How to Care for Parsnips

Parsnips look like carrots but have a stronger flavor. image by clayirving/Flickr.com

Overview

Parsnips are root vegetables related to carrots. The two vegetables are similar in appearance, but parsnips have a much stronger flavor. Parsnips are commonly grown and harvested for their root, which is used similarly to a potato. Parsnips dropped in popularity around the world once the potato was imported from North America. Parsnips are high in both potassium and fiber. They are easy to grow, and require only routine maintenance.

Step 1

Choose a planting location that receives full sun and is free of stones. Spread 1 inch of organic mulch over the site and use a garden tiller to incorporate it into the soil to increase drainage and fertility.

Step 2

Sow parsnip seeds in early spring about 1/2 inch deep, with about 1 inch between each seed. Keep soil consistently moist until the seeds germinate and growth emerges, usually about 2 to 3 weeks.

Step 3

Spread a light layer of mulch around the plants after they have emerged. Do not allow mulch to directly touch parsnips, or the risk of disease increases. Mulch will help the soil retain more moisture and reduces the growth of weeds.

Step 4

Water parsnips once a week, and only during weeks with less than 1 inch of rain fall. Reduce watering to once every 2 weeks during fall and early winter. Feed using a balanced fertilizer only if the crown begins to appear light green in color or growth stops abruptly. Follow the manufacturer's directions for proper dosage.

Step 5

Harvest parsnips during early winter, as the starches turn to sugar after several weeks of near freezing temperatures. This results in the strong, sweet flavor that is characteristic of parsnips. Use a small shovel or spade to gently remove the parsnips from the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Caterpillars are the largest threat to parsnips, and should be removed by hand whenever possible.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden tiller
  • Mulch
  • Fertilizer
  • Shovel

References

  • Texas A&M University Department of Horticulture: Parsnips
  • Cornell University Vegetable Growing Guides: Parsnips
  • Watch Your Garden Grow: Parsnip
Keywords: parsnips, parsnip seeds, harvest parsnips

About this Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including Gardenguides.com.

Photo by: clayirving/Flickr.com