Growing Parsnip

Pastinaca sativa : Apiaceae / the umbelliferae family

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
                P P P P

(Best months for growing Parsnip in New Zealand - cool/mountain regions)

  • P = Sow seed
  • Sow in garden. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. Best planted at soil temperatures between 43°F and 70°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 3 - 4 inches apart
  • Harvest in 17-20 weeks. Best flavour if harvested after a frost..
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Swiss Chard (Silverbeet), Capsicum, Peas, Potatoes, Beans, Radishes, Garlic
  • Avoid growing close to: Carrot, Celery, Brassicas
  • A freshly dug parsnip
  • Parsnip leaves

Best grown in deep sandy, loamy soil. Use fresh seed and soak seed overnight then, after planting, keep seeds moist until seed germinate. Similar to starting carrots, maybe cover with a wooden plank or mulch until seeds germinate. They will completely fail if the seed dries out after planting and it's not unusual to have an entire packet fail. Difficult to grow in summer as the seed dries out fast and won't germinate. Leave in the ground until after frost or at least a couple of weeks of really cold weather. The cold results in the starch in the roots being converted into sugars which give the parsnip its sweet taste. Use a spade to dig the parsnip out of the ground.

Germination rates of parsnip seed are not great so sow about 3 seeds per inch and at a depth of around half an inch. Germination may take up to 20 days. Thin seedlings down so they are about 8 cm (4 in) apart. If you are planting in rows then space the rows about 50 cm (20 in) apart.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Parsnip

Peel and roast with vegetables or meat. The sweetish flavour of parsnips enhances most other vegetables.

Your comments and tips

26 Feb 23, Paula (New Zealand - temperate climate)
I must be missing something. Doesn't it say that parsnips need frosts to finish them off. But this says to start planting seeds in July. Then 20 odd weeks from then is Summer? Wouldn't you start them at the end of summer so they are nearly ready by winter? Thanks
03 Mar 23, (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
I grew parsnips in a frost free area last year.
28 Feb 23, (Australia - sub-tropical climate)
I think you don't have to have frost but is preferable. Different planting times for sub-tropical, temperate and cool climates. Probably to do with germination temp required.
26 Feb 23, Liz (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
It does actually say to leave parsnips in the ground until after frost (as they will be sweeter) . These are not hard and fast rules, just an indication of the best times to sow/plant seeds.
10 Jun 22, dopey duck (New Zealand - temperate climate)
growing parsnips is much like growing brussel sprouts you need them up and running before winter,parsnips need frosts to sweeten them up and brussels need cold to keep the sprouts tight but dont overcook them aldente is perfect and it lessens the sulphur smell,taste.
01 May 20, Murdock Halliday (New Zealand - temperate climate)
I am trying to germinate and plant parsnips now in Christchurch. The weather is amazingly warm for this time of the year. Am I wasting my time? Should I have tried earlier in the year? Thanks and take care.
05 May 20, Anon (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
It says from March onwards - subject to local conditions. When the weather turns cooler go for it. We just had a drop from 17-18 at night to 6.4 and 7.9. 10 days ago max was 32 yesterday 24. For most plants it is about soil temperature required to germinate. A cheap thermometer from Bunnings or gardening centre.
27 Jul 19, Karen (New Zealand - temperate climate)
So is there any particular seeds best to buy parsnips for brand . Karen
26 Mar 19, Clarkee (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
I wonder, if I sow Swiss Chard (above it says a good companion to parsnips) then once the card reaches a height that shades the soil around it, I then sow the parsnips amongst the chard, will that keep the soil cool and less likely to dry out for my parsnip seeds to germinate?
12 Nov 18, Alison (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
With regard to the parsnips I would recommend you try germination before planting them. Lay the seed on paper hand towel or similar. Lay seeds onto paper and cover with another paper towel. Dampen paper and keep moist (I'm thinking a sprayer would be a good idea). After 3-4 weeks there should be tiny roots forming. Using tweezers to handle seeds, transfer them to the soil bed you have prepared. Now, I haven't done this (by some fluke my seeds germinated and I have three small rows at different stages!) but I will next year. Successful gardening!
Showing 1 - 10 of 16 comments

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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. GardenGrow is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
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