Sunday 14 March 2010

Chitting Parsnips

I've discovered that the easiest way to get parsnips to germinate is to chit them prior to planting them. I lay a piece of kitchen roll inside a plastic container and dampen it. The parsnip seed is scattered onto this and then I give the seeds another water with the mister. I cover the plastic container with cling film and then position it on top of the boiler where it can get a gentle heat. Within a few days, the seeds will begin to sprout. I then pick each seed up carefully with tweezers so as not to damage the root, and pop it carefully into a toilet roll inner filled with compost. This must be planted into the ground before the root hits the bottom of the toilet roll inner otherwise it could cause the parsnip to fork. This year I'm trying Tender and True, and also some seeds which were saved by my hubby's uncle, variety unknown. He always manages to grow fantastic parsnips, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that mine turn out just as well.

Yesterday saw the drainage pipe being laid. I say saw, I didn't actually see it, as I sent my hubby down there to do the hard work with the help of our next door plot neighbour who kindly volunteered his services. A trench of about 60 foot had to be dug down the side of our allotment, and a perforated drain pipe was laid into this. There is a beck running along the edge of the site and this is where the excess water will drain. The other plots on our site have already had this done, and it has made a huge difference.

Today I have potted on most of the seedlings from my last lot of sowing, as well as sowing lots more seed. Hubby has erected the mini plastic greenhouse which has now been installed inside the normal greenhouse. This gives the seedlings some added protection as my greenhouse isn't heated. I used this method last year with great success. It means that I can move some of the seedlings out into the greenhouse earlier that I would otherwise be able to, so some of the seedlings have been evicted from my windowsills today, just in time for other seedlings to take their place.

Next weekend I plan to take a trip to my local nursery and purchase some bedding plants. I've started buying them as plug plants and growing them on myself as it's quite economical, and less faffy than growing them from seed. It also means that I have more space to start off vegetable seed which is my main priority since having the allotment.


  1. we got a mini greenhouse yesterday too, and have been busy sowing as my windowsill was starting to get a bit overcrowded x

  2. I will be trying parsnips for the first time this year, I think chitting is definitely the way to go - wish me luck!

  3. I've yet to grow parsnips and it's likely to be next year before I do! I'll follow your advice, and posts, on them with interest.
    Flighty xx

  4. Parsnips sound good. My Mom used to cut them in strips and fry them. How do you cook them?

  5. That's new to me Jo, mine are already sown direct in the plot but I may give your method a go next time as they take weeks to come up which leaves me fretting that they are never going to germinate. Good idea with the greenhouse, I've insulated mine with bubblewrap which means I can move out seedlings like cauliflower out there without losing them.

  6. Have never sown parsnips Jo although I am partial to them. May have a go this year though so thanks for the useful information.

  7. Yes, that's an excellent way to be sure that the seed germinates. Parsnips can be 'iffy' at the best of times.

  8. Chitting worked for me last year and so I'll be repeating as this year.

  9. I'm going to try chitting parsnips this year too as I had already received advice on this from someone.

    Hope your drainage pipe works well.
    You seem to be getting on very well...I haven't even put my seeds in yet but plan to get it done this week!!

  10. I also find this info on growing parsnips very interesting. I have never grown them before, but it would be great to have some in the garden.
    How long can they stay in those paper pots before planting them in the garden? Few weeks? I’m not sure how fast can they grow once they germinate. And timing would be here very important.

  11. wwahhoo spring is nearly here :-) Thanks for the tip on parsnips, must note that down somewhere :-)

  12. I do something similar with my sweetcorn, but never thought of it for parsnips. Mine always germinate well in the ground - not sure what vareity I use (always the same though). I'll be sowing mine next week some time.

  13. I am going to pass this on to my neighbour. We share our allotment and she loves parsnips that seem to take ages to germinate, taking up space and looking very inactive. Great idea.

  14. Wow, you're patient! I'd never find the time or energy, although I'm envious; this sounds like a guaranteed route to success, which is never easy with parsnips.

  15. Don't take this the wrong way, but this seems rather like hard work, and maybe explains why your parsnips ended up with those dangly roots last year. Parsnips are very good germinators - just slow. They remain viable without rotting for weeks and just germinate when they are ready.

    The problem is that people give up on them or lose them in the weeds. (Answer don't try to sow them too early or in soil that is already weedy)

    By introducing these extra steps you are introducing the potential that the growing process is interrupted. They respond to sudden changes by going into shock and forking.

    Slow long steady growth with a steady outdoor temperature gradient, a deep stone free loamy soil(and no fresh manure) are the keys to a good long tapering root.

    There, that's the secret. So don't make a rod for your own back. Save that for the tomatoes, chillies, aubergines etc.

    Sorry to break it to you.



  16. I've only ever read that parsnips must be planted outside, or else they'll die a slow and horrible death. I've also heard that they take 47 years to germinate. I was thinking of skipping them, even though I adore the parsnip.

    You have given me fresh hope.

  17. Thank you for visiting, Arlenkern74. The mini greenhouses certainly take the pressure off the windowsills. I'm only using one windowsill now, the rest of the stuff is outside.

    Good luck with the parsnips, Rachael. I always have to make sure that I grow plenty as my daughter absolutely loves them.

    I've grown parsnips for a few years now, Flighty. They taste much better home grown than bought from the supermarket.

    I've never tried parsnips fried, Kat. I usually cut them like chips, parboil them and then roast them. They're delicious.

    I did consider insulating the greenhouse with bubblewrap, Damo, but I thought it too faffy. Using the mini greenhouse is time saving and worked well last year. I've moved lots of things out there now, including my tomatoes which seem to be doing ok.

    I would definitely have a go with parsnips, Anna. Home grown taste so much nicer than bought.

    I always buy my parsnip seed new each year too, Matron. They're such temperamental things to grow.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how your's do, Kella. I know quite a few people use this method now.

    I'm hoping that the drainage pipe does work, Tanya. The allotment was rather boggy over winter, which wasn't really an issue as there wasn't much growing, but this year I want to have more there over winter. It's seemed to work on the other plots though, so fingers crossed.

    They don't stay in the pots very long, Vrtlarica. If they're not planted out by the time the root grows to the bottom they may fork. I usually plant them out almost as soon as there's some top growth. Good luck if you decide to grow them.

    Spring is nearly here, Scented Sweetpeas, my windowsills can vouch for that. I've done lots of sowing and the weather is so nice at the moment that I hope it won't be long before I'm doing some planting out.

    Thank you for visiting, Mark N. I've heard of people chitting their sweetcorn, but I don't seem to have any problems in getting it to germinate. I didn't have much success last year though. I think it was because the soil at the allotment wasn't very fertile. I only got my allotment in March of last year so everything was just bunged in really. I'm hoping for better things this year.

    It must be nice to share your allotment, Countrymummy. It's always nice to have some company when you're doing the digging.

    I think your's turn out well enough as it is, Soilman. The problem is getting the seeds to germinate in the first place, which this method gives a helping hand to.

    Thanks for the advice, Mal, and I haven't taken it the wrong way. I think the reason for the dangly roots last year was the state of the soil rather than the method of sowing. I hadn't had my allotment long when I planted the parsnips out, and there hadn't been much preparation done on the allotment. I have used this method previously when I used to grow everything in containers before I had the allotment, and didn't have any problems at all with it, but I do take on board what you said about interupting the growing process. It's very important to get the seedlings into the ground before the roots hit the bottom of the pot, so they are planted out almost as soon as any top growth is showing. I agree too that it is faffy, germinating, potting up and then planting out. I might do a trial this year, sowing direct too, just so that we can compare. Thanks again.

    Don't skip them, The Idiot Gardener. They're worth the extra care as they taste so delicious.

  18. I tried this last year, but then planted them into the ground rather than toilet roll tubes. This was almost a complete failure - tiny crop of 3!! I was going to try just sowing them in toilet roll tubes this year - this worked really well with carrots last year.

  19. I had wondered if it worked just as well planting them straight in to the ground, so your comment is really interesting. Sorry to hear you didn't get much of a crop. I'm rubbish with carrots so I may try this method.

  20. Thanks so much for this tip. My parsnips failed to germinate last year, so I'm going to try them this way!

  21. You're welcome, Lynda. Do let us know how you get on with this method.

  22. an excellent way to germinate parsnips! I thought you might use some of that plastic drainage pipe in lengths to produce some show quality parsnips! Just bury a 2ft length vertically in the ground or in a container and fill it with sandy compost. You will get lovely long, straight parsnips.

  23. I'm afraid the drainage pipe was desperately needed for the purpose it was intended, Matron. I've heard of carrots being grown in this way but not parsnips. I may just resort to this method if I'm digging up stumps again this year.


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