Parsnip a root vegetable for winter
The Parsnip is a root vegetable very easy to cultivate. It is very hardy, and is in season in autumn and throughout the winter months. The botanical name of the Parsnip is Pastinaca sativa. The plant is a biennial, and grows wild in various parts of Europe. It belongs to the family Umbelliferae.
Preparing the Ground. Few vegetables give the grower less trouble than the Parsnip, but large, well-developed roots are obtained only by sowing on land which has been prepared by deep cultivation. On shallow, poorly prepared or stony ground, the roots of Parsnip will be small and unshapely.
The amateur gardener who wishes to have good-sized and shapely roots must have the ground plowed, rototilled or spaded deeply, thus allowing the roots to penetrate easily. If the soil is hard or lumpy the roots will certainly be poor. It is important that fresh manure should not be used when preparing fhe site for Parsnips; badly shaped roots will result. Very old, well-rotted manure may be incorporated with the soil, and so may good compost.
The bed in which Parsnips are to be grown should be turned over deeply in the fall. In spring, when it is fairly dry, it should be forked and leveled to bring it into a fit condition for sowing. A week or two before sowing, a scattering of bone meal—2 oz. for each square yard of ground—is beneficial. Superphosphate may be substituted for this.
Deep, Rich Soil Necessary. Parsnips, like other root crops that require deep, rich soil free from fresh manure, are best grown on a plot planted the previous year with vegetables for which the land was dug and manured. For example, Parsnips might well be sown where Onions, Beans or Peas were grown.
When to Sow Seeds. Since the Parsnip needs as long a season of growth as possible, the seeds must be sown as soon as the conditions of soil and weather will allow. It is, however, useless to sow when the weather is wintry or the ground sodden. It is wiser to defer sowing for a week or two than to set the seeds in lumpy or sodden ground.
How to Sow. There are two ways of sowing the seeds. One way is to scatter them thinly along the full length of the row: the other is to
set groups (hills) of three or four seeds at 6-9-in. intervals. The latter method is recommended as it is less wasteful of seeds, and time in thinning. If this plan is followed the seedlings must be reduced until only one is left in each group. The drills should be 15 in. apart and 1 in. deep, and when hill sowing is practiced it is a good plan to sprinkle a few radish seeds between the clusters. These will germinate quickly and mark the rows for hoeing.
Sowing Parsnips for Exhibition. The way to ensure first-rate Parsnips for exhibition at flower and vegetable shows, if the soil is poor, shallow or stony, is to make holes 3 ft. deep and about 12 in. apart, with a crowbar. The holes should be 4-5 in. wide across the top and tapering almost to a point at the base. Good garden soil, which has been sifted and mixed with some sand and thoroughly decayed manure, is used to fill the holes to within an inch or two of their tops. It is important that the soil be made firm by packing it down with a long wooden rammer—the handle of a disused broom makes a suitable tool for this purpose. After the holes are filled and the soil is firmed, four or five seeds are sown near the center of the top of each hole and are covered with about 1/2 in. of soil.
Thinning the Seedlings. When the seedlings are well up, they must be thinned out. The superfluous seedlings are removed gradually until only one sturdy plant, as near the center of the hole as possible, remains. First-rate Parsnips can be grown by this method. In hot weather the soil in the holes is more liable to dry out than the surrounding soil. If the roots suffer from lack of moisture, their development will be checked seriously. Therefore it is necessary to water the plants freely in dry periods.
Later Management. During the summer the only attention required, after the final thinning has been done, is to cultivate frequently between the rows to keep down weeds and to encourage the free growth of the Parsnips.
As Parsnips are perfectly hardy, the roots may be left in the ground to be dug as they are required. If this plan is followed where winters are severe, the ground should be covered heavily in fall with leaves, hay or straw to prevent heaving by frost,
In really cold climates it is usually wisest to lift and store the crop as soon as the leaves have died down in autumn. In lifting Parsnip roots, care must be taken to insert the garden fork well away from them, and to dig deeply so that the fork will be thrust beneath the base of the roots; otherwise they will be pierced and their keeping properties will be impaired. Parsnips keep best when stored between layers of sand, soil or ashes in a cool cellar.
If the crop is left in the ground, to be dug as required for use, it is necessary, if severe frost threatens, to lift sufficient roots and to store them to provide a supply for a few weeks.
Favorite Varieties. There are several varieties of Parsnip. The best are the Student, Hollow Crown, All-American and Guernsey.