• Alison Murray

Things to do in the garden during lockdown day 69: sow carrots and parsnips - but not together

June is a good time to sow carrots and parsnips as both like to start out in warm soil, but they are also key habitats for carrot fly, so need to be kept apart.

parsnip veg plot

Carrots are best planted early spring and again in June or later. In between they are most likely to be hit by carrot fly. The flies initially tend to hatch in May and tunnel through the roots, so a late sowing avoids the first flush of flies, they are pretty prolific and a second batch of larvae will pop out around August.

Carrots and parsnips are not good bedfellows. Parsnips, like parsley, fennel, dill and celery are members of the umbelliferae family along with cow parsley, which are the other key group of plants in the carrot flies life cycle. The adults feed on these plants before hopping onto the carrots to lay their eggs. Three generations can rear their ugly head in one summer so it is worth taking measures to save your carrot crop.

Carrot fly can't fly too high, - a 70cm barrier is supposed to stop them, but I will be netting mine as I have found that encircling them with an old sheet just doesn't keep them away. Companion planting with strong smelling veg such as garlic is supposed to help ward off the fly who are super-smellers and can's resist the whiff of a newly grown carrot. Sowing thinly avoids thinning out as this also brings in the blighters. The flies' eggs can also survive in the soil over winter, so crop rotation is crucial.

Parsnips in particular like a warm soil. Their seeds supposedly don't last well so it is worth buying new seed each year. However, I never let mine go to seed and they always seem to pop up again where I planted them the previous year. Like this one in my amongst my onions and lettuces.

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