|Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) photo credit|
Parsnips are known as a winter vegetable because they are 1) cold tolerant, and 2) slow growing but primarily because their flavor improves after a frost or two. Plant parsnips no more than 1/2 inch deep as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. Be sure to remove all rocks and debris from the soil and plant seeds where the soil is soft and penetrable for the long taproot of the parsnip or it might fork and/or twist. Parsnip seeds have a short lifespan and new seed should be purchased each year to guarantee a good germination. Germination can take 2-3 weeks so have patience and mark the row or plot well so that you know where it is. Thin seedlings to 6-12 per square foot or 3-6 inches apart. Harvest parsnips in the fall after a frost or two, but before the ground freezes. The root will typically be 1-2 inches in diameter at harvest. Carefully dig the roots with a spade or fork so that the long tap root is not damaged. If you choose to store the roots in ground over the winter, insulate them with a thick layer of straw and harvest them immediately after the ground thaws in the spring.
Happy Gardening! :)