Parsnip is easy to grow and need little maintenance.

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recognize parsnips
Parsnips, photo: Goldlocki – CC BY-SA 3.0

Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa subsp. sativa) belongs to the umbellifer family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae). Parsnip is native to Eurasia. You can find wild parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) on sunny, nutrient-rich roadsides and water sides. Parsnips can be sown in April/May in the open ground immediately in their final spot. It can take up to a month for the seed to emerge. Not a fast grower; sown in April, means harvest in September. Parsnips like light soils; in heavy clay they struggle and the roots branch out. Sow them in a different spot each year (crop rotation) to outwit soil pests. Among slow-growing parsnips you can grow lettuce, which goes fast. By the time the parsnips are large, the lettuce will have been harvested.


Pierced roots, tunnels and rust-colored streaks on the root: carrot fly (Chamaepsila rosae).

Fungi & diseases

Cancerous brown spots on the root, later black: Gangrene (Phoma exigua).

Black or orange spots on the roots and silver-gray spots turning to brown: Parsnip canker (Itersonilia pastinacae).


Parsnip seed germination can be laborious and slow, especially in cold soil, so don’t sow too early and always use fresh seeds.