Giant vegetables are always fun to grow, so why not try to grow some yourself. The world record for the longest giant parsnip is over 15 feet long, whilst the heaviest parsnip is over 17 lbs!
Position your parsnip bed in a sunny or partially sunny location. Parsnips like to grow in a deep, friable and stone free soil so dig over the bed deeply in late autumn or early winter. Remove any stones and debris to avoid the parsnips forking. Do not add any manure or compost to the soil. During April break down the clods and incorporate a general purpose fertiliser such as Growmore.
Choose a suitable giant parsnip seed variety such as Exhibition long parsnips. Giant parsnips should be sown earlier than normal parsnips, so start them off end January. This means that the seedlings will require the protection of a cloche or similar. Place 3 seedlings together into a row 2 cm deep at 30 cm spacing's, allowing 60 cm between rows. Cover gently with soil.
The parsnip seedlings will germinate in 2-4 weeks. Thins the seedlings when they are large enough to handle, leaving one plant at each station. Discard the unwanted seedlings as they will not successfully transplant.
For exhibition parsnips you may wish to plant long rooted varieties into a plastic drain pipe filled with friable, nutrient low soil. Mount the pipe on a fence at 45 degrees and place a sock at the end of the pipe. Alternatively, you can plant into a bottomless 45 gallon drum on a raised bed. If you wish to achieve a heavy parsnip you can transplant from pot grown as the this will encourage side shoots which add weight to the plant.
During the growing season carefully hoe the bed to remove competing weeds. Water regularly to ensure that the soil does not dry out. The giant parsnips are ready to harvest when the foliage begins to die down in autumn, but can remain in the ground until February. Waiting till after the first frost will improve the taste of your parsnips. Lift carefully using a fork to loosen the soil around the parsnips.
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