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Growing Parsley

Just about everyone has seen parsley used to garnish food. Sometimes people forget that it is good to eat too. Very good in fact and also super healthy being rich in nutrients like Vitamin C.

One of the easiest herbs to grow, parsley is a biennial, so it grows lush the first year, then goes to seed the following season.

Tips on How to Grow Parsley

Sow parsley seeds in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. Sow seeds in pots or trays indoors earlier if convenient.

Parsley doesn't mind a bit of cold, even light frost, but try and get your seeds and young seedlings growing fast by avoiding very cold weather. Parsley seeds are often slow to geminate, up to 6 weeks or longer depending on warmth.

Popular parsley is not fussy about when you pick it, unlike many vegetables that need harvesting when ripe and ready. You can pick sprigs of parsley, starting from the outside stems, once plant has at least the 2nd layer of stems growing from the center and is about 10cm (3-4") high.

Moderate sun to partial shade suits parsley best. A very hot location means constant watering, as those very green abundant leaves are prone to going limp if there's not enough water and constant very hot days.

Soil Conditions and Soil Preparation for Growing Parsley

  • Parsley will grow in most gardens, but prefers rich soil that is well-drained, but kept slightly damp. Unless it rains, watering every other day is a good rule of thumb to stop the soil drying out.
  • Parsley grows well with soil at pH 5.0 to pH 7.0. For optimum soil conditions research has shown a slightly alkaline soil of pH 6.0 to pH 8.0 will really make parsley flourish. Honestly if you're popping parsley in along the driveway or amongst the roses, it will do well whatever the soil.
  • Seeds can be sown early in a warmer environment than the garden. The warmer the soil, the sooner the seeds will germinate.
  • Ordinary potting mix is fine, then transplant them into good composted soil when old enough to be allowed out on their own!
  • Many people like to have a pot of parsley on their windowsill to snippety snip when needed. Fine, just make sure your parsley pot is a least 20cm (8") deep, and filled with rich potting mix, kept moist.

Varieties of parsley

Parsley is from the Apiaceae family. . . same as carrots, and originates from southern Europe around the Mediterranean.

Home gardeners usually prefer curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum). It is mild flavored and grows to roughly 30cm with flower and seed stalks reaching to 80-90cm (35").

Then there is Italian parsley (P. crispum var. neapolitanum). Its leaves are divided into three, flat, broad and slightly triangular leaflets. This is a favorite of chefs due to its stronger flavor.

The heirloom variety, Turnip-rooted or Hamburg parsley (P. crispum var. tuberosum) has flat flavorsome leaves like Italian parsley, but each of the three leaflets is deeply incised into four or five cut segments. It produces a delicious swollen, parsnip-like root. This root is often baked or used in soups and stews.

All three parsley varieties produce green-white-yellow flowers, sometimes tinged red. The flowers are in compound umbels and the tall, central flower stem is hollow, with smaller, slightly bitter leaves.

Sowing Parsley Seeds

Sow seeds about 5cm (2"). Cover with 5-10cm soil and carefully sprinkle water over. If growing in rows, space them at least 40cm (16")apart, since parsley spreads out in a low-growing bushy pattern.

Be patient, a warm soil temperature will help. Once your seeds have germinated, you'll be happy to see your little plants romp away and produce for a long time.

In rows, thin the plants so that they stand approximately 25cm (10") apart. If growing window-sill or glasshouse pots, crowding them in a bit more if often done... in fact 2-3 plants in one pot will work if you're constantly snipping the outside sprigs off.

A Few More Parsley Care Tips

Like most herbs, the more you pick them, the more they produce, and in parsley's case, the sweeter it tastes.

Many people sow new plants each year, or you can just let one of your plants go to seed and either collect the dried seed heads, then sow later, or let nature scatter the seeds willy-nilly in your garden.

Cutting off the emerging flower stalk in parsley's second season, will give you quite a few parsley sprigs to eat, but you won't be able to ultimately stop a plant dying. As it starts to kick the bucket, pick what you can, but the leaves will become slightly bitter and the stalks rather chewy!

Although parsley is best used fresh, it can be frozen. Just put small bunches in bags or containers and keep them in the freezer until you need them.

They won't be crisp or bright green when they thaw, but they can still add color and flavor to dishes.

Problems and Pests of Parsley

Luckily parsley is a breeze to grow and resists most pests and problems, but just occasionally you could get unlucky...

  • Aphids, Whitefly and Spidermites
    These pesky pests usually attack other plants, but if found on your parsley, bursts of water from a hose will often dislodge them quick smart. Read more on these pests and other ways to control them on natural pest control.
  • Other pests
    Like gardening the world over, some plants and pests thrive in one area but not somewhere else. So parsley grown in your friend's garden up the country might collapse, whereas you never have a problem.
  • But if you do notice damage, quickly try and identify the culprit, be it certain weevils, worms, blight and so on, and apply the solution.

Parsley is near about the best herb in the world... just because it is. I bet most people would agree with me. How on earth would we cope without parsley to sprinkle on scrambled eggs, garnish a soup, pretty up a plate of sammies, and raise the flavor of just about anything?

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