By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
A hardy root vegetable with a sweet, slightly nutty flavor, parsnips taste even better after the weather turns frosty in autumn. Parsnips aren’t difficult to grow, but proper soil preparation makes all the difference. Read on to learn about parsnip soil requirements.
Where should I plant my parsnips? Parsnips are fairly flexible. A planting spot in full sunlight is ideal, but parsnips usually do just fine in partial shade from nearby tomato or bean plants.
Preferably, soil for parsnips will have a pH of 6.6 to 7.2. Preparing soil for parsnips is an important part of their cultivation.
Parsnips require well-drained, fertile soil in order to develop optimum size and quality. Begin by digging the soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches (30.5-45.5 cm.). Work the soil until it’s loose and fine, then rake out all rocks and clods.
It’s always good idea to dig in a generous amount of compost or well-rotted manure, especially if your garden soil is hard or compacted. Parsnips in hard soil may break when pulled, or they may be crooked, forked, or distorted as they attempt to push through the ground.
The following tips on improving parsnip soil conditions may also help:
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All you need to know about growing delicious parsnips, in our Grow Guide.
Published: Tuesday, 24 March, 2020 at 4:18 pm
Do not Harvest in January
Do not Harvest in February
No Christmas dinner would be complete without a side order of parsnips. The flavoursome roots are delicious roasted but can also be added to soups and stews. They’re easy to grow although they take a long time to mature – seeds sown in spring won’t yield roots until autumn.
Parsnips are a rich source of vitamin C, which helps to maintain healthy teeth and gums. They’re high in dietary fibre to reduce cholesterol and aid digestion.
As we mentioned, before the potato arrived in Europe, parsnips were widely used in cooking. Few vegetables are as easy to grow, as nutritious or as versatile and they are also available fresh throughout the winter, actually improving as the winter sets in, especially if frost gets to the roots.
Soil is the most important factor when growing parsnips. If you have thin gravelly soil, you will get small misshapen roots. The best soil is rich and slightly on the heavy side. It should not have been recently manured as this will cause the parsnip to fork. Almost any well drained soil will produce a good crop.
Parsnips dislike very acid soil and do best in one which is in the range of slightly acid, neutral or slightly alkaline. So test your soil with a soil test kit several weeks before preparing the seed bed and if necessary, add lime to achieve a pH of 6.5. The site you choose for your parsnips is not as important as the soil, they prefer an open sunny site, but they will also grow quite happily in a lightly shaded plot.
When growing vegetables, it is always exciting to care for the plant throughout its growing phase and then harvest it for delicious recipes later on, but one thing to watch out for is pests and diseases. Different plants are susceptible to different types of pests and disease, and it is important to make yourself aware so you can keep a watchful eye and also take any preventative methods to keep your plants safe throughout their lifespan.
Parsnips can fall victim to several different pests and diseases.
Some common pests affecting parsnips include aphids, the beet armyworm, the carrot rust fly and the cutworm.
Aphids will be soft-bodied insects usually showing up on the undersides of the leaves. They will be green or yellow in color. The aphids secrete a sticky substance which can cause mold. Knock the aphids off the leaves with a jet of water. Only use insecticides if the infestation is out of control.
The best armyworm will cause singular or multiple closely group holes in the foliage of the plant. Apply Bacillus thuringiensis and encourage natural enemies.
The carrot rust fly will cause surface scarring of the plant’s taproot by creating tunnels, which will be filled with a rust-colored mush. It also attacks carrots and celery. Use row covers to manage this insect and don’t leave parsnips in the ground over winter.
The cutworm will cause the stems of young plants to be severed at the soil line. If the plant is older, there will be irregular holes eaten into the fruit. To prevent this insect, remove all crop residue after harvest and fit foil collars around the plant stems.
Common diseases affecting parsnip plants include cavity spot, downy mildew, Itersonilia canker and more.
Cavity spot is a fungal disease that will cause the plant to develop sunken, gray lesions on the root and small vertical cracks. Flooded soils can increase the possibility of this fungus, and once it is developed, the fungus can exist in the soil for years. To prevent this disease, do not over fertilize and apply appropriate fungicides.
Downy mildew will cause the plant to develop yellow spots on the upper parts of the leaves, and there will be a fluffy white growth on the undersides of the leaves. The lesions will become darker over time. This disease is more likely to occur if there has been prolonged leaf wetness. To prevent this disease, don’t overcrowd plants and practice crop rotation.
Itersonilia canker will cause the plant to develop brown necrotic lesions with green halos. It will usually emerge late in the growing season and to reduce it, cover the shoulders of the parsnip roots with soil throughout its growing season. Practice crop rotation and remove weeds, plow crop debris after harvest and plant in well-draining soils.