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Gardening / Cuttings: Seeds of hope with parsnips

A MR CUNLIFFE of Sutton Coldfield writes with comforting words on the non-germination of parsnip seeds (Independent, 16 January). I was not the only one who suffered last year.

'One of my colleagues on the allotments had the same bad results and my sowing of 'Tender and True' was patchy in germination,' he says. 'One year at Watford I had only three seeds germinate out of four 18ft rows. It was the same round Rickmansworth and Amersham and also at Braintree and Waltham Abbey. I feel there are always certain poor years for germination of certain seeds, so your experience is quite normal.'

I am hoping for better results this year with 'Avonresister' (Unwins 79p). This makes short, stubby roots, which are easier to handle in the kitchen. It is a sweet variety and has good resistance to canker. Parsnip seed has a relatively short shelf life, so do not expect good results from the remnants of last year's seed packet.