It's even easier to grow parsnips than to grow their close cousin, carrots, Parsnips look like colorless carrots, but with their own complex, sweetly spicy earthiness. Parsnips are native to the Mediterranean region and have been a popular European food since at least the ancient Romans. The early English settlers brought parsnips with them to America, but they have been overshadowed by both carrots and potatoes.
However, they grow well in most areas, although they require a long growing season. A bit of frost will sweeten their flavor and the roots can be stored and used throughout the winter.
Full sun to Partial Shade.
USDA Hardiness Zones:
Hardiness does not play a factor with parsnips because parsnips are biennials grown as an annual crop.
The plants grow 18 - 24" (h) x 3 - 6" (w). The roots should be harvested before they get too large and fibrous, at 1 ½ - 2 i.
in diameter and 8 - 12 inches long.
When to Harvest:
Parsnips require the entire growing season to mature, about 3 ½ - 4 months. They are usually harvested in late fall when the tops are about 1 ½ - 2 inches around. Most varieties will reach 8 - 12 inches long. To ensure you get the whole root, loosen the soil with a fork before harvesting.
Parsnips store for a long time.
You can leave your parsnips in the ground to harvest throughout winter (if the soil is not frozen) and in the early spring. They sweeten toward spring, as the plants get ready to begin growing again. However, once the tops re-sprout, the flavor starts to go downhill, and the roots get tough and fibrous.
Soil: Parsnips prefer a slightly acidic soil pH in the range of 6.0 to 6.5. As with all root crops, they need a loose soil to grow long and straight. Make sure it is well-draining, so the roots don't rot.
Planting: Parsnips grow best in cool weather and are direct seeded in the garden in mid-spring. Parsnip seed does not remain viable for more than one season, so always start with fresh seed. Even fresh seed can have a low germination rate, so seed thickly. Plant ½ to 3/4 inches deep.
Since parsnip seed has a tough time breaking through crusted soil, many gardeners cover the seed with only perlite. Another trick is to plant radish seeds with your parsnips. As the radishes are pulled, they loosen the soil for the later emerging parsnips.
You will need to thin the plants when they are a few inches tall, to give the roots space to develop.
It is difficult to transplant parsnips because disturbing their roots causes them to fork.
Parsnips can be grown in containers, but they'll need a pot that contains a depth of at least 12 inches of soil.
At least an inch of water per week is vital for good root development. A regular deep watering, rather than a sprinkling now and then, will encourage deep root growth and keep the plants from stressing.
Fresh manure should not be used on root crops because it causes the roots to fork and distort.
Weeds will compete with the young seedlings. Keep them out of the area, so they don't compete with the parsnips for water and nutrients. Hoeing is a better technique than cultivating because you don't want to harm the parsnip roots.