Parsnips Gardening Tips and Advice
Parsnips used to be very popular in the old days of root cellars, because they store well for long periods of time. Parsnips look kind of like albino carrots, and they also grow similarly to carrots. Parsnips need deep, light, loose soil, tilled to a depth of about 18 inches. Add a lot of compost to the soil to lighten it up. Keep the soil moist and weeded.
Sow parsnip seeds 1/2 inch deep and 1 inch apart in rows that are 18 to 36 inches apart. Thin the plants so that they are 2 to 4 inches apart. Sow after danger of a heavy frost has passed. Parsnips take a long time to grow and typically aren't ready to harvest until the first fall frost.
Days to harvest: 100 to 130 days
During the month of October gardeners in the northern sections are busy gathering in all the remaining vegetables in their gardens before Jack Frost beats them to it. The parsnip is one vegetable they don’t have to worry about being ruined by frost. In the East and North parsnips can be left in the ground all winter and dug out when you want some for cooking. Freezing seems to improve them and gives them a more delicate taste. In Southern and Western states when winters are mild, spring-planted parsnips continue growing, become tasteless and woody, so they should be planted in these areas in the fall and grown for winter crop.
Parsnips are a long-season crop, so the seed should be sown as early in the spring as possible. For all plants that have deep-growing roots as the parsnip, the soil must be deeply spaded. They grow best in a light, rich soil. A generous amount of compost or humus in some other form, incorporated in the soil will help provide soil aeration and a uniform distribution of moisture, besides the source of food supply for the plants.
Parsnip seeds germinate slowly and have a very short vitality. For that reason, fresh seed should be secured each year. Soaking the seed overnight may help to hasten germination. It is wise to mulch the rows after planting as the soil must remain cool and moist during the long germination period when the seeds are in danger of drying out. Plant the seeds thickly in rows about 18 inches apart. Plant some radish seed along with the parsnips. The radish will mark the row and keep the crust from hardening, making life a little easier for the frail parsnip pushing through. As the radishes become of edible size, use them and weed and thin the parsnip seedlings to stand 6 inches apart. Cultivate cleanly all season until the foliage touches between the rows.
Parsnips may be harvested at time when the ground has little else to offer. They may remain in the ground over winter. Dig them during a thaw or when the spring thaw comes. They require a freeze to sweeten them. Just before the ground freezes hard, some may be dug and stored in a root cellar for winter use. In spring dig as needed until new tops start to grow, then dig all that remains and store them in a cold place to prevent sprouting. After the growth of new tops begins, the roots lose flavor and soon become lean and limp as well as tough and stringy. Therefore, begin digging very early.
If you like to use parsnip in your cooking, try this parsnip curry recipe.
You can find more growing tips for parsnips here.
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