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Ease of Growing: (Scale 1-5) 1

Parsnips are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, they are often a bit slow to germinate but catch crops (fast maturing vegetables) such as radishes or lettuces can be grown in between the rows whilst you are waiting for the parsnip seedlings to appear.

How time consuming: They need very little maintenance apart from regular watering .

Recommended varieties:

‘Gladiator’ AGM: High yielding parsnip with good flavour and especially suited to heavy soils.
‘Tender and True’ AGM: This parsnip boasts long roots and gives moderate yield. Sizes are mixed and it's not resistant to canker. Also available as an organic variety.
‘Pixie’ F1 – Organic. Has high disease resistance, a vigorous grower and can be lifted small as a baby vegetable if required.

Home grown vs. Supermarket:
For freshness you cannot beat a freshly dug up parsnip.

Best Sites & Soils:
Parsnips prefer a light sandy soil that was improved with well-rotted manure or compost in the previous year, not the current growing year otherwise you will get forked roots. Keep the soil weed free and evenly moist to avoid splitting.

When to sow:
Some of the seed packets state to start sowing in February, this can lead to failure if the soil cools down again after a warm spell. Sowings made in March and April, and even early May, will do much better. Sow three seeds at 15cm (6in) intervals, 13mm (0.5in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart. Prepare a drill and water lightly before sowing.

Distance between plants:
When the seedlings are about 2.5cm (1in) high thin out to leave one seedling per 15cm (6in) station.

When to harvest:
The roots are ready to lift when the foliage starts to die down in autumn; use a fork to carefully lift them out.  Parsnips taste sweeter after they have been exposed to hard frosts. 

Meet the Author: Jo Blackwell
Jo Blackwell

Jo Blackwell is our well-established Horticultural Advisor and the Kitchen Gardener in Stephanie's Victorian style Kitchen Garden. She caught the gardening bug when she bought her first home 21 years ago. Her first greenhouse soon followed and she later gained an allotment.

As well as tending the Harrod Horticultural Gardens, she enjoys maintaining her own vegetable plot at home. She has been a gardener for Harrod Horticultural for over 4 years now and has a wealth of experience in organic vegetable growing, ornamental gardening and in using all Harrod products.


Further Information

Add sand to give a light airy well drained soil.  Sprinkle with general purpose fertiliser before planting.


Warm the soil before sowing with cloches, polythene or fleece, this should be left in place until the seedlings have developed two true leaves


Use fresh seed each year as parsnip seeds do not store well.

Parsnip canker: This orange, brown or purple-coloured rot usually starts at the top of the root. It is mostly caused by drought, over-rich soil or damage to the crown.  Remedy: Sow resistant cultivars such as those recommended above.  Improve drainage and avoid damaging the roots. Avoid sowing seeds too early in the year.

Carrot fly: Larvae of this fly tunnel roots so affected areas have to be discarded and it also allows easier infection by parsnip canker.  Remedy:  Surround parsnips with low fence of fine mesh or cover with fleece.


They are hardy too and can be left in the soil until you’re ready to use them even through the first frosts tend to produce the best flavour, as the cold will turn the starch in parsnips into sugars but remember that if we get a cold spell you won’t be able to dig them out if the soil is frozen.


Best left in the ground until needed but can be dug up and stored in late autumn.  The roots should be laid out in sand, in layers not touching and kept in a cool and dry place until required.



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