Latest posts by dibsmft

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Parsnip problems

Posted: 17/08/2015 at 01:04


What are you doing trying a parsnip this early! Parsnips really only develop good flavour after a few hard frosts otherwise they are fairly tasteless. The starches in the parsnips begin to convert to sugars with the fall in the temperature and it is the sugars that give the wonderful flavour to roasted parsnip.

Why yours are hard and woody seems strange unless they have started to go to seed (bolt) but that normally only happens in their second year and then the roots become very hard (even woody) and inedible. I guess this might happen in a hot dry summer but I have never seen it happen to my parsnips here in St. John's (Newfoundland) where the winter is colder than the UK but the summer is similar to the UK.

Some parsnip varieties and strains are more prone to bolt than others. I grow the variety "White Gem" and never had one bolt in at least six years.


pulled my first parsnip yesterday.

Posted: 18/10/2014 at 01:29

In the UK it is OK to leave parsnips in the ground until they show the first new growth in the Spring after that it is "too late". Even in Newfoundland, where the winters are colder, they stay in the ground and I dig them as needed right through the winter. (Digging them can be fun when the snow gets really deep)

I keep a few of the best parsnip roots (of a non-hybrid variety) and let them flower to make seed for the following year. Yes, they make decorative plants up to 2 metres tall with wonderful yellowish-green flower heads (umbels) and finally give ripe seed in August/September (germination test is usually better than 80% on the cleaned seed)


Posted: 17/10/2014 at 19:24

I grow my own seed each year and I have about enough for small field from this years crop! Packeted parsnip seed here can be very unreliable as there seems to be no requirement to date the packets. The soil is shallow, rocky and well drained so I grow White Gem" parsnips for best results. I would guess that Yorkshire should not be too different to St. John's Newfoundland&Labrador depending how far North and how high you are). The ground here is also too wet (and often snow covered) to plant early in the Spring. Planted in the autumn the parsnip seed do not seem to mind and come spring are there as the snow goes away. Perhaps it might be worth it for you to give is a try by planting a fresh packet in about a months time. I normally sift the soil I use to cover the seeds as the germinating seeds are easily damaged by small stones etc.



Posted: 17/10/2014 at 18:00

There are a number of veg that can be autumn sown in the UK and parsnips are one of them. The seed do not usually germinate until the spring but can get a good start before the soil really becomes workable. The longer the growing season that they can get the better. In southern England would expect the seed to begin to show in late January or February. Parsnip seeds are quite delicate, but once growing, seem to be very resilient to changing weather conditions. marksman065 did not say why an August planting is desired but it could be done, but I would leave it until late November.



pulled my first parsnip yesterday.

Posted: 17/10/2014 at 17:40

Parsnips do not develop their beautiful sweetness until late in the season after the first few frosts. Before that they taste rather bland even when roasted. The conversion of starch to sugars in the tissue of the root provides a kind of antifreeze for the plant. In my garden they stay outside all winter and the temperature can easily drop to -20 C or lower and they are unharmed (a metre of snow probably helps as well!).


Posted: 17/10/2014 at 17:18

Of course you can as that is the time that parsnips produce seed themselves. Better to sow later, perhaps the end of November or early December. Even in Newfoundland where I live this seems to be the best way to start parsnip seed.

Parsnip problems

Posted: 30/06/2014 at 17:12

I have posted on this before but I will mention it again. I live in Newfoundland&Labrador (Canada). We have a long cold Winter and a late Spring. Being a parsnip lover, I have tried various methods of growing them but the main difficulty here is getting fresh seed and starting them early enough. Most years I cannot get the garden started until mid-May.  The answer that I have found is to grow my own seed by leaving two or three roots in the ground each year and collecting the seed when it ripens (August-September). I then clean the seed and keep it in a cool dry place until late November just before the first snow when I prepare the ground and sow the seed.  When the snow finally disappears in the Spring (April but sometimes later in a bad year) the parsnip may already be up or will soon appear and grow on as normal. The best variety I have found for this is "White Gem" as my soil is not very deep and a bit rocky.

If this method works here then it should work in the UK where the climate is warmer. Perhaps it might be better to leave the sowing there until late December so that the seed do not germinate too early.


Talkback: How to grow parsnips from seed

Posted: 12/07/2012 at 13:20

Yes, Excitable Boy, the method that you describe also works for me. I started by germinating the parsnip seed on paper towel in a freezer bag (slightly open) in early May. As soon as the seed sprouted I prepared the soil and made rows, lined them with wetted toilet paper (non-medicated!) and then planted the sprouted seed very carefully with tweezers spaced as I needed them finally. I covered the seeds with sifted soil (my soil contains a lot of rocks). Germination was near 100% and the seedlings were nicely prespaced. Yields were good. I would recommend this method to those who like to plant in the spring.

I find Fall planting easier and it gives an earlier start to the season as the seedlings are up and growing long before I am able to work the soil.


Talkback: How to grow parsnips from seed

Posted: 12/07/2012 at 12:27

I am from Hampshire (UK), love parsnips, but live in St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada (well South of the souther UK). Climate is colder in the winter but like the UK in summer (better this year!) and autumn. Growing parsnips has been a problem due to poor germination of seed and the length of the growing season when the seed is sown in the spring. After trying various methods I have found that the old method of growing is the best. For the past 5 years or so I allow good roots from the past year to grow on and seed (flower/seed July and August). I collect and clean the seed an save it until late November when I sow the seed directly into the ground where it stays all winter. When the snow finally goes the seed are often already coming up and germination is good. This gives me a good plant of seedlings with up to an extra 2 months in the growing season and good yields.

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