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Organic Gardening:

How to grow organic Parsnips and Hamburg Parsley


Parsnips were much more popular before potatoes were discovered

Parsnips and Hamburg Parsley

Pastinaca sativa and Petroselinum crispum

Family: Umbelliferae (Group 3)

Parsnips are a valuable winter root vegetable, varying in length from 12-20cm (5-8") and in shape from bulbous to bayonet and wedge-shaped. Hamburg parsley is similar in appearance and taste and grown in the same way. Both vegetables are great for use as a vegetable, in stews, curry, and also roasted with the Sunday joint. They're also nice in a medley of other root vegetables and leeks, which makes a good vegetarian dish served with a sauce.


Recommended cultivars

The Student (best for flavour)
Offenham (for shallow soils)
White Gem* (for shallow soils)
Tender and True*
Avonresister* (small)
*Canker resistant varieties

Parsnips require an open site with light, deeply cultivated soil. They do not have high nutritive requirements. Ideal pH is 6.5. Lime acid soils.


Seeds do not remain viable for long and should be thrown away after 2 years. Traditionally sown in February or March, germination is improved and risk of canker reduced by April or May sowing. Normally sown direct, they can also be sown in modules from late February to early April, planting out before the taproot starts to develop. Fluid sowing is also successful for some people.

Make a fine tilth and station sow three seeds 8-15cm (3-6") apart, 1-1.5cm (½-¾") deep, in rows 20-30cm (8-12") apart. The spacing you choose depends on the ultimate size you want to produce. To mark rows, radish or small lettuce can be intersown, allowing easy weeding without danger of pulling up parsnip seedlings by mistake.

Parsley seed takes from 10-28 days to germinate, and Hamburg parsley anything up to 6 weeks. Do not allow the row markers to overshadow the parsnip seedlings. When the seedlings develop, if there is more than one plant at any station, remove the weakest to leave a single plant.

Water only in dry weather at 2 gallons per sq yard every 2-3 weeks. Keep well weeded. No other attention is required.


Roots will be ready for lifting from October onwards. They can be left in the soil all winter, lifting as required. It's best to mark each plant with a cane so that it is possible to find them once the foliage has died down. In cold areas, cover with straw or bracken to keep the soil workable. Any roots remaining in March can be lifted and heeled in or stored in sand, so that they do not resprout and become soft.

Pests and diseases

Celery fly and carrot fly are the most common pests; lettuce root aphid is sometimes a problem. The first two can be prevented by using crop covers such as fleece, the last by careful rotation, avoiding both lettuce and parsnips for a few years on that site.

If canker occurs, use resistant varieties in future years.

If you're interested in healthy food, you may also be interested in our sister site, The Health Site, Your Online Health Channel.

Article ©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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