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Sow outside
Showing schedule for Southern England in United Kingdom

Soil facts and preparation

Quick facts..

  • Soil Type Fertile and Well Drained
  • Ideal Ph range 6.0 to 7.0
  • Site Full Sun
Deep soil is required for all but short rooted varieties. As with carrots, parsnips need well drained, light, fertile soil to grow long straight roots. Heavy clay, overly stony and recently manured soil can all cause forked or deformed roots. Parsnips grow best in a fertile, sandy or peaty soil.

Parsnips will occupy the ground for a long time, set aside an area for parsnips in full sun or partial shade. It is especially important that the site for parsnips is weed free.

Apply a general purpose fertilizer 1 to 2 weeks before sowing seed.

Sowing and planting

Quick facts..

  • Germination 12 to 28 days
  • Sow 10mm deep
  • Sow Spacing 150mm
  • Rows 300mm apart
Use fresh seed, parsnip seed doesn't keep well at all. Sow 3 seeds 1cm deep, every 15cm in rows 30cm apart. Thin to a single seedling at each station after germination. Cut thinnings rather than pulling to avoid disturbance to the root of the remaining seedling.

Don't be tempted to try and transplant seedlings, the roots of transplants are very unlikely to develop properly.

Parsnip seed can take up to a month to germinate in colder soil. Quick to germinate radishes are often sown with parsnips to mark the row.

Growing a bumper crop

Continue to keep the parsnip plants free of competition from weeds. Water in dry weather to keep soil at an even moisture level.

Cover the tops of the parsnip roots with soil to prevent green top.

Harvesting the fruits of your labour

Quick facts..

  • Yield 420g per plant
Lift the parsnips as required or when the foliage begins to die down. Use a garden fork to loosen the soil around the root without causing any damage to the root its self.

Select undamaged roots for storage, place in boxes of sand or dry peat making sure the roots do not touch. Keep the boxes in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight and protect from frost.

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Parsnip varieties


The Ablion variety of parsnip is highly regarded by vegetable growers and often thought to be the best to grow organically. As a recently bred variety it is resistant to many of the latest strains of diseases affecting parsnips, including canker. The roots are long, smooth, white skinned and taper uniformly, making it also popular with retailers. Albion has a particularly sweet flavour and good texture, as with most parsnips the flavour improves after a frost. It has a greater germination rate than other varieties which is a real bonus with parsnips. Once lifted the roots are noticably slow to discolor making it a good variety to store for later. Matures in 32 to 36 weeks from sowing.


Most popular F1 variety to grow, good shape roots with smooth skin. Good all round performer, fast maturing and high yielding, bred to be resistant to canker. Sweet flavored long and slender roots.


The Guernsey parsnip is much shorter than most other varieties, though what it lacks in length it makes up for in flavor. Considered to be the tastiest parsnip variety of all and great for soups and especially for roasting. They have smooth white skin and while short rooted they are wide at top meaning adequate spacing is required for them to grow to full size. As with most parsnip varieties a touch of frost will improve the flavor of this already deliciously sweet parsnip. Guernsey, also known as 'half long' is actually an heirloom variety first cultivated in France in the early 19th century and is still popular today.


The Javelin variety of parsnip has been bred for uniform, long slender roots with smooth light creamy skin, making it an ideal for exhibitions. It is a reliable, high yielding vegetable with good resistance to many pests and diseases, particularly canker. This is the variety of parsnip you are most likely to find for sale in the supermarket, largely down to its appearance and reliability. Javelin parsnips can be left in the ground for a long period of time and harvested when required, they also store well in boxes of sand. Not just a good looking parsnip but also has a great sweet flavour, great for roasting and in stews and soups. Originally bred in Britain, Javelin has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Garden Merit.


The Palace variety of parsnip is a relatively new F1 hybrid often found at vegetable exhibitions and competitions. The roots have very white, smooth skin, are uniformly wedge-shaped. This variety is seems to have a slightly more reliable germination rate than others, a real bonus for those new to growing parsnips. Yields are high and Palace has a reasonable level of resistance to canker. The flavour is sweet as you would expect from a quality parsnip.

Tender and True

As the name suggests 'Tender and True' produces roots that are straight and true, provided they are grown in soil that is free of stones. The long straight smooth-skinned roots are popular with exhibitors. Sweet and with a fine texture and virtually no core, tender and true is also ideal for roasting. This traditional variety is resistant to canker and matures like most other varieties in 32 to 36 weeks.

The Student

The student was one of the first parsnip varieties to be cultivated and dates back to the early 19th century. The roots are wide at the top, long and taper gently down to the tap root. The skin is smooth and light cream in colour. The Student has roots with a small central core that are mild in flavour with a good texture. This variety is has good resistance to canker.

White Gem

White Gem is the variety of parsnip to grow if you are lacking quality or depth of soil as it will give high yields in just about any type of ground. It has shorter roots than other more slender varieties but has good broad shoulders. White Gem has a strong and sweet parsnip flavour and smooth light skin. Resistant to a number of pests and diseases and canker in particular. The roots stand well in the soil for a long time and can be harvested when required, the shorter roots make it easier to lift.