Growing Parsnips

Botanical Name:
Pastinaca sativa
Description:
A long white root vegetable with feathery leaves, similar to a carrot.
Planting Time:
early spring
Exposure:
full sun
Soil:
well-drained, nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 6.7 to 7.2
Planting:
Soak seeds overnight to speed up germination or pre-sprout them between moist paper towels in the refrigerator. When white root tips appear, mix the seeds in with a little fine sand and broadcast them into the garden. Sow seeds at a depth of _ inch and spaced 4 to 6 inches apart. Be patient-seeds can take up to three weeks to germinate.
Watering:
Keep soil evenly moist (not wet). Plants should get 1 inch of water per week or roots may crack from inadequate moisture.
Maintenance:
Thin slow growing seedlings when they reach 4 inches high (or have 3 or 4 leaves) and again as necessary to give them room to develop and maintain air circulation around plants. Keep the soil evenly moist and mulch around plants to control weeds.
Harvesting & Storage:
Harvest parsnips as needed or in the fall after they have been exposed to a few frosts. Cold temperatures convert the starch in their roots to sugar giving them a sweeter taste. Parsnips can be left in the ground and harvested all winter if mulched heavily. Lift, don't pull roots out of the ground. Leave dirt clinging to roots until use or they will shrivel when exposed to air.
Diseases and Pests:
Parsnips are susceptible to carrot rust. Interplant onions or garlic to help repel rust flies or mix 1 cup of wood ash in with weekly watering.
Tips to Success:
To grow the giant size parsnips you see in the supermarket, dig funnel-shaped holes 24 inches deep and 5 to 6 inches wide at the top. Fill up the holes with loamy, sandy soil mixed with peat moss, leaving a small depression for 2 to 3 seeds at the top. Cover seeds with _ to _ inch of soil.
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