Hamilton College Community Farm

Plant: Parsnip

Family: Apiaceae

Seed Varieties:

Any standard seed variety van be used.

Indoor Start Date and Cell Size:

Parsnips are directly seeded in the garden.

Greenhouse Transplant Date and Cell size:

Parsnips are directly seeded in the garden.

Outdoor Transplant Date and Bed Specifications:

Parsnips should be directly seeded in early May. Sew seeds thickly with two or three seeds per inch and three rows per bed. Once the seeds germinate and have begun to come up, thin the seedlings to one every three inches.

Planting Tips:

Plant parsnip seeds in the furrow created by the row-rake, and cover lightly with topsoil. Be sure to plant new seeds each season, because parsnip seeds are short lived. Parsnips are very slow growing, and can take up to 60 days to germinate. Because they are so slow to germinate, seed companies will often mix radish seeds in with parsnip seeds in the seed packet in order to mark where the parsnips have been planted before they come up, so do not be surprised if radishes come up where parsnips were planted.

Plant Needs:

Parsnips need loose, rich, well-drained soil to grow successfully. Soil that is not dense but well prepared is crucial for the development of smooth, uniform roots. They grow best with a soil temperature between 60 and 70 degrees, although need some near freezing temperatures at the end of the season to produce their unique, sweet flavor. The soil must be moist throughout the germination period and growing season. A light mulching can help to maintain this moisture.

Cultivation Techniques:

Cultivate carefully by hand to keep weeds at a bare minimum. Parsnips do not tolerate dry growing conditions, and so irrigation, especially during the heat of the summer, is crucial.

Harvest Techniques:

Parsnips can take more than 100 days from planting to reach maturity, which is when the roots reach 11⁄2 inch to two inches in diameter and the root is eight to ten inches long. Once they have reached this size and the temperature has dropped in the fall, parsnips can be harvested. Carefully dig them up with a trowel, being certain not to cause any damage to the roots.


Like carrots, parsnips can be “stored” in the ground as they can freeze solid and then thaw without being damaged. In fact, only after coming near freezing do they acquire their sweetness. Therefore, it is best to keep parsnips in the ground, and harvest them as needed throughout the fall and winter. Put a generous amount of mulch over the parsnips to keep the tops from freezing, which can cause damage to the root. If necessary, parsnips can be harvested and, after washing and cutting off the tops, stored in a cool, well- ventilated, dry place. They will keep this way for weeks.


For retail, sell at $3.00 per pound, and $1.50 per pound for wholesale.