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Growing Parsnip

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec

Not recommended for growing in USA - Zone 5a regions

  • Sow in garden. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. Best planted at soil temperatures between 43°F and 70°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 3 - 4 inches apart
  • Harvest in 17-20 weeks. Best flavour if harvested after a frost..
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Swiss Chard (Silverbeet), Capsicum, Peas, Potatoes, Beans, Radishes, Garlic
  • Avoid growing close to: Carrot, Celery, Brassicas
  • A freshly dug parsnip
  • Parsnip leaves

Best grown in deep sandy, loamy soil. Use fresh seed and soak seed overnight then, after planting, keep seeds moist until seed germinate. Similar to starting carrots, maybe cover with a wooden plank or mulch until seeds germinate. They will completely fail if the seed dries out after planting and it's not unusual to have an entire packet fail. Difficult to grow in summer as the seed dries out fast and won't germinate. Leave in the ground until after frost or at least a couple of weeks of really cold weather. The cold results in the starch in the roots being converted into sugars which give the parsnip its sweet taste. Use a spade to dig the parsnip out of the ground.

Germination rates of parsnip seed are not great so sow about 3 seeds per inch and at a depth of around half an inch. Germination may take up to 20 days. Thin seedlings down so they are about 8cm (4in) apart. If you are planting in rows then space the rows about 50cm (20in) apart.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Parsnip

Peel and roast with vegetables or meat. The sweetish flavour of parsnips enhances most other vegetables.

Your comments and tips

12 Nov 18, Alison (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
With regard to the parsnips I would recommend you try germination before planting them. Lay the seed on paper hand towel or similar. Lay seeds onto paper and cover with another paper towel. Dampen paper and keep moist (I'm thinking a sprayer would be a good idea). After 3-4 weeks there should be tiny roots forming. Using tweezers to handle seeds, transfer them to the soil bed you have prepared. Now, I haven't done this (by some fluke my seeds germinated and I have three small rows at different stages!) but I will next year. Successful gardening!
30 Sep 18, Gloria Yates (USA - Zone 8b climate)
Can I plant now in we nc 8b?
24 Jan 18, Doug (Australia - tropical climate)
Live in Cairns, love parsnips, but none available in supernarkets in Jan. What if I grow them here then put in freezer for a few days after harvest? Will they grow sny time of year in tropics? Thsnks
28 Jan 18, Naomi (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Doug, I'm just up the hill from you and we do get some August frost, some years, so not tropical, but not sub-tropical either, ughh! I've had some luck and many failures with parsnips. Planting in cool weather as recommended has not worked for me because the plants are maturing in the heat before monsoon and going to seed instead of plumping roots. This year I am planting in February to try take advantage of maturing in the cooler months. If you give them a go I'd recommend protecting the plot from the lovely monsoon rains while seeds are germinating to avoid rot.
30 Jan 18, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
As you say try planting late summer for them to mature in the cooler winter months. Any cool weather plant needs to be grown like this..
26 Jan 18, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
By this guide it says you won't grow parsnips anytime of the year in the tropics. In sub-tropics June to Sept. Some things just don't grow in the tropics and somethings just don't grow a certain time of the year. In the tropics you would be trying to grow things in the cooler winter months.
14 Dec 17, Darryl (Australia - cool/mountain climate)
What is best time to sow parsnip seed in Canberra / ACT. We would expect some frosts in May / June. I currently have some from last year left to run to seed, but the seed is not ready yet. I was wondering whether I should sow some commercial seed about now (December) as I am concerned the parsnips currently seeding may be a bit late. Is the time of self-seeding a good guide of when to sow? Any tips on collecting parsnip seed and knowing when the seeds are ready??
20 Dec 17, Mike (Australia - cool/mountain climate)
On the first page here select your climate zone then your vegetable and it will give a time to plant. Sept to Nov for cool/mountain areas. Seeds are cheap to buy from internet seed selling companies.
07 Dec 17, Gary Hughes (Australia - temperate climate)
Is it possible to grow parsnips in the north of Thailand
08 Dec 17, Mike (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
Try and grow it in the cooler time of the year. Google growing parsnips in Thailand.
Showing 1 - 10 of 73 comments

Most important that you plant with fresh seed. If you purchase seed sow the lot, no use keeping some for next season. If you save your own seed, best to plant within six months. Avoid planting when soil is really cold. Forked roots mainly caused by too much nitrogen in soil or two heavy a soil. Plant after brassicas and add some sand to your soil if heavy.

- John

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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. Gardenate is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
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