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Old September 12, 2019   #1
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: OH 6a
Posts: 581
Default I don't know how to germinate parsnip.

I know it's already late in the season, but I have tried several times in the past to start parsnip seeds and never able to germinate a single one. From what I'm reading it takes a long time for them to germinate. Not sure if it's the seeds I bought, do they have shorter shelf life? Did I bury it too deep, not deep enough, not the right soil temperature, was it too wet? Do the seeds need to be frozen first? Any tips would be helpful.

Last edited by maxjohnson; September 12, 2019 at 01:40 AM.
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Old September 12, 2019   #2
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Victoria, Australia
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Parsnip seeds need to be fresh, normally have a 12 month shelf life only and even then not always 100% reliable. Do not need chilling. Plant about 3 x depth as soil warms
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Old September 12, 2019   #3
Join Date: May 2013
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Dig one up from a friend’s garden, replant it and allow it to go to seed and self sow. The seedlings will turn up everywhere!
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Old September 12, 2019   #4
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Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Czech republic
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The easiest way is to check the germination on a dish with moist filter paper. Just a few seeds.
PS.: It may also be a problem that the seeds germinate better in the light than in the parsley root.I do not know, in our everybody grows root parsley, without which Czech cuisine can not do. The parsnip is just a bad substitute for us.
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Old September 12, 2019   #5
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Location: Near Philadelphia, PA
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Root parsley has grown well for me, and I have had modest success with parsnips in my heavy clay soil. As others said, you need fresh seed to get good germination and even moisture after you sow can be helpful! Good luck!
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Old September 12, 2019   #6
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Location: Long Island, NY
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I winter sowed them and they came up very easily.

"There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle."
Albert Einstein
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Old September 12, 2019   #7
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Location: ohio
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they also like moisture to germinate. We always covered them with a bit of row cover until they were up.
carolyn k
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Old September 13, 2019   #8
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: SE PA
Posts: 631

Fresh seed is important. They are really thin seeds subject to drying out, and the packages say 12 mo. They do take weeks to appear after sowing and I think there is an upper limit to temp, maybe 70F.

I plant in spring with the peas and beets. By midsummer they are up some and the Black Swallowtails love it. Last week there were still a bunch of caterpillars. They'd better hurry.

What I've been doing the last couple years with seeds is planting them in "seed tape" that is just single ply toilet paper, seeded and folded over, and then rolled back up and contents marked with a sharpie. I throw a few radishes in to mark the row and get something to harvest early. On planting day I just make a shallow trench, unroll the tape, leaving it folded, and cover with the soil pushed aside. It keeps seed spacing and make it easy to keep moist. If parsnips dry out too much germination will be spotty. Just cover the paper with a 1/4" or so of soil and water it when it looks dry. The paper does a great job keeping the seeds moist for germination. The radishes come up quickly and can be harvested normally in 30-40 days or rubbed out as soon as the parsnips show. Don't let the radishes in too long or plant too many or the parsnips will get shaded out.

Last winter there were some parsnips too solidly frozen to pick from a raised bed. They had not been mulched and I couldn't get them all out. It was a great mistake to make. When a parsnip overwinters into the next spring the plant gets huge early, feeding off the old root and provides food for caterpillars much earlier than a spring planting. When they die back in June or July there isn't much root left but there are thousands of seeds to collect from a single plant. I now have plenty of fresh parsnip seeds for planting in spring and I plan to leave at least one in the ground this winter to repeat this process. So, to get started you'll probably need to buy fresh seed two years in a row, then you are good.

Last edited by JRinPA; September 13, 2019 at 01:10 AM.
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Old September 13, 2019   #9
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: Victoria, Australia
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Some very useful information there JR
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Old September 13, 2019   #10
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Location: West Coast, Canada
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I've also read an overnight soak in warm water works wonders .........
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