Growing Parsley

ParsleyA member of the carrot family, this cool-season, biennial herb is planted as an annual. When growing parsley (Petroselinum crispum) home gardeners often select between two common varieties; flat leaf and curled. Which type you choose depends on your taste. Flat leaf is used for cooking soups and stews, curled is used fresh as a garnish or in salads. Plants grow 10-20 inches tall and make a very nice border for the herb garden.

Note: An excellent source of vitamins and minerals (A, C, calcium and iron), this popular culinary herb is also known as a breath freshener.

Site Preparation:

Parsley requires ample water, well drained rich soil and afternoon shade, especially in hot climates. Prepare beds or rows with plenty of compost or aged manure, worked in to a depth of 6 inches.

Tip: Growing parsley will attract butterflies and beneficial insects to the garden.

How to Plant:

Parsley is best planted from nursery stock or seed at the beginning of each growing season. Sow seeds outdoors 1/4 inch deep when there is still a chance of light frost. Seeds germinate in 14-21 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 slow release organic fertilizer in the spring and monthly foliar feedings to ensure healthy growth.

Harvesting:

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 dried, remove the leaves from the stems and keep whole for storage. Crush or grind just before use.

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 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 degrees F. Plant out in early spring. Harvest seed heads when dry and separate by hand.

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