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Parsnips are a relatively low maintenance crop that can be left in the ground during winter. Select either a long rooted variety if your soil is good, or for most gardens a shorter variety.
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.
Parsnips can be sown directly into the soil from February onwards, although early sowing will require the protection of a cloche. Place 3 seedlings together into a row 2 cm deep at 18 cm spacing's, allowing 30 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.
During the growing season carefully hoe the bed to remove competing weeds. Water regularly in dry spells to ensure that the soil does not dry out.
The 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.
Parsnips can be successfully stored until March. Harvest in October, rinsing to remove surface dirt and discard any damaged parsnips. Remove the leaves retaining a 2 cm crown and place in a box between layers of sand (do not allow the parsnips to touch). Store in a dry shed.
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