easy parsnip growing

My garden soil is derived from boulder clay so it’s rather heavy and full of stones. Consequently my attempts at growing decent parsnips and carrots are doomed to failure.

Parsnips on the veg. plot always end up like this which is a shame as I really love the taste.

The answer I came up with is to grow them all in containers, plastic flower buckets being the cheapest option. I fill the buckets with a mixture of sieved compost, soil and sharp sand to which is added a little blood fish and bone fertilizer.

 Seeds are sown about 3cm apart and lightly covered. March/April is soon enough in my part of the world and they are kept in the greenhouse until they’ve germinated before I acclimatize them to outside conditions. I think too many people sow far too early into cold soil which results in poor germination rates.
two different sowings of parsnips which are growing away nicely
I would say I get at least eighty percent germination and they are thinned out to give about 6cm between plants.

healthy top growth
The first couple of years I just put drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets and allowed the roots to push through and into the ground on which they were standing. This resulted in reasonable parsnips but the taproots were often badly twisted as they all tried to force through the small holes. Now I remove the bottom of the bucket, leaving a rim for rigidity. If you don’t do this the bucket becomes floppy. By placing the compost-filled tub on an old tile you can allow the plants to grow till it’s time to put them outside then simply slide out the tile from underneath once they are in their final position. This gives much straighter roots and allows them more freedom to go into the soil in search of water and nutrients.

a typical yield is about 1 to 1.5kg per flower bucket. Wider spacing gives fewer but larger roots

My best ever yield was just under 3kg and they were packed so tightly they split the bucket!

If you have trouble growing snips give this method a try. Any container will do but I'd recommend a depth of at least 25cm, the deeper the better. I recently acquired some extra deep flower buckets (34cm) which will be used for next year's crop. Watch this space!