Back in January, I grumbled about my inability to grow good parsnips. My frustrations were compounded by my mum, freshly kitted out with her first mobile phone, sending me text pictures of her grand parsnip crops.
Determined to increase my yield in 2011, I’ve tried a few different methods and thought I’d pop a progress update on to my blog.
I tried ‘chitting’ the seeds, as advised by the Lady Who Does Mum’s Feet, but this wasn’t a great success. Her tip was to sprinkle the seeds on to a damp piece of kitchen roll laid inside a plastic tub, covering with cling film, and shutting them in an airing cupboard until they germinate.
I put mine in my secret allotment weapon, the boiler room at work. I must confess I did forget about them a couple of times, so maybe they weren’t moist enough.
Fresh Seeds versus Old Seeds, and Growing in Florist Buckets
I’m one of those annoying people who has to see something for themselves before they believe it. Every book and every expert says ‘buy fresh parsnip seeds’ each year because the old ones don’t germinate. So I planted old seeds and new seeds in florist buckets that I’d swapped for a jam with Sam, my awesome and lovely local florist.
And lo and behold, in utterly un-shocking news, only one of the 20 odd old seeds germinated. Oh well, I know now!
Most of the new seeds poked up, and the leaves are about a foot high now. Scraping away at the soil shows a tidy parsnip underneath, and refreshingly, this appears to be growing down, rather than fat and sideways.
By growing in containers, I can use nice crumbly, stone-free soil, lovingly created with added sand to fashion a perfect parsnip environment. I’m not going to get monsters in florist buckets, but with luck, I’ll harvest some good dinner-sized ones come winter.
Seeds in Toilet Rolls
The fresh seeds sown in multi-purpose-compost-stuffed toilet rolls gave excellent germination. I put these in my cold frame, and once they got to a decent size, planted them whole onto the allotment, and the spares ones into more florist buckets.
Before I put them into the plot, I removed as many stones as I could, and dug the row over with my spade. This seems to have worked, as another scrape of the soil reveals slightly bigger parsnips about an inch across (pictured). Fingers crossed this means they’re growing downwards, like the container ones.
If I can harvest a decent crop of good ‘uns this year I’ll be as proud as punch. I don’t think there’s a more satisfying feeling on the allotment than working out why something’s failing and then solving the problems.
And even more gratifyingly, I’ll be able to send my mum some pictures of my own. Not that I’m competitive or anything.