Friday, 11 November 2011

Parsnip Experiment

I dug up the first of the parsnips at the weekend, and delicious they are too. I've always started my parsnips off in pots and then transferred them in to the ground once they'd germinated, but this year I thought I'd try sowing them direct. My soil contains quite a few stones so I decided that I would sow them the same way as I do my carrots and channel out a trench which is then filled with multi purpose compost before sowing the seed. This gives the parsnips some soft earth to grow down in to rather than hitting stones and forking. The seeds are quite large which enabled me to space them out evenly, avoiding the need for thinning out later. I also started some seeds off in pots, as I have done in previous years, and transplanted them once they had germinated. The two parsnips on the right are the ones which were transplanted. As you can see, they started off well having nice wide shoulders, but they must have forked just as soon as they were transplanted, after hitting stones in the ground. They also suffered from a bit of canker but it was only skin deep and didn't affect the flesh at all. The three parsnips on the left are the ones which were sown direct. They've still forked but not before growing a little longer than the others. I think I need to dig my trenches a little deeper, so I'll try that next year. They still tasted good, and there's lots more in the ground to last through winter.

I usually plant some hanging baskets up with pansies for winter but I haven't got round to it this year. I must make an effort to take a trip to the garden centre or nursery otherwise I'll regret not having a bit of colour around when we're in the depths of winter. I choose pansies as they stand up to the cold and wet weather really well. They were covered in a foot of snow last year yet they still survived it and went on blooming all winter.

We've had a bit of a grey week here, though it's stayed mainly dry. We still haven't had our first frost, and the grass continues to grow. I thought it had had it's last cut a few weeks ago, but it's actually in need of another one. I wonder if it will stay dry long enough now for the lawnmower to come out again.


  1. I'm not convinced that it is stones that cause parsnips to fork. In my intensively-cultivated raised beds there are very few stones, yet some of my parsnips have still forked! Peeling those of yours must have been a challenge...

  2. I believe thew forking is due to the ground being too rich in nutrients. Do not add manure or fertiliser to the bed in which you intend to grow root veg. Poor soil will be much better for them.

  3. Swillington still had pansies this week Jo.

    We always grow our parsnips in a trench of compost. One of the reasons that transplanting isn't recommended is that the delicate roots can be damaged when you are planting out and this can cause forking. We always get some forking but we do have enough root for it not to be too much on a problem.

  4. Grass cutting seems to be a year round chore nowadays. It is a task I enjoy.

  5. Very interesting post Jo. I hadn't thought about digging a trench (in fact I didn't think about parsnips until too late this year!) but will bear that in mind for next year. I haven't thought about winter colour yet - too busy thinking about spring and trying to find time to plant my March flowering tulips and garden hyacinths!

  6. My garden is very stoney like yours but I never really have a problem with forked roots. I use the same method as you with potting compost which I think helps them germinate. Because of the lack of rain this year they are nowhere near as big as normal.

  7. I really must try growings parsnips. I haven't as a plot neighbour always gives me some! Flighty xx

  8. I always sow our parsnip seeds directly into the soil and they seem to turn out OK with some huge and others forked like yours. I've not dug any up this year. When I do I'll post a pic on my blog.
    Love from Mum

  9. Hello Jo,
    I have really enjoyed catching up on your latest posts.
    I thought it was stones that caused forking too however, reading some of the comments it seems not everyone agrees but then experimenting is part of the fun.
    Don't forget to try these!

  10. I cut the parsnips in to pieces before I peel them, Mark, I find it easier this way. I know that recently manured ground can also cause parsnips to fork, but roots follow brassicas in my crop rotation and I don't manure the bed between the two, so that shouldn't be the problem in my case. I'll try digging out a deeper trench next year and see how I do with that.

    Forking can be due to the ground being rich in nutrients, Mark, but I don't think this is the problem in my case. I'll see how they do next year after giving them a deeper trench to grow in.

    I still didn't get round to getting any pansies this weekend, Sue. I'll have to make more of an effort. This is the first year that I've sown parsnip seed direct and I think I've done better with those parsnips than the transplanted ones. I'll give them a deeper root run next year and see how they do.

    I always leave the grass cutting to my hubby, Don't unplug your hub, it's not a chore that I enjoy. The ground was wet this weekend so it didn't get cut, it might have to hang on now until next year.

    I hope you found time to plant your spring bulbs, Caro. That's another job which I haven't got round to either. I think with a little deeper trench, my parsnips may do better next year.

    The weather has had a lot to answer for this year, Elaine. It's interesting to hear that your soil is also stony, but you don't have a problem with forked roots, there's hope for me yet.

    It's great to have good allotment neighbours who are willing to share their good fortune with you, Flighty. I think I'm only one of two allotmenteers on our small site who grow things through winter.

    I'll look forward to seeing how your parsnips do for you, Mum. I still eat the forked ones, they're just a little more fiddly to peel.

    Thanks for the recipe, Bluebell, I shall definitely try it and let you know how I get on. Nutrient rich soil can also cause forking, but as my soil hasn't had manure or fertilizer added it must be the stones which have caused my parsnips to fork.

  11. I'm looking through seed catalogues at the moment trying to decide what to grow next year. Wondering whether to do parsnips. I do love them but they are in the ground for a long time, so I'm not sure they are great value for the space they will take up. My answer to the grass problem is dig up your lawn. We've never liked mowing and our front and back garden are quite small so it seemed such a waste of potential growing space. So up they came (the grass was then stacked to rot down and it made the most gorgeous loam for the raised beds).It's really freeing not to have that chore to do. Especially when you come back from holiday, there's enough to do.

  12. Both myself and my daughter are huge parsnip fans, Wellywoman. I think they taste so much nicer when they're home grown so, to me, they're certainly worth the space they take up. I would love to pull up the grass, but the kids, or my daughter especially, still uses the lawn and now we've got a dog he does too, so I don't think we could consider such drastic action for the time being.

  13. This year is the first year I haven't sown my parsnips direct into the ground and I am pleased to say I actually had some germinate...not got around to digging any up yet so I still have no idea what they are like under the did great for direct sowing!!

  14. I think the key to direct sowing is to make sure that you keep the area damp, they won't germinate if you let the ground dry out. It's always a worry with root crops wondering what's going on underground, there's no way of knowing until you go to dig them up. Hope your parsnips do well for you.


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