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Parsnips-The Forgotten Vegetable


Parsnips are one of those vegetables that many people have forgotten.  Their long growing season, which can be between 8 and 11 months and their challenging germination rate, is what makes them obsolete in many vegetable gardens.  But their taste is what makes them a garden favorite for many seasoned gardeners.

To successfully grow parsnips, one will need to follow a few guidelines and hints described below.

  • Add compost.  This is the first step one will need to take when it comes to raising parsnips.  The simple process of adding a good amount of seasoned compost to the soil before planting will not only give the seeds a boost but will also carry the plants throughout the season.
  • Do not use saved seed.  This hint is not intended to describe seeds harvested from last year’s plants but instead the seeds not used last year.  Parsnips have a low germination rate and old seed has even lower germination rates.  To save one from the frustration of a low germination rate, always use fresh seed.
  • Plant more then what you need.  Due to parsnip’s low germination rate, you will need to plant 3 seeds per ½-inch deep hole.  Once the seeds germinate, thin out so that the seedlings are three inches apart.
  • Mulch.  Mulching the garden space after the seeds have germinated will help preserve soil moisture will controlling weeds.  Both of these conditions can and will affect parsnips.  This vegetable requires 1-inch of water a week and the process of weeding can affect the root development.  But before you lay down the mulch consider what you are using.  Avoid using wood based mulch instead consider using straw and/or newspaper.
  • Weed and hoe carefully.  Parsnips are a root vegetable and can be easily damaged if the practice of weeding goes too deep.
  • Harvest at the right time.  Parsnips flavors are enhanced when the outdoor temperatures drop.  Avoid picking any parsnips until the outdoor temperatures have dropped near freezing for a couple of weeks.
  • Plant at the right time.  Early spring or late fall is a great time to plant parsnips.  The coolness of both these times will allow the seedlings to develop before the heat of summer hits.
  • Sunlight can vary.  Parsnips are very flexible in their sun requirement.  They can be planted in full sun or planted as an understory vegetable that utilizes the shade from some other plant such as bush beans or peppers.

After following the hints above, one may wonder how to harvest this delicious treat.  The process is easy; simply lift the root vegetable from the ground using a spade.  Utilizing this technique verses pulling the root up will prevent breaking the root off.


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Planting Depth

As a general rule, most bulbs are planted at a depth that is equal to 3 times their diameter at their widest point.

Tulips like to be planted about 6 inches (15.2 cm) deep and 4-6 inches (10.2-15.2 cm) apart.

Always plant bulbs as soon as possible after purchase to prevent them from drying out.

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