On your grocer's shelves, parsnips resemble a washed out carrot. While carrots have beta-carotene which gives them their color, parsnips do not. Parsnips do, however, contain vitamin C and have a sweet flavor. A cold weather crop, parsnips mature during cool temperatures and are left in the ground until after the first frost. The cold temperatures change the starches into sugars, giving parsnips their sweet, nutty taste. Used in soups or as a main side dish, parsnips make a wise choice for any home garden.
Prepare the soil for your parsnip seeds by loosening it to a depth of 18 to 24 inches. This can be done with a garden tiller or shovel. Add a 3-inch layer of compost on top of the soil and then mix it in well.
Take your hoe and dig a trench or row that is 1/2 inch deep. Put the parsnip seeds in the trench, setting up to three seeds per inch. Parsnip seeds do not germinate well, so this should ensure that you get at least one good seedling per every few inches. If you are planting more than one row of parsnips, space your rows 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart.
Cover the seeds with 1/2 inch of soil and water well. Parsnip seeds need moist soil, as they are lazy when it comes to pushing through hard, crusty soil. Water lightly every day to keep the soil moist.
Thin the seedlings to 4 inches apart once they are 2 to 3 inches tall.
Harvest your parsnips late in the growing season after one or two frosts.