Parsnip Essentials

by National Gardening Association Editors

Planning

  • Parsnips require a long growing season (100 to 130 days) to mature. They tolerate frosts and can be harvested just before the ground freezes or left in the ground over the winter.
  • Time seed sowing for harvest just after the average first fall frost date. In areas with mild winters, you can also sow seeds in the fall from September through November.
  • Purchase fresh seeds each year.

Preparation

  • Work soil at least a foot deep to remove rocks, clods, and other obstructions.
  • In heavy soils, form raised beds about 4 to 6 inches high.
  • Add commercial slow-release fertilizers or aged manure.

Planting

  • Soak seeds for 24 hours before planting directly outdoors.
  • Sow the seeds 1/2 inch deep, 2 seeds per inch in rows or beds. When planting in heavy soil, cover with vermiculite so the seedlings can emerge easily.
  • Because parsnips seeds are slow to germinate, it's a good idea to mix some radish seeds in with them to break the soil and mark the rows.
  • Parsnip seedlings will emerge in 2 to 3 weeks.

Care

  • Thin well-established seedlings to stand 3 to 6 inches apart, depending on how large you want your roots.
  • Keep the rows weeded with shallow cultivation.
  • If you haven't used a slow-release fertilizer, side-dress 1 to 2 months after planting with 1 cup of 5-10-10 per 25 feet of row or its equivalent. (Slow-release fertilizers will be used up in 2 to 3 months.)
  • Parsnips are mostly pest and disease-free.

Harvesting

  • For the best-tasting parsnips, harvest before the ground freezes, but after a few frosts, or leave them in the ground through the winter.
  • If you store parsnips in the ground, cover them with a thick layer of organic mulch. Harvest immediately after the ground thaws in the spring.

Harvesting

  • For the best-tasting parsnips, harvest before the ground freezes, but after a few frosts, or leave them in the ground through the winter.
  • If you store parsnips in the ground, cover them with a thick layer of organic mulch. Harvest immediately after the ground thaws in the spring.


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