Parsnips - Covering Beds with Enviro Mesh
10th Feb 2000
There is certainly a benefit in the fact that since I took early retirement from Gwynedd County Council nearly five years ago, I can take time off to get into the garden as and when the weather is favourable. Before the retirement, at this time of year, everything had to be carried out on the weekend with perhaps some preparatory work being carried out during the evenings. However I still can not make out how I managed to find time in between my gardening activities to get to work at all in those days.
The task this week, on the first available dry day is to start with sowing the parsnips as they really do need a long season to attain their maximum potential. Over the years I seem to have the odd few parsnips left in the bed until later on in the year and those inevitably would have been the smallest specimens at the time of pulling at show time. Yet when these were pulled up for eating during late November they were of good size and the odd one or two would not have been out of place on the show bench. This surely has to mean that they do require a long growing season to achieve their optimum.
Covering Beds with Enviro Mesh
As I mentioned two weeks ago I intend to protect my parsnips this year by covering over the beds with Enviro mesh thus giving them a far better start as well protecting the young plants from pests such as the carrot fly. I am fortunate that the beds are already covered over with an old wooden framework that I used to have panes of glass in, this means that the Enviro mesh can easily be tacked on to it.
My main batch of parsnips are grown in two raised concrete block beds that measure 12 ft long and two foot wide with a concrete block partition in the middle so that each individual bed of nearly 6ft by 2ft will allow me to bore and sow 16 stations giving me a total of 64. I will also be sowing some parsnips in my friend Jim's garden using fresh sand.
Sand and Bore Holes
The sand wasn"t cleared out of the beds until mid January this year and has now settled down and will require a small amount to be added on top to bring it up to the desired level. The bore holes are made with a long steel pipe that has a solid steel tip welded to the bottom 300 mm. This makes it a little lighter and considerably easier to use and with this bar I can get a depth of five feet in my beds. The idea is to form a hole or a mould within the sand so that the parsnip is allowed to grow to that size and shape so the it's important that the sides of the holes are straight and not convexly shaped as can easily happen when boring with a bar.
Try and ensure that each and every hole is as near to each other in size and shape as possible and as I aim for a hole with the diameter of 4 inches across the top. To make sure that the size remains constant I use a bottomless 4 inch plant pot over the steel bar until it just fits inside the hole. Stagger your bore holes to start with so that there is no danger of one hole collapsing the other and always fill the hole up with compost before boring the one right next to it.
Fill the bore holes carefully with the following mixture which in my case will be thoroughly mixed up in my electric concrete mixer. The mixture that I intend to use is based on the Jack Arrowsmith recipe but with some slight changes = 2 builders bucket full of sieved soil from my leek bed, half a bucket of concreting sand and half a bucket of fine vermiculite, 1 bucket of Levington F1 which is already finely sieved and can be added to the mixture straight away. The fertiliser that I shall add is = 6 ounces Superphosphate, 5 ounces of potash, 5 ounces of lime, 2 ounces of fine calcified seaweed, 1 ounce of Hoof and Horn. To this mix I shall also add a capful of Bromophos.
The main change is that I have added fine vermiculite to the mixture whereas Jack's mixture is purely fine sand. My reason for adding the vermiculite is because I have had some good results with it over the years and I do believe because of it"s soft texture that it helps towards producing a finer skin finish.
The choice of which parsnip to sow is getting increasingly larger as newer varieties become available, there's no doubt that Gladiator has made it's mark on the show scene over the past few years but I am still convinced that, when grown really well like I've seen some fine specimens from Colin Lewis Carmarthen, Javelin will take some beating. There are other newer hybrids no available such as Panache and Paragon that will I am sure become strong contenders for the red cards.
I am therefore going to spread my bets by sowing 3 beds of Javelin at home and one bed of Paragon, at Jim's I shall sow 6 forty five gallon drums of Gladiator in the newly imported concreting sand. When filling the bore holes with the mixture do use a cane periodically to prod down the compost to make sure that there a re no likelihood of any air pockets in it. When you have filled the holes, make a small indentation with your finger in the centre and sow four to five seed in each one, preferably with the seed on it's edge and cover over with the same compost.