Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Friday 13 March 2009

Growing Parsnips


Although Parsnips can withstand cold weather, they are notoriously slow to germinate and in practice I have found it better to wait and sow in March when it is warmer.

Parsnips like rich, slightly heavy soil, well dug but NOT recently manured (as, like carrots, they will fork if the soil is TOO rich)

As soon as you can dig the bed over and produce a fine tilth, the conditions are fine for planting parsnip seed in the ground ( if the weather allows you to get a fine tilth, its warm and dry enough!)

Parsnips take a long time to grow BUT you can get a worthwhile crop even if they are sown in late spring. MAKE SURE you use fresh this year seed, because parsnip seeds do not keep well. If you HAVE to use last years seed, pre sprout it to check for viability ( put on damp kitchen paper and watch it sprout, then snip the paper up so a bit has a sprouted seed on it and then plant the paper)

Follow the instruction on the seed packet about how/where to sow, and you may as well be generous as the seed doesn't keep well....

I plant some outside but at least half of my parsnips are planted in loo roll tubes and transplanted AS SOON as the seed has germinated ...

If you leave it too long the tap root emerges from the bottom of the tube and, when transplanted, may be damaged. This won't hurt the plant BUT you will get a smaller, forked root!

So, make sure you have the parsnip bed ready for planting, if you decide to follow the "tube" idea!

 And this is what they look like in June




  1. I detest parsnips.. as a kid I was forced to eat them and my mom used to put them in every pot of soup she made.. she also fried them.. yuck! BUT (hanging head) I'm planting some this year to humor my daughter and I'll be brave and taste them again.. who knows, I just might surprise myself and like them :)
    Thanks for the planting tips.. since I've never planted any before it was very helpful information.

  2. awesome blog! this will be the first year I get to test my green thumb abilites. can't wait!

    FYI - I am giving away something special on today's blog. You don't have to do anything to enter except leave a comment. Love, Hot Belly Mama

  3. Hmm, well I have thrown caution to the wind and planted straight into the clay on the allotment. In asda today, parsnips are £1.98 a kilo. VERY expensive if you ask me. so I am also going to have a bash at loo roll tubes as well.

    Lets hope they come up

  4. We love parsnips here (as long as you don't tell Ben they are pasrnips!!). I'm just getting to the end of last years crop and they did really well - fairly even in size, minimal forking and no canker. I might just freeze a few as a treat for a summer roast.

    Rosie x

  5. Well the good thing about the loo roll trick is it is easy to plant a loo roll tube where a few parsnip seeds DIDN'T come up.

    And you can see where they are, so easier weeding!

    Also you plant the loo roll as well, so there is a little collar to stop you hoeing the baby parnsnip plant, along with the weeds!

    Rosie, I *wish* we had used ours up.. we love parsips, but still have a couple of builders buckets full left and some in the freezer as roasties as well...but you CAN have too much of a good thing! At the moment I am getting tired of leeks, artichokes and parsnips....last year it was kale....

    I shouldn't complain, I know, its all good food and I don't have to buy it...but I LONG, now, for a fresh tomato, or cucumber from the polytunnel........

  6. We had home-grown salad earlier in the week - small kale leaves, flowering shoots off the mixed spicy leaves, chard, some mizuna and wild garlic. Very green and very fresh tasting :-)

    Rosie x

  7. Now I know why I saved all those loo rolls, I'll be planting my seeds in the morning,


  8. Sorry meant to say, we have just eaten our last parsnip tonight and the last of the leeks will be going into a soup. I find it amazing that they survive the winter's cold,


  9. Curious if anyone knows... I saved one parsnip from last winter's harvest, as it was sprouting new green leaves. I've put it in water and it rooted, and the top grew inches in a week! If I plop it into the ground, will it send out shoots and make more babies? (Is it potatoes that do that?)

  10. Ariana Saraha, sorry, but no you won't get baby parsnips by this method.... :-(

    what you WILL get is plants which will produce flowers and then from the flowers, parsnip seed....so if you want you could try letting nature take its course and then planting the seed and seeing what happens...

    otherwise, buy some parsnip seed NOW and get sowing so you can eat parsnips in 9 months time....

    hth..sarah x

  11. We love Parsnips. I learned a tip from someone even older than me. Plant seeds under a board: 28 days later uncover. you have Parsnip sprouts.
    My question is about managing a parsnip patch. I now have large patches of pure stands of Parsnips ,but they are ALL flowering. How can I let them naturally seed then have some to eat?

  12. Thanks for your tips on growing parsnips. I especially like the idea of starting them off in loo roll centres - brilliant! Also, I have been searching the web to find out if the tops are edible as they certainly look tasty, but got many conflicting opinions. Thanks again, Mary

  13. Hi, I don't know if this blog is still managed given the date of the last comment, but here goes. We have planted parsnips, (first time)my question is; when they are ready do they all have to be dug up, or can we take them from the ground as and when we want them.
    If they all have to come up, how long will they last and what is the best way to store them.If you read this and reply, thank you from a novice veggie grower

  14. No, parsnips can stand in the ground and taken as needed all through the winter - you might want to dig a few up if a very hard frost is forecast, though.

    Sorry it has taken me so long to reply.

  15. I LUV the toilet paper tube idea. i will definitely try this for slow-to-germinate seeds like parsnips.


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