I am often asked what is the best method of growing both long carrots and parsnips for the show bench. There are a number of different ways of doing it from boring holes directly into the soil and filling them with compost to growing them above the ground. The latter method is infinitely better than the first as the compost can really get cold three feet down in the growing plus the fact that you are up against all that the soil can throw at you regarding pests.
Growing them above the ground is a must for the best quality and the main options are in raised beds, pipes or drums. I actually use all three methods with excellent results, but my preference would actually be for the drums. Position them under some cover such as inside a polytunnel or any temporary structure covered with polythene to give you an early start, particularly so with parsnips. Jack Arrowsmith is undoubtedly the man to best with parsnips and Jack has built a temporary structure to grow his under.
As the Greenhouses in Bangor are all on a concrete floor I have to use pipes there to grow all my long roots and I have to say that the parsnips that I have consistently harvested from the 6 inch diameter pipes 4 ft long have been of superb quality and have certainly been a plus point in all my ten Gold medal winning Chelsea displays. If you can actually get your pipes to sit on another 2 ft depth of the same bore hole mixture, then I’m sure you could get top quality.
At home this year I am grwoing the parsnips in two ways, half of them are in my raised beds where I have timber glazed construction over it and the remainder are in my blue plastic drums in the onion polytunnel. They were sown quite early, on the 2nd February and germinated on the 2nd March, at the moment they are undoubtedly the best parsnips that I have ever had. How the go on from here is another thing but out of the total of 49 that I have growing, I’m optimistic of having a few good sets.
The ones grwoing in the blue drums are definitely the more powerful and have the better looking foliage. On the 17th June the tops were already approaching 3 feet in height and the stalks at compost level were strong and clean. I haven’t given them any feed at all nor have they had any spray at all, this year they just seem to be remarkably clean. The variety is a new F1 hybrid called Princess and is one of the parsnips that Jim Thompson prefers. It carries it’s weight evenly along the whole length of body with and excellent clean white skin.
In one way I’m glad that the ones in the raised bed are slightly behind as I will require a set for the National Vegetable Society Championships which is being held this year at the Malvern show on the last weekend in September. I intend to give them some lime this coming week by way of stirring in a handful of carbonate or garden lime to a gallon watering can. This needs to be stirred well and I have found it does improve the skin colour as well as sweetening up the compost.
My large onion is still growing away well in the hydroponic system at Bangor and on the 17th June it measured 24 inches in circumference. Gerald Treweek and myself are using the exactly the same system from Aquaculture Ltd and on the above date we were both on the same measurements.