It only seems like last week that I was boring holes and sowing my parsnip seed in the blue plastic drums last February. Since talking to the late Jack Arrowsmith many years ago by now, he always had his parsnips sown around the middle of February and I have, ever since then, tried to sow mine before the end of this month. Parsnips need a long growing period to mature to their optimum size and that size of course is dependent on the variety you select as well as the bore hole mixture you use.
Ever since I introduced the two new parsnips two years ago, Pinnacle and Picador, I have been growing Pinnacle ever since. Picador and Pinnacle are very similar and both have a tremendous amount of vigour in them. Picador is the variety that we supplied Peter Glazebrook with who managed to break the world record with a 13lb specimen. Pinnacle has won the National Vegetable Society Championship two years running when staged by Graeme Watson
This year however I have re introduced the variety Duchess which was taken off the market by the breeder for a short period owing to the difficulty they had pollinating to create the hybrid. The sister variety Princess was also removed at the same time but only Duchess has made it back as the company feel that this is the best variety of them. Many exhibitors might disagree with that comment but I was certainly happy with Duchess at the time and I propose to sow both Duchess and Pinnacle this year, just to see which one I consider to the be the very best.I have already done one sowing of Pinnacle during late January and these are intended to be staged as part of my display at the RHS Tatton Show in July. I have changed the position of the blue plastic drums this year, they used to be along the sides and the back of the polytunnel. They are now sitting on two of the raised beds in the same tunnel whilst the other two beds will have leeks growing in them later on. The drums were moved in early January and re filled with sand on the 20 of that month. This means that the sand didn’t have a lot of time to settle down but I have well soaked them the day after filling m happy that had settled down well enough.Three bore holes are made in each drum and the mixture that I shall use will be same one as I used last year which produced some tremendously heavy, yet smooth parsnips with the biggest being 15 inches around the shoulder and over five feet in length the mixture is – 1 – 75ltr bag of F2s, 2 oz, sieved bone-meal, 5 oz, sulphate of potash, 7 oz, garden lime and 4 oz Nutrimate powder.
Core out the holes first, coring one in each drum at a time, don’t try and core the three holes at the same time in one drum. The probability is that the exposed holes could collapse inwards causing all sorts of problems. The way I do it is to get my son Alwyn to bore in front of me with a 4 inch diameter pipe then finish off with a steel bar as deep as he can go. I will then follow, filling the holes with the compost before starting again in the beginning with the second hole and so on.
After filling the holes about half way, I use a piece of wood or cane to prod it down to make sure that it has all settled with no fear of leaving any air locks. Make an indentation in the centre of each bore hole about 1″ deep and sow about four seed in each hole before covering them over with the same compost. Moisten well with a watering can and a fine rose before covering over with panes of glass.