Growing parsnips is a great way to have delicious veggies in early spring when the rest of your vegetables are just going in the ground. They’re also good for a late fall harvest well after the rest of your crops are out of the ground…
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Parsnips prefer deep fertile soil that gives their 12 to 24 inch (30 to 61 cm) roots room to grow. If you do plant parsnip in poor soil, you'll know it by the light green stems and stunted growth. Also be sure that you’re planting a fresh seed that’s less than one year old.
Before planting in mid- to late-spring, churn some compost into soil that receives both sunshine and shade. They’ll be happy as long as they receive about half of the day’s sun.
Plant the seed about ½ inch down (12.5 mm) then lightly cover with compost and gently water.
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Parsnip germination rates are relatively low partially due to their seedlings’ difficulty breaking through the soil. Keeping the soil adequately moist and the soil temperature at around 60 to 65 degrees F (15-18 degrees C) will greatly increase the rate of germination.
Water your parsnips regularly after planting and apply an organic garden fertilizer for vegetables in early summer to promote growth. To prevent forked and hairy roots, avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen.
Apply a thin layer of mulch to keep the weeds at bay and moisture in during the summer and fall.
If you plan to harvest in early spring, apply a thick layer of straw mulch to get your parsnips through the winter.
Unlike most plants in your vegetable garden, parsnips actually taste better after multiple hard frosts because the cold weather turns the starch within the parsnips' roots into sugars.
If you harvest in the fall, wait until there have been at least a couple of hard frosts.
If you wait until spring, harvest your parsnip roots whenever you’d like after the last hard frost… just don’t wait until their leafy tops have sprouted too high unless you like blander-tasting parsnips.
Come harvest time, use a spade to dig the roots out of the ground then wash and dry off the root bulbs.
To store parsnip, wash the roots, trim the tops by ½ inch (1.27 cm), place them in perforated plastic bags and store in a cool place such as a refrigerator or root cellar. They’ll last between 2 and 4 months.
You can also freeze parsnips by removing the tops and washing them. Leave small parsnips whole while cutting larger ones into thin slices or ¼ inch (0.63 cm) cubes.
Water blanch small parsnips for 5 minutes; water blanch diced, sliced, and cubed parsnips for 2 minutes. Cool them promptly, drain the water, package, seal and freeze them.
Don’t keep parsnip seeds any longer than one year.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Parsnips. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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