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How to grow parsnips from seed


Parsnips can be difficult to germinate, but they're well worth the extra effort. Follow our simple steps to pre-germinating parsnip seed to ensure bigger yields, and look forward to parsnips roasted for the Christmas table, or in warming winter soups.

How to do it


Part-fill a plastic bag with moist seed compost and empty your seed packet onto the surface. There is no point in successionally sowing parsnips as you don't need to harvest them all in one go. What's more, parsnip seed stays viable for only one year, so saving seed could lead to wasting it.


Mix the seed and compost together so the seed is evenly distributed in the bag. Tie the top of the bag together and place in a dark, warm spot such as your airing cupboard. Leave for around four days. 


After around four days, remove the bag from the airing cupboard and check on your seeds. They should have germinated, and small seedlings will be poking out of the compost.


Make a shallow trench in well-prepared soil with stones removed. Remove the seedlings from the bag and place them 10cm apart in the trench. Cover with a thin layer of soil and water with a watering can with a fine rose attached. The seedlings should continue to grow in their new growing positions. 

Our tip

In warmer districts and on light soils, try to sow the parsnip seeds in February and March. If you have a clay soil, wait until the end of March

For best results, warm soil beneath cloches for a couple of weeks before sowing

Sow seed in June for a crop of tender, baby parsnips at Christmas.

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to grow parsnips from seed
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Beezling 24/11/2011 at 15:27

Just superb, I have always enjoyed the program and didn't think it could get any better, and then this comes along ...

Well done indeed, well done.

debbiepem 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I'm a first time grower and these tips have been brilliant in helping me know when to plant the various seeds and how to do it properly. thanks Gardeners World!

Tony_the_Digger 24/11/2011 at 15:28

Make it seem so simple - which I guess it is

Sammo Hoi 24/11/2011 at 15:28

Nice and simple - Thank you!

Evalein 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned two of the most important points to growing good sized, flavourful, unforked parsnips:

- a lot of organic matter dug into the soil (or pot)
- loosening up the soil by digging deep and well, and removing any stones

And another point is that it takes a while for the seeds to germinate, until this time the soil needs to be kept moist and weed free for the best results.

I learned the hard way... ;)

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