Growing Tips: Parsnip


Quick Reference:

Germination for Parsnips are rather erratic and slow even with fresh viable seed. Plant seed 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep spaced 2 to 3 seeds per inch. Germination is varible: 15 to 25 days. Thin seedlings so they are 3 inches apart. Parsnip seed is very short lived and new crop seed must be used each year.

When and where to plant:

A member of the carrot family this cool weather crop requires a long season to develop nice roots. Parsnips will not mature in the cooler areas of Alaska. Parsnips must be planted as soon as the soil can be prepared in the spring, they are frost tolerant and will germinate when the soil temperature is in the upper 30's. To get a head start, many gardeners plant parsnips in the fall just before the ground freezes. Choose a sunny, warm location that has rich, deep soil, high in organic matter. Cultivate soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, enrich with plant food and organic matter then plant seed directly in the garden. Because germination of even the freshest parsnip seed is often mediocre, seed thickly, at least two or three seeds per inch to ensure a good stand, cover seed with fine soil, firm soil over seed and keep moist until seedlings emerge. Parsnip seed is slow to germinate so some gardeners drop a radish seed every foot in the row to mark where the parsnip seed is and help break the soil crust when the radishes emerge. Once parsnip seedlings are up and growing, pull the radishes.


Parsnips are delicate and cannot stand competition from weeds. Keep soil moist, well weeded and apply plant food once a month. Parsnips are relatively free of both insects and diseases. Thin seedlings so they are 3 inches apart. One parsnip can weigh a pound.


The flavor is best after the days turn cold in fall, harvest before freeze up. Store in winter the same as carrots or beets.