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How to grow parsnips

How to grow parsnips

Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

Parsnips are a root vegetable that have recently been enjoying a resurgence in popularity. They’re easy to grow and will last much longer than carrots if left in the ground, making them an ideal choice for small market gardens. If you're thinking about growing parsnips on your farm but aren't sure where to start, read this guide for everything you need to know about growing these delicious veggies at home.

Know your climate

Parsnips are a cool-season vegetable, meaning they do best in cool weather. They can be grown in most climates and require a long growing season. In hot climates, parsnips may not grow well because the soil will dry out too quickly; in cold climates they may not grow well because of the shorter daylight hours.

Plant seedlings in cold soil in early spring

Plant seedlings in cold soil in early spring. Parsnips are a root vegetable and they need a long growing season to develop their flavor. If you plant too early, the parsnips will bolt (grow flowers) instead of producing roots!

Parsnip seeds should be planted directly into the ground as soon as you can work the soil (ideally when it's still cool but not frozen). If your region has a short growing season, cover the bed with floating row cover until warm weather arrives and it's time to uncover them.

Parsnips take a long time to germinate

Parsnips are slow to germinate, so you'll have to be patient. They need a cold period to break dormancy, which can be achieved by planting in early spring or late summer. If you plant parsnips during this time but don't get the proper chilling period for germination (which is usually about 5 degrees Fahrenheit), they will still grow but at a much slower rate. Parsnips need a long growing season and will thrive in temperate climates; however, they can also grow in mild winters as long as there is ample water available for them to soak up.

Thin them out early

Thinning parsnips is a good way to control their size. Parsnips grow better when they have space between them, and thinning encourages each plant to develop its own unique root system rather than growing together in a tangled mess. You should thin parsnip seedlings when they are small, so that you can easily remove the unwanted plants without damaging the remaining ones.

Thinning out is important; If you don’t thin them properly they will get crowded, and the roots will taste bitter and fibrous. You need to thin them out early – ideally before the plants come into flower. That way, you can select a nice big plant that is free-standing, which makes it easier to harvest later on.

The whole process should take no more than 5 minutes per row – just grab your trowel or fork and remove all but one healthy root from each cluster of seedlings (two or three roots per grouping).

The herb dill is a good companion

Dill is a great companion plant for parsnips. As well as keeping root fly at bay, it also attracts hoverflies and lacewings to help control other pests. Onions are another good companion plant for parsnips, helping to keep slugs and snails away - but if you grow dill alongside your onion plants it can be taken over by their strong odour.

Harvest at the correct time

Harvest parsnips when they’re big enough to eat. Parsnips can be harvested at any time of year, but they are best picked when they are large, as smaller parsnips can be woody and tasteless.

To harvest your crop, simply pull up the whole root and place it in a basket or box. Be sure to wash them off before storing in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to three weeks!

If you plan on leaving your parsnips in the ground for several months, make sure that you cover them with mulch so that sunlight does not reach the tops of their stems and cause them to turn green — which signifies decay!

Parsnips may taste better after frost

One of the benefits of growing parsnips is that they taste better after a frost. This is because the cold weather causes starches to convert into sugars, giving them a sweeter flavor. Parsnips also become less bitter and easier to dig up when they've been exposed to freezing temperatures.

It can be hard for new gardeners to know which vegetables need frost protection and which don't. Luckily, many root crops (like carrots and radishes) are much more forgiving if left out in the cold too late in the season. Parsnips will still grow without any help from you; however, it can take quite a while longer than if you protect them from frost with plastic sheeting or blankets until everything freezes solid in your area!

The frost converts the starches in the roots into sugars, resulting in more sweetness and less bitterness. This also makes them easier to peel. The enzymes present in parsnips have a lot of health benefits, including being anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic.

Parsnips are high in fiber, vitamin C and potassium. They contain fewer calories than potatoes or carrots but still fill you up because they’re so satisfying!

They can be left in the ground until ready to pick

Parsnips can be left in the ground until ready to harvest. They are a root vegetable, so they are best harvested when large enough to eat. Parsnips can be left in the ground for many months after the first frost and will keep well into winter.


Parsnips really are a lot of fun to grow, and they can be grown in most parts of the world. If you’re looking for something different to add to your garden, give parsnips a try! It’s worth it just to see how they look when they come up in spring.