost
  • Trowel or draw hoe
  • String

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Part-fill a plastic bag with moist seed compost and empty your seed packet onto the surface. There is no point in successionally sowing parsnips as you don't need to harvest them all in one go. What's more, parsnip seed stays viable for only one year, so saving seed could lead to wasting it.

Mix the seed and compost together so the seed is evenly distributed in the bag. Tie the top of the bag together and place in a dark, warm spot such as your airing cupboard. Leave for around four days. 

After around four days, remove the bag from the airing cupboard and check on your seeds. They should have germinated, and small seedlings will be poking out of the compost.

Make a shallow trench in well-prepared soil with stones removed. Remove the seedlings from the bag and place them 10cm apart in the trench. Cover with a thin layer of soil and water with a watering can with a fine rose attached. The seedlings should continue to grow in their new growing positions. 

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Sow seed in June for a crop of tender, baby parsnips at Christmas.

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