How to grow parsnips from seed March 06 2016

Parsnip pattern

This wonderful winter vegetable demands little attention. Sow parsnip seed directly into the ground in a sunny location. Grow in a rich, deep and stone-free soil and avoid freshly manured areas.


Wait for any risk of frost has passed before sowing the seeds as they won't germinate if the temperature is too cool or if the soil is too wet. Choose a still day because parsnip seeds are very lights and can blow away easily.   

Sow direct in the ground
Make a 2cm deep row in the soil and sow seeds thinly along the row. Lightly cover with soil.Allow a 30cm gap between rows. Water well with a fine-rose watering can to avoid disturbing the seeds.

Germination is slow and it may take a month or more for the seedlings to appear, especially if the weather is cold.

Thinning out

Parsnips require space for the roots to develop so thinning is essential. When the seedlings are tall enough to handle, thin out the plants to  leave one every 10cm.
Cook the thinned roots as baby parsnips.

To make the most use of your growing area, sow a 'catch-crop' of radish or lettuce between your rows. These plants are quick to grow and can be harvested while your parsnips slowly develop.

Looking after

Water once weekly during dry spells in the summer.

Hoe weeds between rows will help keep them weed free.

Use a fork to loosen the soil before pulling the roots.


Parsnips take around several months to reach full-size but are fairly low maintenance. Frost is thought to improve the flavour. Leave in the ground and pull up as required.