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How to Grow Parsnips

Pastinaca Sativa

Parsnip may not be overly popular in home gardeners. But, it has been grown as a food crop for thousands of years.  This plant is native to the Mediterranean, where early Greeks and Romans grew parsnips.

Parsnips are members of the carrot family. They a root crop, that looks like a carrot, only it grows much bigger, and is white in color. Parsnip plants can reach 3 feet tall. The roots generally grow 12-15 inches. But, the largest ones, have grown to 32 inches and 10-18 inches in diameter. Now, that's a big parsnip!

Did You Know? In Ireland, a beer was made from parsnip roots, by boiling the roots with water and hops.

Parsnip root plants

Sowing Parsnip Seeds:

Sow Parsnip seeds 1/2 inch deep. The big seeds are easy to handle and space.

Final spacing should be 8-12 inches apart, in rows two feet apart.

Sow seeds early in the spring. Plants take 4 months to reach harvest size.

Days to Maturity: 130 or more.

How to Grow Parsnips:

Tips for Growing Parsnips:

  • Work the soil deeply. Remove all rocks and stones.

  • A loose soil is very important. Add plenty of compost, but no manure.

  • Do not add too much nitrogen fertilizer. It results in "hairy" roots.

  • Water deeply, as the roots grow deeply.

Grow parsnips in full sun, in soft and loose loam soil. Ideal pH: 5.5 - 6.5. More on soil pH

Prior to planting parsnip seeds, work the soil deeply. Add liberal amounts of compost. If compost is not available, add peat moss. It is important to remove any rocks, stones and debris which may impede the downward formation of the roots. When a root hits an object, forked or misshapen roots will result.

Keep parsnips well weeded early in the season. Young seedlings are easily overcrowded, with any competing weeds often winning out.

While they may not show it, parsnips need a good supply of water, in soil that drains well. Water deeply one a week, especially during dry periods.

They also respond well to fertilizer applied prior to sowing parsnip seeds, and a couple of times during the season. Do not over fertilizer your parsnips. Too much nitrogen in the soil, results in hairy(fine feeder roots) roots.

Also See:

Plant Problems

Soil Temperatures - Ideal germination temperature by vegetable

Ideal Soil pH - by vegetable

Insects and Pests:

Occasionally root maggots can be a problem. Swallow Tail Butterfly caterpillar can also be a problem. Hand pick them, when you see them. 


Parsnips are relatively free of disease problems.

More on Plant Problem Diseases and Problems


Harvest parsnips after they have been exposed to freezing temperatures. Cold weather improves flavor and sweetness, as the starches turn to sugars. This is why Parsnips taste better after the first freeze. Better still, wait for the first several days of at or near freezing weather

Do not grab the plant to pull out the roots. The plant will almost always break away from the roots. Rather, dig out roots with a shovel or pitch fork.

Parsnips are excellent for over-wintering in the soil. You should be able to harvest roots well into the spring.  Cover the area with mulch or straw, to keep ground from freezing.

Parsnip Recipes:

Recipes: May we suggest:


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