By Kathee Mierzejewski
When you are planning your garden, you might want to include planting parsnips among your carrots and other root vegetables. Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) are related to the carrot, which is another root vegetable. The top of the parsnip resembles broadleaf parsley. Parsnips will grow to three feet tall and their roots can get as long as 20 inches.
So now you might ask, “How do I grow parsnips?” How to grow parsnips isn’t much different from other root vegetables. They like cool weather, and parsnips can take as long as 180 days. They are a winter vegetable because they take a long time to mature. They are actually exposed to almost freezing temperatures for about a month before harvesting. When planting parsnips, remember that cool weather enhances the flavor of the root, but hot weather leads to poor quality vegetables.
How to Grow Parsnips
It takes from 120 to 180 days for a parsnip to go from seeds to roots. When planting parsnips, plant the seeds ½ an inch apart and ½ an inch deep into the soil in rows. The rows should be at least 12 inches apart. This gives the growing parsnips room to grow good roots.
Growing parsnips takes 18 days for germination. After germination and little plants appear, wait a couple of weeks and thin the plants out to about three to four inches apart in rows.
Be sure to water the parsnips well when growing parsnips or the roots will be flavorless and really tough.
Fertilization of the soil is also helpful, and you can fertilize your growing parsnips the same way you would your carrots. Side dress with fertilizer around June to keep the soil healthy enough for growing parsnips.
When to Harvest Parsnips
After 120 to 180 days, you will know when to harvest parsnips because the leafy tops reach to three feet tall. You can pick the parsnips throughout the row and use them up, leaving others behind for other days. Parsnips store well, so you can also pick a bunch of them for usage over the next few weeks stored at 32 degrees F.
You can also leave some of the parsnips in the ground until spring. You would just throw a few inches of soil over your first fall crop of parsnips. This way they are kept warm enough. When to harvest parsnips in the spring is right after the thaw. These particular parsnips will be sweeter than the fall harvest.