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To sow or not to sow, that is my question

Down at our allotments there seems to be a bit divided opinion, and as a bit of a beginner I'm not sure which side to join. Some people have already started sowing parsnip seeds, as they need a long growing season. Others say the ground's too cold to plant anything yet. I want to grow parsnips and carrots (yes, I know), but we suffer greatly from carrot fly and therefore I believe early crops would be best. The other carrot fly in the ointment is we are apparently threatened with another cold snap from the North at the end of the month (yikes!!). So, I was wondering what you wise and talented bunch would do. Would you sow now and cover with fleece, or would you wait on the assumption that things always catch up?
p.s. last year we did have a frost on April 30th that wiped out lots of people's tomato growing plans for the year, so caution may be better than eagerness to get started.
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill


  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Posts: 8,312
    I would always go for caution - though I garden in the North, so I always add at least 3 weeks on to standard sowing dates.  Things do catch up.  But on the other hand, if you sow your carrots so early they get damaged by another Eastern Beast, there are generally so many seeds in a packet that you can re-sow later...
    Since 2019 I've lived in east Clare, in the west of Ireland.
  • UpNorthUpNorth Posts: 376
    frost aside.....i started some indoor seedlings far too early.  almost nothing growing well if at all.  I think some echinacea might make it.  I'll have to start again almost entirely...when there's better light. (i did have a small grow-light but wasn't adequate).   
    I don't think it really gets you ahead anyway.  I'd wait as long as you think you can and save potentially doing it twice.
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 23,862
    I sow parsnips in April, they germinate better. In fact I don't sow anything March until mid March. It's better when it's lighter.
    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • LynLyn Posts: 23,190
    My parsnips are always very good,  have enough in the freezer for the year, I sow my seeds direct on the 1st June. Germination very quick, harvest at start of winter. Or after the green has disappeared. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • Thanks everyone for your replies. The general consensus seems to be curb your enthusiasm.
    Lyn - sowing parsnips in June - that's really interesting as everything I've read is about sowing early as they take so long to get going - hence growing radishes between them being common. I feel a test coming on and will make a note in my planner to do a June 1st sowing as well as April.
    Yanik - I was really asking about direct sown crops like carrots and parsnips, which I don't think you can practically start indoors, well not in my indoors anyway. I have got indoor starters like pepper and tomato going (I say going but they're still hiding in the pots!). The problem by the middle of April is all the window sills are over-crowded and the plants are trying to open the front door themselves, which is why the over-enthusiastic and impatient ones among us get caught out by late frosts.
    “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
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  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy Posts: 6,754
    I am in full agreement with the above. A lot depends on you soil & your local conditions. Plants growing away strongly without being "checked" will always do best. 
    AB Still learning

  • LynLyn Posts: 23,190
    I find parsnips and carrots don’t transfer well if you’ve started them off in pots, but I suppose it works for some.
    cold and wet here through till May here then the ground warms rapidly and the seeds germinate very quickly. 
    We all do different, that’s what suits me and a few others I see🙂
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • SkandiSkandi Posts: 1,723
    I'm up north (denmark but equivalent to aberdeen really) I start my parsnips late April or early May around a month before last frost. I want to get small parsnips around late august/early september as well as storage ones later. I've done the same as everyone else with over filling windowsills, but my current house has two issues with this, one.. I have ONE south facing windowsill in the entire house and it's the dogs favorite seat, so not conductive to seed starting, the North facing windows do not get enough light really and all I can use them for is chitting potatos.

    So what I have done is take an old wardrobe, lie it on it's side and put a shelf in the middle, dividing it into two. I have four 120cm 36W 3500/6500K tubes on each shelf. So far only onions and some peppers going, but more will be going in on the 1st april. The peppers were only to tell me if the lights were bright enough, as it's hard to tell with onions and leeks, but they are doing so well I think I'll keep them.
  • Nice work Skandi. I can't help thinking the dog will decide it wants to sleep in the wardrobe next. I was lucky to get a greenhouse for the allotment last year, on a "if you dismantle it - you can have it" basis. So at the moment I'm in a juggling act of what will be ok in the ground, what in the greenhouse and what at home, and deciding when to pot on to free up space for new seed trays. But seeing new seedlings appearing of a morning is a real joy at this time of year.
    “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill
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