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Parsnips Seed Starting Tips

Parsnip plants in bed
Parsnip seedlings
Parsnip seedlings

Parsnips require a long growing season and are best planted in spring for autumn or winter harvest. In warm-winter regions, sow parsnips in late autumn for harvest the next spring.

Mature parsnips store well in the ground as long as the ground does not freeze. Frost and freezing temperatures improve the flavor of the roots.

Grow parsnips and other roots crops in light-textured soil free of pebbles and stones. This will ensure roots do not split or become malformed.

Parsnips mature in 100 to 120 days depending on the variety.

Parsnips Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Start parsnip seed directly in the garden.
  • Seed is viable for just 1 year.
  • Start seeds in the garden about 4 to 2 weeks before the last expected frost. Parsnips can be started indoors, but they—like most root crops—are difficult to transplant to the garden with success.
  • Sow seed ¼ to ½ (6-13 mm) inch deep and be sure to heel or stamp the soil firmly in to ensure sufficient contact with the soil.
  • Sow seed 1 inch (2.4 cm) apart or closer and later thin successful plants to 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm) apart. It’s best to over-seed because parsnip seeds are known for poor germination.
  • Space rows 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
  • Sow seed in loose, fertile soil. Adding aged compost to planting beds in advance of sowing will feed the soil and aid moisture retention.
  • Seeds should germinate in 12 to 14 days at an optimal temperature of 70°F (21C) or thereabouts; germination can be slow in chilly soil.
  • The optimum soil temperature to grow turnips is 60°F (16°C).
  • Parsnips prefer a soil pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
  • Grow parsnips in full sun for best yield—tolerates partial shade.
  • Avoid planting parsnips where carrots, parsley, or celery have grown recently.
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion at half strength.
  • Common pest enemies are armyworms, cabbage root maggots, carrot rust flies, flea beetles, leafhoppers, and onion maggots. Protect the seedlings from pests and cold temperatures for 2 to 3 weeks after planting with spun poly row covers.

Interplanting: Plant parsnips with bush beans, beets, carrots, garlic, onions, peas, southern peas, radishes, and rutabagas.

Container Growing Parsnips: Choose a container 15 inches (38 cm) deep.

Parsnip Planting Calendar

  • 6-4 weeks after the last frost in spring: direct-sow in the garden for fall and winter harvest.
Parsnip plants
Parsnips require a long growing season and are best planted in spring for autumn or winter harvest.
  • ‘Harris Model’ has snow-white flesh and great flavor.
  • ‘Lancer’ is similar to ‘Harris Model’ but resistant to disease.
  • ‘Gladiator’ is sweet flavored.
  • ‘White Gem’ grows in all soils.

Botanical Name: Pastinaca sativa

Parsnips are a member of the Apiaceae also called Umbelliferae family; other members of this family include carrots, celery, dill, fennel, parsley, and parsnips.

More tips: How to Grow Parsnips.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.


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  1. To improve the germination rate, put the seed in a glass of water and leave it in the fridge for a day before sowing. Almost every seed will germinate: no more over-sowing; no more bare patches.
    This tip was handed down to me long ago by an elderly gentleman, who had been gardening since before WWII.

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