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Gayton-based gardener Jamie Marsh shares his top tips for sowing carrot and parsnip seeds

In his weekly Jamie’s Little Allotment column, gardener Jamie Marsh gives his top tips for sowing parsnip and carrot seeds…

It’s finally here, and with it, it brings some sunny warm days, and also lighter mornings and evenings, I’m talking about May of course.

Hopefully, we’ve seen the back of the constant biblical rains and the icy northerly winds making the temperature feel like we are back in January.

Jamie is sowing carrot and parsnip seeds in this week's column
Jamie is sowing carrot and parsnip seeds in this week's column

A few days of continuous sunshine beating down on us heats the soil up just those few degrees more and everything starts to burst into life, what I’m talking about really is the weed seeds in your vegetable beds.

I was chatting to a gentleman a few years ago, and he said something to me that I’ve not forgotten.

If you’re wondering when to start sowing your seeds in your allotment just take a look at the weeds - if they have germinated and are growing, so will most vegetable seeds.

Jamie is sowing carrot and parsnip seeds in this week's column
Jamie is sowing carrot and parsnip seeds in this week's column

So I think now is a great time to start to sow things like carrots and parsnips.

We could have possibly sown those a few weeks ago and they might have germinated and been completely fine, but I like to wait until I know the soil is a bit warmer, because if it isn’t warm enough and the seed is sitting in the ground in sodden wet soil there’s a high chance it could rot, but just waiting until now gives you a higher chance of successful germination.

I’ve kept my beds in good order over the winter by mulching back at the end of autumn and then top-dressing with compost a few weeks ago, so all I need to do to prepare them is to give them a good rake over.

If you have got any weeds in your beds now’s the time to remove them. Just go over the bed lightly with a hoe then rake it nice and flat to a fine tilth.

With your bed now prepared, use a string line, two pieces of wood and some string tied between both, to give you a nice straight line to pull your drill to, with the corner of your hoe, make a groove in the soil just an inch deep all along the string, this is your drill.

I’m sowing carrots in this first one.

Carrot seed is quite fine so when you're sprinkling them in your drill, try to do it sparingly, the reason being, if you sow too thick you will need to thin the carrots out in a few weeks, and in doing so, the smell of the pulled carrots might attract carrot fly who will love to bury into them and lay their eggs.

When you’ve sown your seeds nice and thin just to cover over, remove your string line and don’t forget to label the row. I always write the date on the back, then give them a good drink.

Next, I’m going to sow parsnips, my wife’s absolute favourite on a Sunday roast, but every year she asks: “Have you grown plenty of parsnips?”

To which I reply: “They just haven’t grown.“

I really struggle with these pesky things but I hope this year will be different.

I think the problem is the seed dries out so fast. When you look at a parsnip seed it looks like a round flat papery disc, which will either rot very easily if left too wet for too long or dry out very fast. Both scenarios are not good, so warm damp soil is the key.

Also, parsnip seed doesn’t store well so if possible - to try and get the highest germination rate - use new seeds.

Make a drill exactly the same as before, but this time I’m going to water the bottom of the drill, again sow sparingly, so no thinning is needed, cover over with soil, label and water.

What I’m going to do next is a bit different, I heard about this from the RHS. Place a plank of wood over your row of parsnip seeds for exactly 21 days, this will keep the warmth and the moisture in, fingers tightly crossed will help germinate every one of my nemesis vegetables. I’ll let you know how they get on

If you’ve got any gardening questions please email me at Jamieslittleallotment@gmail.com

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