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How to Grow Parsnips

Posted Mar 24 2010 4:28am

The traditional time for sowing parsnips is February, but parsnip seed can be sown from March to early May.  In our vegetable garden the parsnip seeds do better when the soil has warmed up, & canker is not such a problem with late sown parsnips.

Parsnip – Latin name Pastinaca sativa

We grow the parsnip variety – Avonresister because:

  • good canker resistance. The disease Canker is a big problem for parsnips.
  • ideal for small gardens
  • does well in density cropping. Growing enough root crops to last the winter is always a problem, so  growing more, smaller roots suits us.

There are 3 main shapes of Parsnip:

  • bulbous types with rounded shoulders
  • wedge types which are broad and long
  • bayonet types which are long and narrow

Click this link for details of some other parsnip varieties .

Soil preparation :

  • soil is well dug in autumn with a little manure or compost mixed in.
  • if the soil is dug in the spring, do not add any manure, as fresh manure causes the parsnips to fork. If manure is not added, sprinkle a phoshate/potash fertiliser over the soil when raking  out the seedbed.
  • if possible, prepare the seedbed a few weeks before planning to sow the parsnip seeds, by raking the soil down to make small crumbs. This will create a stale seedbed , encouraging the weeds to grow, so that they can be removed before sowing the seed.

* sowing depth – 1cm
* distance between seeds – 10cm
* distance between rows – 30cm


After sowing:

  • firmed the row down with the rake head
  • water the seed  in  to firm the row

Pull out small weeds as they appear, allowing the parsnip plants to grow without any competition.  The stale seed bed system should reduce the number of weeds growing after sowing.

Germination is very slow in parsnips, so it is important to be patient and to keep the row weed-free.

Below is a picture of  young parsnips  at the 3 true leaf stage.


In the second photo, the two seed leaves can be seen below the three true leaves of the parsnips.


Thin parsnips to 6 inches apart when the plants are tall enough to handle.  Throw away the thinnings, as they will not transplant.

Hoe regularly between the rows to keep the weeds down.

Lift the parsnips when the leaves begin to die back in late autumn, or leave them in the ground and use as required.  The flavour improves after the first frost.

digging-parsnip-goodfriday digging-parsnip-goodfriday

The last parsnip in the garden was eaten on 13 April.

dug-parsnip dug-parsnip

Storing parsnips:

If the parsnips are being harvested, leave them on the surface of the ground to dry before putting them in a cool, dry, dark, frost free place.  Do not wash them before storing .

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