Instructions for Growing Parsley
How to Grow Parsley in Your Herb Garden
*** Parsley is Easy to Grow ***
Parsley is a popular herb garden biennial (it returns for a second gardening season). But, because it tends to go to seed quickly in the second gardening season, most gardeners grow it as an annual herb. Growing this pretty salad herb is easy and farily trouble-free.
Parsley has a wide variety of culinary uses including use as a flavoring, a garnish, and even a breath freshener. In finer dining situations, fresh parsley is used as a palate cleanser between dinner courses. It combines very well with other herbs, and tends to enhance food flavors.
The flat leaved (Italian) parsley variety (shown below) is a hardier herb and is grown for flavor.
The curly leaved variety is not as hardy and is primarily grown to be used as a garnish.
If you're short on space in your garden, try growing parsley in a large container. (see container gardening.) When container gardening, apply a light layer of mulch after the plants are established to help the soil retain water. Keep the soil moist (but not soggy). Once a month apply a dose of a complete fertilizer. Keep your parsley container in a spot that gets approximately 12 hours of sunlight daily.
Gardening Tips for Growing Parsley - Parsley is also a good companion plant for asparagus, corn, and tomatoes (for more information: companion planting guide).
Grow parsley (as well as Dill and Fennel) to attract one of nature’s pollinators, the Black Swallowtail Butterfly, to your vegetable and herb garden. Pollinators (primarily bees, moths and butterflies) are very important to your garden, in that without their efforts to pollinate the plants, you won’t have a crop to harvest. It would appear that butterflies, like bees, are disappearing at a rapid rate. We highly encourage you to plant crops that will not only help your garden thrive, but will help these important players in our food chain thrive.
You will know that a Black Swallowtail Butterfly has visited your parsley patch, when you see their eggs, or the caterpillars on your parsley plants. They’re not harmful, and the little that they eat dwarfs the benefit they provide your garden. Their striped caterpillars are actually quite colorful and pretty.
Parsley is a diuretic herb that helps keep your body’s plumbing in good working order, by helping it to get rid of extra water. If eaten regularly, it is reputed to help prevent problems such as kidney stones and bladder infections. In addition to being a kidney and liver tonic, parsley is a carminative (it helps your digestive system) and is sometimes used to remedy flatulence and colic pains. It is believed to be an emmenagogue, stimulating the menstrual process (not recommended in large quantities during pregnancy). It can also help ease bloating resulting from menstruation.
Parsley leaves provide a wealth of nutrients. They have a very high vitamin C content. They also contains vitamin A, B1, B2, Calcium, Iron, and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
NOTE: The seeds have a very high concentration of this herb’s volatile oils. Eating the seeds can be toxic. Use only sparingly, under advisement from your healthcare professional, and with caution.
Growing parsley is best in rich, well-drained soils (mix in a dose of compost to help drainage and provide nutrients for your plants!) in a sunny or mostly sunny location.
Prepare the parsley bed by digging the soil well, and mixing in a healthy helping of compost and/or well-rotted manure. For optimal growing conditions, the soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 (Information on how to test and change your garden soil's pH level.)
If growing parsley in a container, make sure that the pot drains well (that the soil drains well, and that holes at the bottom aren’t blocked).
Parsley seed is slow to germinate (it can take up to a month). The day before planting, soak the seeds overnight in water to help the germination process along.
When growing parsley, plant seeds in your herb garden in early summer when the air is warm and danger of frost has passed. Lightly cover the seed with soil and keep the soil moist (but not soggy).
Gardening Tips for Growing Parsley - Parsley will sometimes self-sow (replant itself), but to ensure a full crop it’s best to plant anew each growing season.
When growing parsley, it is best to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Don’t let the soil dry out. You can add mulch around your parsley plants to help the soil retain water better.
If you prepared your parsley bed with well rotted manure or compost, you won’t need the additional fertilizer. But you can fertilize once a month, if you feel they need a boost.
How to harvest the leaves:
Pick the parsley leaves from your herb garden as needed. Simply cut (or pinch) the stalks at about a ½ inch above the ground level. In about three weeks, you should see the new leaves growing again. As it takes awhile for the new crop to come in, you may want to consider harvesting your parsley patch in segments, to ensure that you always have a fresh supply ready for use. It’s best to harvest the leaves before they become coarse in texture (they loose some of their flavor and are less tender).
Gardening Tips for Growing Parsley - To extend your harvest of the first-year plants, you can dig them up in the early fall and pot them in containers to bring indoors for the winter.
How to harvest the seeds:
At the end of the first growing season, remove any weak or unhealthy plants (so that only your healthiest plants reproduce). Lightly mulch the parsley bed after it’s died down in the fall of its first growing year. This will help protect it from winter’s cold and harsh weather. They should reappear in the spring and produce flowers during the gardening season. Parsley’s seeds don’t usually ripen at the same time… spreading over several weeks. Those that ripen first should be stored kept separately and used first when planting next year’s herb garden. Harvest the seed when the majority of the seed in the flower heads have turned brown. Harvest by gently cutting the stem well below the flower-head. Turn the flower-heads over an open (clean) paper bag and insert them in the bag. You can then shake the bag to dislodge the ripened seeds. Any that don’t fall from the flower heads are not yet fully ripened. You can remove the flower-heads and air-dry them for another day or two before repeating the process. Air-dry the seeds for two weeks, turning the seed daily.
How to harvest the root:
Dig the root up in the Fall, from two year old plants. Parsley root is used as a boiled or steamed root (like you would carrots).
Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.