By: Amy Grant
Root vegetables are making a comeback, and parsnips are high on the list. Parsnips are grown for their delicious roots and generally do best planted in a garden, but what if you don’t have a garden plot? Can you grow parsnips in pots? Keep reading to find out how to grow parsnips in a container and other useful tips for growing parsnips in containers.
Generally speaking, almost anything can be container grown. I say almost anything. In the case of container grown parsnips, a few criteria need to be met. After all, since the plant is grown for its long roots, it would seem you would need an awfully deep pot.
Parsnip roots can grow from 8-12 inches (20-30 cm.) in length and 1 ½-2 inches (4-5 cm.) across. Therefore, containers for parsnips should be about 2-3 times the length of the mature parsnip. Provided you have a deep enough pot, growing parsnips in containers is worth a try.
Parsnips are started from seed, and the newer the seed the better since parsnip seed loses its viability quickly. Note – you can also use purchased transplants if you find them, or start the seeds first and move them to a pot once large enough.
Select a pot for container grown parsnips that is plenty deep, at least 2 feet (0.5-1 m.) deep, though 3 would be better, to accommodate the long root. Be sure that the pot has adequate drainage holes.
Fill containers for parsnips with well-draining, compost rich soil. Sow seeds to a depth of ½ inch (4 cm.) and lightly cover with soil. Parsnips don’t germinate very well, so seed thickly with at least 2-3 seeds per inch (2.5 cm.) to get a good stand. Dampen the soil and keep it moist, not drenched.
Be patient. Parsnips are slow to germinate. It can take up to 34 weeks from seeding to harvest. Once the seedlings are up, thin the parsnips to 2-4 (5-10 cm.) inches apart. Keep your container grown parsnips damp, not wet.
Parsnips sweeten up nicely when they have been exposed to a couple weeks of freezing temperatures in the fall. However, those grown in pots will be far more susceptible to actually freezing and then rotting, so lay a good thick layer of organic mulch around the plants to protect them from freezing and to retain moisture.
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Parsnips are a tasty root vegetable that are perfect for growing during the cooler months of the year. Parsnips can be enjoyed roasted, marinated, and even grilled, giving you all sorts of serving options. If you are thinking about adding parsnips to your gardening layout this year, take a look below at some helpful tips for planting parsnips in your garden.
How to start parsnips from seed:
Before parsnip seeds can be planted, they need to germinate indoors. This will help speed up the already slow and lengthy growing process. To help the seeds get started, wrap them in a wet paper towel and store them in a container for 3-5 days. As soon as you see sprouting, they are ready to be planted. Do not wait once you see the sprouts. Try to plant the same day if at all possible.
How to transplant parsnip seedlings:
Two weeks before the last frost of the season, you can start planting your sprouts outdoors. You want to plant the sprouts ½ an inch deep and about 3 inches apart. Like carrots and other root vegetables, you want to be sure the soil is free from debris that could block the growth of the root. Use soil that is well drained, and be sure the area gets moderate sun.
How to care for parsnip seedlings:
Once your parsnip seedlings start to sprout, you need to keep an eye out for overcrowding. Thin out the plants if you see they are growing less than four inches close. Just choose to leave the stronger of the two plants and remove the smaller, weaker one.
As your parsnips continue to grow, they will be sensitive to weeds. It is very important that you weed every few days to keep weeds at bay. Parsnips will also require at least two inches of water per week, so be vigilant about checking the soil and keeping it moist. A layer of mulch can help keep these roots of the plant cool as well as hold moisture in.
General tips for producing a good crop:
Weeds will be the number one enemy of your parsnip plants. Be sure you check often for weeds. You won’t see a great deal of pests bothering your parsnips but if you do, simply pick them off. As long as you are providing ample water, weeding, and thinning, your parsnips will do the rest of the work.
When and how to harvest parsnips:
Parsnips will begin to push out of the ground when they are ready to be harvested. Just look at the base of the plant and if you see the white top of the parsnip, it is ready to be harvested. Gently loosen the parsnip from the soil and pull.
Once your parsnips are harvested simply cut off the top and store in a cool place. You can prepare parsnips just as you would any root vegetable, and they make excellent side dishes. Give parsnips a try in your garden this year and see how much you like them!
Parsnips are a root vegetable related to carrots, delicious in recipes like hearty winter soups. When you don’t have much space outside, use containers to grow parsnips either indoors or on your porch.
While many vegetables and fruits can be grown in either containers or outside, many gardening experts caution against growing parsnips in pots. This is because the parsnip plant grows very long and large roots which a pot may not be able to hold. In addition, parsnips take a long time to mature and may grow even more slowly in unnatural conditions. If you have large enough pots and some patience, however, you can grow these plants indoors.
Use only fresh seeds, as seeds stored for long periods of time might have troubles sprouting. To loosen them, place the seeds in a wet towel overnight. In the morning, you will be able to place into peat blocks and wait for the seeds to sprout. Once the seedlings have reached the surface of the peat blocks, you can transplant them into soil.
Note that seedlings with strong root systems are the only ones that should be transplanted. Others should be thrown away or used as compost.
Thoroughly clean a large pot to rid it of organisms that could damage a growing plant. Keep one seed to each pot as the parsnips need a lot of room for root growth. If the roots of 2 plants tangle, they can strangle each other and die.
Plant the seed about a ½-inch from the surface, and then cover it with rich soil. The soil’s pH should be around 6.5. The pot should have a hole at the bottom to allow for proper draining of water. You might also line the bottom of the pot with small rocks before filling it with soil to provide more capability for drainage.
Watering the parsnip can be tricky when growing in a pot. You only want to water the parsnip enough to be damp, but not soaked. If you water too much, this can cause the plant to drown and suffocate. When the weather is dry, you might want to water more frequently, especially when the heat is used or air conditioning is running. In addition, you may want to use plant nutrients if you want more growth. However, since you only grow one plant at a time, the calculation of how much nutrient to use can be tricky, so it’s best to avoid it when you’re new to growing.
You will only yield one parsnip per seed and the time for the parsnip to grow can be quite long. The average time from planting to harvest is 34 weeks, so this is not a vegetable you will eat right away. But the parsnip is worth the wait.
My parsnips are eternally rubbish. I grew one good ‘snip this year, the rest came up short and very stubby. As these are one of my favourite vegetables, both for their sweet taste and smell, I’ve decided this cannot go on.
So I’ve turned to the power of the Internet. That’s you, by the way. All you growers who are no doubt a lot better than me.
Suggestions so far are that maybe my soil is too rich, and the parsnips can’t be bothered to grow down in search of water and nutrients, or that my ground is too stony.
I’ve tried growing all over the plot, and I’ve also sown the seeds in little half toilet roll ‘modules’ (my work colleagues were confused to see me coming out of different facilities with empty rolls in my hands, but hey) before planting on.
One tip I’m looking to explore came from solway cropper, on the Grow Your Own forums. ‘Because my soil is derived from boulder clay it is full of stones, so I stopped trying to grow decent parsnips in it years ago,’ he posted. ‘Now I grow them in an assortment of pots, and 1kg of parsnips per bucket is a fairly typical yield’.
(He has a picture to prove it, too…)
This sounds perfect, especially since I have complete control of the soil that goes into the pots. And because my friendly local florist has agreed to provide me with florist buckets if I keep her in jam this year.
So, lovely people, does this sound a good idea? My research tells me that parsnips should be planted 15cm away from each other, and germinate at 7 oC. By growing in pots, does this mean that the soil will warm up quicker?
I’ve had terrible trouble getting the blighters to germinate in the past – does anyone have any tips to get the seeds going?
Any other advice out there? My near neighbour has just ripped their bathtub out, and I’ve heard they’re super for growing…