Highly nutritious, parsley is much more than a common table garnish.
Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 65-90 days from seed
Height: 10 to 20 inches
Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows
When growing parsley, home gardeners often select between two common varieties; flat leaf and curly-leaf. Which type you choose depends on your taste:
- Flat leaf or Italian parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) is similar in appearance to cilantro and offers a robust, full flavor. It is the preferred variety for cooking and is often used to add flavor to soups and stews.
- Curly-leaf (Petroselinum crispum) is coarse with a dark-green flavor and chlorophyll kick. It is often used as a garnish or chopped and added to salads.
This popular culinary herb is an excellent source of vitamins A, E and C, and includes many minerals like iron and calcium. Parsley is also used as a natural breath freshener. Hardy plants grow 10-20 inches tall and make a remarkable border around gardens.
Parsley requires ample water, well drained rich soil and afternoon shade, especially in hot climates. Prepare beds or rows with plenty of organic compost or aged manure, worked in to a depth of 6 inches (see How to Prepare Soil for Planting).
Tip: Parsley will attract butterflies and beneficial insects to gardens and landscaped areas.
How to Plant:
Parsley is best planted from nursery stock or seed at the beginning of each gardening season. Sow seeds in the garden 1/4 inch deep when there is still a chance of light frost. Seeds germinate in 14 to 21 days and can be soaked in warm water or compost tea for 24 hours before planting. Parsley is a heavy feeder. Apply one application of dry organic fertilizer in the spring and monthly foliar feedings to ensure healthy growth.
Begin harvesting parsley when it produces leaves with three branches. Not only is parsley wonderful when used fresh but it also dries and freezes well. Cut the foliage when it’s plentiful in summer, then freeze it in a re-sealable plastic bags or dry it for winter use. To dry, tie the cuttings in small bunches and hang upside down in a well-ventilated, dark room. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems and keep whole for storage. Crush or grind just before use. Learn more about Harvesting and Storing Herbs here.
Insects and Disease:
Parsley is rarely bothered by pests. However, you may have to handpick an occasional caterpillar. The larvae of the black swallowtail butterfly is particularly fond of this herb. Prevent plant diseases by choosing a site with good air circulation. Apply organic plant fungicides – copper, sulfur — early, when symptoms first appear.
Seed Saving Instructions:
Biennial. Parsleys will cross-pollinate, so isolate by 1 mile the second year when going to seed. Dig up parsley roots in the fall before a hard frost. Trim the tops to 2 inches and store in sawdust, sand or leaves. Parsley roots will store 3-4 months when kept between 32-40˚F. Plant out in early spring. Harvest seed heads when dry and separate by hand.