Parsnips are easy to grow from seed, and they can be left in the ground until you’re ready to use them. They have so many uses. You can add them to stews and casseroles or roast them for a delicious side dish.
To grow parsnips from seeds:
- Choose an open, sunny spot with organically enriched, friable soil that has a neutral pH range of 6.6 to 7.2.
- Plant 3 seeds in each hole and space these around 6 inches (15cm) apart.
- Seeds should be sown ½ inch (13mm) deep.
- Space your rows 1 foot (30cm) apart if you’re planting multiple rows.
- Water well but carefully so as not to dislodge the seeds.
- When the seedlings are around 1 inch (2.5cm) tall, thin them out so that you have one seedling every 6 inches (15cm).
- Make sure to keep the soil moist to ensure that the roots don’t split.
- Your parsnips can be harvested once the tops have died down but you can leave them in the ground until you’re ready to use them.
How To Grow Parsnips From Seeds
Parsnips are easy to grow and require minimal care once they’re growing. It’s best to grow any root crop from seeds and to plant the seeds directly into the soil where you want them to grow. This is because root crops don’t handle transplanting very well, and you’ll often get misshapen roots if you try to transplant seedlings into the garden.
Here are detailed step-by-step instructions on how to grow parsnips from seeds.
1. Choose Your Location
Parsnips prefer to be grown in a nice sunny spot, but you should protect them from strong winds. Ensure that the soil is nice and friable and has organic matter added to it. Unlike potatoes, parsnips do not like to dig their way through the hard ground, so make sure you loosen up the soil before planting the seeds.
If you add some compost and organic fertilizer to the soil at planting time, you won’t need to fertilize your parsnips at all during their growing period. Also, make sure that the soil is free-draining because the roots don’t like to sit in constantly wet soil.
Ideally, you want to plant your seeds from late winter right through to early fall once the ground has had a chance to warm up. Don’t be tempted to sow the seeds too early if the soil is still cold because you’ll have limited success.
2. Space Your Seeds Correctly
It’s best to plant 3 seeds together into the same hole and to space these out around 6 inches (15cm) apart. This ensures that even if a few seeds don’t germinate, you’ll still have an ample crop.
Make sure that you plant the seeds around ½ (13mm) deep. This is just deep enough for the seeds to germinate and means that, at this depth, the soil is nice and warm, which aids germination.
If you’re going to be planting multiple rows of parsnips, make sure that you space them around 1 foot (30cm) apart. This will give the plants plenty of room to grow and also allow for adequate airflow.
3. Thin Out Your Seedlings
When growing parsnips, a little patience is required. This is because seeds can take around three to four weeks to germinate. They also have a very long growing season. In fact, your parsnips won’t be ready for harvest for another 4 to 5 months.
Once the seedlings have emerged and they’re around 1 inch (2.5 cm) tall, it’s time to thin them out. Remember that you put 3 seeds in each hole. Sometimes all of these will germinate, and you’ll have to remove two of the seedlings so that you only have one plant growing every 6 inches (15cm).
If you don’t thin out your seedlings, the roots won’t have enough space to grow and will be overcrowded. This means you won’t end up with lovely large parsnips when it comes time to harvest.
4. Keep Your Growing Parsnips Weed Free And Moist
Once your parsnips are growing, make sure that you keep them weed-free. Weeds will compete with your crop both for moisture and nutrients, so you want to remove them as soon as you can.
Your parsnips also like to be kept moist during their growing season. One of the best ways to do this is with a soaker hose that you lay on top of the soil right next to your seedlings. Having this on a timer means that you don’t have to keep hand-watering your plants.
Alternatively, you can set up a drip system and have one dripper per plant. Make sure that you check your plants periodically to ensure that they’re getting enough moisture. This is critical if you want them to develop lovely tender roots.
5. Harvest Your Parsnips Only When You Need Them
It will take around 4 to 5 months before your parsnips are ready for harvest. However, you can pull up some small ones a little earlier if you want to use them. Only harvest what you need and leave the rest in the ground. This really helps to extend the harvest season.
Don’t worry too much about frost either, as it’s said that roots that have gone through a freeze often have a better flavor. Bear in mind, though, that you don’t want to harvest when the ground is frozen as this will be difficult and will damage the roots.
When harvesting, use a small garden fork to loosen the soil and gently ease the roots out of the ground. This avoids breaking them as you’re pulling them up.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to soak parsnip seeds before planting them?
No, this is not necessary, but it can help to speed up germination if you soak them for a couple of hours in lukewarm water that you’ve added a teaspoon of cinnamon to.
How long do parsnip seeds remain viable?
Parsnip seeds do not remain viable for a long period of time. After around 12 months, they’re going to be far less reliable and may not germinate at all.
Why won’t my parsnip seeds germinate?
Most often, the lack of germination is either caused by old seeds or soil that is not warm enough. Ideally, you want the soil temperature to be around 50 to 54 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 12 degrees Celsius) before sowing the seeds.
Can parsnip seedlings be transplanted?
You might be wondering whether you can transplant the seedlings that you’ve thinned out. This has to be done very carefully so that you don’t damage the taproot or the fine roots that grow from it. You might have some success, but don’t expect all of these seedlings to produce lovely long taproots.
What causes root deformities?
There are three main causes – soil that has not been prepared well, over-fertilizing, and root-knot nematodes. The solution is to ensure that you’ve prepared the soil really well and added plenty of matured organic matter. Turning the soil over will expose any nematodes, and they can then become prey to predatory organisms that will eat them. Also, there’s no need to fertilize parsnips if you’ve applied plenty of organic matter in the beginning while preparing the soil.
To learn more about this topic, please check out the article I wrote about successfully growing parsnips.