Sunday, 26 June 2011

Perishing Parsnips?

Parsnip seed is notorious. You have to use new seed every year because it doesn't keep. Each seed packet has more seed than you could ever use (400-800).  After offering around you find, most likely, that  everyone else has the same problem.

Rather than just throw out the last 3 years' seed I thought I would test them out for viability to see if the received wisdom was really true.

Here's my test beds:

From left to right

2009 - home saved Tender and True
2010 - Hollow Crown
2011 - The Student

50 seeds in each tray on top of moist potting compost sprayed with water every couple of days.

Two weeks later the score:

2009 - 10 germinated seeds
2010 - 28
2011 - 49

That's 98% for this year's seed! So, contrary to popular opinion, parsnip is a very good germinator. Also seed viability would appear to be better than we are led to believe being above 50% a year after the seal on the packet was broken.

In future I wont be throwing out my parsnip seeds each year.  If I use them a year later I will sow 6 seeds at each station rather than three.

Just two activities at the plot this week: picking strawberries and weeding. Guess which one I enjoy more?


  1. Very interesting post!

    Thankyou! Will be doing the same!

    Martin :)

  2. I always wondered how parsnips were such wimpy seed. Now i know that isn't often a deserved reputation.

  3. I bet you love weeding best :)
    I think the secret with germinating parsnips is patience and keeping the ground watered

  4. I apply the science of ignorance. For two years I've just sown a block of parsnips using the entire packet, and thus far it seems to have worked.

  5. oh picking strawberries is great.....the hard part is getting enough

    I used last years parsnip seed and had a great germination rate I always sow my oldest seed first..then re-sow if I need to...waste not want not is my motto!!

  6. I've sown my parsnip direct this year as well as sowing some seed in pots to plant out later, I thought I'd do a bit of an experiment. The direct sown ones are doing better so far. Picking strawberries or weeding, I know which I'd rather do.

  7. That is great info, Mal. Thanks very much for the experiment. I shall also be less hasty to chuck out the old parsnip seed. Another myth peddled by the seed companies, eh?

    Yup, the weeding is HORRENDOUS after all this rain. I'm losing my mind pulling up marestail...

  8. Really liked your experiment Mal! Question for you: I would like to try planting parsnip for the first time this year - in deep containers. Everywhere I read that you can't plant seeds after Mid-June. Is this the case? And I want to use Lancer, Arrow or Dagger - ideal for container growing and quite small, or so I am told.

  9. Hi Anon. The thing about parsnip is that it is a slow grower. If you sow it now it will only grow as big as a carrot before winter dormancy. But if you are happy with carrot sized parsnips, no problem!