Growing and Saving the Seed Of Parsnips

Latin name Pastinaca sativa, this sweet root vegetable is a long-season member of the carrot family. The roots become sweet after exposure to cool weather.



Parsnips originated in the eastern Mediterranean. Before the adoption of sugar cane, they were primarily grown as a sweetener. Parsnips were very popular in American gardens in the 19th and early 20th centuries. .


  • Many culinary uses




  • Southern gardeners should sow seeds in fall for spring harvest. Northern gardeners should sow seeds 2-4 weeks before last frost.
  • Plant seeds 1⁄2 inch deep and seed densely. The seeds will germinate slowly, and germination is usually very sparse.
  • Try interplanting parsnips with radishes; the latter will help mark the row and you will harvest them well before the parsnips become crowded.
  • Thin parsnips to 4 inches; they like lots of space per plant and they won’t thrive under competition from weeds. 
  • Ideal germination temperature is 50-75 F.
  • Seeds germinate in 21-28 days.




  • Parsnips do not like hot weather, yet they require a long season. This can present a challenge to some gardeners; however, proper timing will ensure a sweet, successful crop. 
  • Parsnips require deep, light, well-drained soil. Double dig the planting bed 12 inches deep and remove all stones and dirt clods. Amend with well-composted manure.

  • Plant parsnips in full sun. 

  • Try straw mulch or careful cultivation, being sure not to damage the feeder roots.


  • Carrot rust fly can be a problem. Be sure to pull all parsnips from the ground when harvesting to limit the larvae overwintering. Row covers can also be helpful. 




  • Parsnips are biennial, so they will not set seed until they’ve experienced a winter’s chill. Fortunately, they are very cold hardy, and with a heavy layer of mulch they can survive the winter and will flower in the spring.
  • Allow plants to flower and the seeds to dry on the plant.
  • Hand pick the dried seeds and store in an airtight container.
  • Parsnip seeds have a short shelf life, often only one or two years!