How To Grow An Abundance of Parsnips In A Grow Bag

Parsnip by Jameson Fink
Image by Jameson Fink

Do you want to grow your own parsnips, but don’t have a big enough garden? Or are you attracted by the idea of grow bags? Parsnips are a great treat on holidays and throughout the year. Let’s look at how to grow parsnips in a grow bag.

To grow parsnips in a grow bag, choose a bag that provides at least 30cm (12inches) of growing depth. Fill the bag with 1/3 compost and 2/3 soil. Make sure the soil is loose and free from debris. Sow the seeds about 1cm to 2cm (1/2-1inch) apart, and cover with 5mm to 1cm (1/4-1/2inch) of soil. Thin the seedlings to 7cm to 10 cm (3-4inches) apart. Keep them well watered for their whole growing season (check their moisture regularly as grow bags can dry out very quickly) and harvest by tipping over the grow bag and dumping out the parsnips.

Parsnips can be tricky to grow. They take a long time to germinate, are easily choked out by weeds, and do best with loose soil. These conditions can be perfectly met by growing your parsnips in a grow bag. Here’s how.

Growing Parsnips In A Grow Bag

Parsnips are a good crop for the self-sufficient garden. They grow similar to carrots so can be easily worked into your crop rotation, and they store well throughout the year. Grow bags create an ideal environment for growing parsnips and you can grow all the parsnips your family needs with just a few bags. In this article, we discuss:

  1. Choosing a grow bag
  2. Soil for your parsnips
  3. Planting parsnip seeds in a grow bag
  4. Care for your parsnips
  5. Harvesting

1. Choosing A Grow Bag

For growing parsnips, choose a grow bag that will allow at least 30cm (12inces) of soil so the parsnips have plenty of space for their roots to grow. You can buy a grow bag, use an old cloth shopping bag, or make your own. Most grow bags that you buy are sold for potatoes, but these will work fine for your parsnips. As long as they are deep enough, your grow bag can be any size that fits your space and growing needs.

Grow bags are plant pots that are made out of fabric instead of more traditional materials. Compared with plastic or terracotta planters, grow bags provide superior drainage and aeration. They can be dumped out at the end of the year and folded for compact storage. You can use them indoors but make sure to put a drip tray underneath to catch any water that will drain out.

Because grow bags are made from breathable fabric, it is very important to keep an eye on the soil moisture throughout the year and especially in the hot summer. This good drainage and aeration means that your soil will not become waterlogged, and your parsnip roots will have good air circulation and won’t rot as easily. But this also means that the soil will dry out very fast. Check the soil in your grow bag every day to make ensure it is not too dry and water as needed.

2. Soil For Your Parsnips

Parsnips are a root vegetable, meaning the part that you eat grows underground, so the soil you use is very important. For growing parsnips in a grow bag, buying bags of potting soil has distinct advantages. Firstly, parsnips take a long time to germinate and they are easily choked out by weeds. Purchased soil is weed-free so you won’t have to worry about invasive plants suffocating your germinating parsnips. Secondly, parsnips grow best in loose soil that allows the roots to grow and spread. Potting soil is the perfect texture and tilth for the growing taproot. Thirdly, potting soil is free from rocks and other debris that will damage or deform your parsnips.

That being said, it is always best to use your own soil if you have any. Using soil from your own garden is definitely the most environmentally friendly option, and it is another way that you can be more self-reliant. If you do use your own soil, make sure you carefully sift out any debris, pull out any weeds as soon as they emerge, and keep the soil loose.

Adding compost will give your soil a nice texture and will add the necessary nutrients for your parsnips. Whether you use purchased soil or soil from your garden, use about 2/3 soil and 1/3 compost in each grow bag.

Parsnips prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.8, so adjust your soil as needed. If you are using purchased potting soil, the pH level should be in this range but it is best to check to be sure.

Fill your grow bag with at least 30cm (12inches) of soil. This will give the roots plenty of depth to grow without touching the bottom of the bag and becoming bent or stunted.

3. Planting Parsnip seeds In a Grow Bag

Once you have your grow bag filled with soil and in a warm, sunny location, it is time to plant your parsnips. Parsnip seeds have a low germination rate (only about 60% of the seeds you plant will actually grow), so you want to sow them fairly close together. You can either sprinkle the seeds on the soil surface or place each one individually. Try and space them about 1cm to 2cm (1/2-1inch) apart. Lightly cover the seeds with about 5mm to 1cm (1/4-1/2inch) of soil and water them well.

Parsnips germinate best in 10°C to 25°C (50-75°F). They need to be kept damp, but the seeds can easily rot if the soil is too wet. The seeds can sometimes take up to 4 weeks to germinate, so it takes careful, dedicated care to produce a bountiful harvest.

4. Care For Your Parsnips

Once your parsnips have germinated, thin them so they are 7cm to 10 cm (3-4inches) apart. This will give the roots plenty of room to grow to a good size.

When growing in grow bags, remember to keep a careful eye on the moisture. Parsnips are nearly 90% water, and so need an adequate supply of moisture throughout their growth, so keep them well watered at all times. It helps to water them early in the morning so the water can penetrate the soil before it is evaporated, and the parsnip will have access to water as the temperature rises. You can also apply a layer of mulch once the seedlings have reached a decent size. This will help keep moisture from being evaporated from the surface of the soil. Straw or wood shavings both make a good mulch for your parsnips.

Another way to help retain moisture is to place your grow bag on a tray that has a raised edge. You can fill the tray with water that the soil can absorb as needed.

5. Harvesting

Parsnips require about 110 to 150 days to reach maturity. After a long season of careful attention and cultivation, you are finally ready to reap the fruits of your labour. To harvest parsnips, you can carefully pull them out of the soil, or simply tip the grow bag over and dump them out.

Careful of the parsnip tops!

When handling your parsnips, be aware that touching the green tops can cause allergic reactions that will burn your skin. It is always a good idea to wear gloves when handling your parsnips, especially in hot weather.

Depending on the size of grow bag you chose, you can often harvest 15 to 25 parsnips from each plant. With just a few grow bags, you will be able to harvest enough parsnips to give your family many meals of this delicious root vegetable. (They particularly delicious when candied with maple syrup!).

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.