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VEG OF THE MONTH – PARSNIPS

For KG editor Steve Ott, the taste of the first newly frosted parsnips of the season is up there with the first new potatoes or fresh peas. He offers his advice for great crops next autumn

Parsnips are a great winter standby but can sometimes prove a challenge when it comes to germination and producing nice straight roots. Yet the taste of fresh, sweet roasted parsnips or a bowl of home-made parsnip and Stilton soup is an indulgent joy on a cold winter’s day and makes them well worth the effort.

They are not difficult to grow; just follow a few simple rules and you are virtually guaranteed some lovely thick white roots come the autumn.

SOIL PREPARATION

Parsnips prefer a deep, well drained, reasonably fertile soil in a sunny or semishaded site, but avoid soil which has been recently manured for which is very stony, or the roots may fork. A patch which was limed and/or manured for brassicas the previous season is ideal.

Chitting or pre-sprouting parsnips on damp paper

Add some general fertiliser such as Growmore or pelleted chicken manure a few weeks before sowing and rake to form a ine seed bed.

BALANCING ACT

If you are after the traditional big, thick roots, your parsnips will need plenty of time in the soil (eight to nine months), so you’ll want to sow as early as possible. Indeed many seed packets will encourage you to sow from February onwards. But just like any crop, parsnips do require warm soil to germinate – a minimum of 7C (45F) is ideal. Any lower and the seeds are likely to sit and rot, leading to disappointing germination and sparse rows, so you need to get the balance right.

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

Welcome to Kitchen Garden Magazine In this issue: Future-Proofing at Ferris Farm Gaby Bartai meets a gardener who is creating a vegetable plot that can rise above future health challenges. Veg of the Month - Parsnips KG editor Steve Ott loves parsnips and brings you his top tips for success. Safe and Secure Upgrade your garden security with some 21st century products, says KG editor Steve Ott. And much more!