Parsnips are one of those root vegetables that you’ll find rewarding to grow and harvest from your own garden. They’re relatively easy to grow, and there’s nothing better than going out to the garden and digging up a couple of parsnips to have as part of your evening meal.
Growing parsnips in raised beds is ideal because you have total control over the depth and quality of the soil. This avoids the need to till the soil to loosen it up so that the roots can grow strong without becoming distorted. Your raised bed should have a depth of around 24 to 36 inches (60 to 90 cm).
Follow our step-by-step guide to grow delicious parsnips in your raised bed.
1. Choose The Right Time To Sow Your Seeds
Parsnips are traditionally a cool climate crop. Therefore, people who live in cooler climates can sow parsnip seeds from late winter to early fall. Those gardeners who live in tropical or subtropical climates should sow their seeds from late summer to early spring the following year.
One important thing to remember is that the soil temperature should be relatively warm when you sow your seeds, as cold soil will result in poor germination and a less than satisfactory crop.
2. Select The Right Location For Your Raised Bed
Parsnips prefer to grow in full sun, so choose a sunny spot for your raised bed. It’s also important that your plants are sheltered from strong winds as these may damage the plants.
3. Fill Your Raised Bed With Good Quality Soil
Like all root vegetables, parsnips need loose and well-drained soil. Thanks to the raised bed, you don’t have to worry too much about drainage. However, you do have to consider what type of soil you fill your bed with.
If this is your first raised bed, you want to ensure that you fill it with a good mix of aged compost, well-aged organic fertilizer, and aged straw or hay rather than garden soil. On the other hand, if you have no alternative and need to use some garden soil, make sure that you work it well with a garden fork and incorporate loads of compost and organic fertilizer into it.
Remember that the depth of the bed should be between 24 to 36 inches (60 to 90 cm).
As a bonus, if you spend the time now to add plenty of organic fertilizer into the soil, you won’t need to fertilize your parsnips at all during their growing season.
4. Sow Your Parsnip Seeds
As is the case with many root vegetables, parsnips do not like to be transplanted as this causes major distortion to the roots. Therefore, they should be sown directly into the soil in the raised bed.
Another important tip to remember is that parsnip seeds will deteriorate fairly quickly, so seeds older than 12 months will no longer be viable and need to be discarded.
To sow your seeds, create shallow rows or drills that are 6 inches (15 cm) apart. These rows only need to be around ¾ inch (1-2 cm) deep. In order to get decent germination rates, sow around 3 seeds in the same spot and then another 3 seeds 6 inches (15 cm) further along the row.
This method means that at least one of the 3 seeds should germinate so that you have a good, full row of parsnips. Once the seedlings have emerged and more than one of the seeds in a group has germinated, you can thin out the weakest seedling so that you have plants that are around 6 inches (15 cm) apart.
Allowing this much space in between plants means that the parsnips have plenty of room to grow and develop into nice, thick roots.
It’s important not to let the seeds dry out during the germination period. Otherwise, poor germination will result.
To help speed up the germination process, it’s a good idea to soak your seeds overnight in water before sowing as suggested. Alternatively, you can pre-germinate the seeds on lengths of moist paper towel indoors and then place these just below the surface of the soil.
You’ll know when the seeds have pre-germinated successfully because you’ll see small white roots starting to form. If you plan to use this method, make sure that the paper towel stays wet and is kept in a warm spot – on a nice sunny windowsill is best.
Ensure that you plant the seeds immediately you see those tiny white roots emerging from the seed.
I’ve written a full article on how you can grow parsnips from seeds that you can read here.
As an alternative, you can start your seeds indoors in toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls. This means you can plant these straight out into the raised bed without disturbing the roots of the young plants.
I’ve written a full article on how you can grow parsnips in toilet paper rolls easily that you can read here.
5. Water Well During The Warmer Weather
It’s important to keep your plants well-watered during the warmer weather so that the soil is not allowed to dry out completely. You can even cover the rows with a thin layer of straw or hay to reduce the water evaporation rate.
Also, ensure that you keep the soil free of any weeds around your young plants. Weeds compete with your plants for both water and nutrients, so they should be removed as soon as you spot them.
6. You Can Start Harvesting Some Of The Young Parsnips Early
The best time to start harvesting your parsnips is after they’ve been exposed to a couple of frosts. It’s believed that parsnips become sweeter after they’re exposed to frost.
If your ground tends to freeze over the winter, cover the soil around the plants with a thick layer of hay or straw. This will keep the soil warmer and allow easier harvesting.
It’s fine to leave your parsnips in the ground over winter but make sure you harvest all of them before the soil starts to warm up again in spring. This is because the plants will start to grow again in the spring and will use up all the energy that is stored in the roots.
7. Store Any Unused Parsnips In A Cool, Dry Place
If you haven’t dug up all your parsnips before spring arrives, you’ll have to dig out the remainder and store them for when you’re ready to use them.
One of the easiest ways to store parsnips is in a box filled with sand. The sand helps to keep the roots dry and prevents any mold from growing. These should be stored in your basement, shed, or garage, where it’s relatively cool and dry.
It’s also a good idea to store your parsnips off the ground on a wooden or metal shelf and to make sure that the boxes are covered to keep any rodents away. You should be able to store parsnip this way for around 4 to 6 months.
As a last resort, you can even freeze your unused parsnips for around 8 to 10 months. So, if you have a bumper harvest, just cut the excess parsnips into ½ inch cubes and parboil or steam for around 3 to 5 minutes. Let them cool and pack them into plastic containers or freezer bags before placing them in the freezer.
If you would like to know everything about growing parsnips, check out the complete guide that I wrote on the topic.