A hardy biennial that can be harvested all year round with winter protection. Flat-leaf and French parsley are the two most common varieties. The leaves and stems are used as a garnish in salads and as a condiment. Parsley’s reputation as a garnish often does it a disservice—it gets left on the side of the plate. In fact, it’s been known for thousands of years for its excellent flavor and versatility.
Add chopped parsley to buttered potatoes and veggies; toss it on a sliced tomato salad along with a pinch of basil. Parsley is also a natural breath freshener and an excellent source of vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
Where to Grow
Parsley will grow anywhere and can survive cold. It tolerates heat, but sweltering weather will make the plant go to seed. An ideal herb for container growing, it normally grows to a height of 1′. It also does well as a houseplant; some gardeners bring parsley in from the garden in fall and let it winter in a bright window.
Soil for Parsley
Prefers fertile, well-drained, moist soil in full sun to partial shade. Don’t fertilize before planting.
Start seeds indoors six weeks before the average date of last frost. For transplants, set out two to three weeks before your average date of last frost.
Plant it from seed; they take a long time to germinate, but you can speed up the process by soaking them in warm water overnight before planting. Plant the seeds a 1/4″ deep in rows 18 to 24 inches apart. Thin the seedlings to 12 to 18 inches apart when they’re growing strongly.
|Germination||60 - 80 F|
|Soil and Water|
|pH||5.8 - 7.2|
|Height||18 - 24"|
|Space between plants|
|in rows||12 - 18"|
|space between rows||18 - 24"|
|Companions||Asparagus, Carrot, Chives, Onions, Roses, Tomatoes|
|Basically, cut the leaves when needed. A pair of scissors or nipping with the fingers both work well. It pays to cut the top leaves first, to encourage the plant to shoot out again further down the stem. To harvest the entire plant, bunch the stalks together and cut them off with a pair of sharp scissors or a knife.|
Parsley is fairly easy to care for. The most important thing is to keep the soil moderately moist; parsley needs a regular supply of water to keep producing new leaves. Fertilizing the soil is not necessary for parsley to grow well. To encourage the growth of new foliage, cut off the flower stalk when it appears. The flower stalk shoots up taller than the leaves, and the leaves on it are much smaller than the surrounding leaves.
How Parsley Grows
A biennial plant treated as an annual, growing to a height of 1 1/2 feet. It has finely divided, fern-like leaves that are either flat (Italian) or curly, depending on variety. The leaves grow in a rosette from a single taproot that, in some varieties, is quite large and can be eaten like parsnips. Parsley has flat-topped clusters of greenish-yellow flowers, similar to those of dill (which belongs to the same family).
|Store fresh parsley in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag. Wash it first, as it could be earthy, sandy, or very damp. If it is wilted, sprinkle it lightly with water before refrigerating it; or if you have washed it avoid drying it completely. Although parsley freezes well (without blanching), it loses it's crispness; use it raw. Store dried parsley in an airtight container kept in a cool, dark, dry place. You can dry most herbs by tying them in small bundles and hanging them up with a string. Hang them upside down to dry. When completely dry, remove stems and put in jars. They will keep all winter and beyond. They can also be dried in a slow oven (100F) or a food dehydrator.|
|Fresh||Excellent; cuttings last 2-7 days in the refrigerator|
When to Harvest Parsley
Parsley is ready to cut or harvest in about 70 to 90 days after planting. A 10-foot row of parsley will keep you and all your neighbors well supplied. Harvest parsley leaves any time during the growing season; cut them off at the plant’s base. Parsley is not affected by hard frosts, and if protected, it can be harvested all winter long. Otherwise, it will die back in the winter and be best to harvest before winter fully sets in. Parsley will generally retain its rich color until early winter.
How to Harvest Parsley
To harvest or cut parsley leaves, cut the stems off at the bottom of the plant. If you only want a few leaves, it is recommended that you pick leaves from the outside. This allows new leaves to grow from the middle of the plant and harvests the older growth. Many gardeners harvest the entire parsley plant in fall and dry it; you can also bring the whole plant inside for the winter and make it a houseplant. Parsley lends itself well to freezing and drying. Store the dried leaves in an airtight container.
The parsley caterpillar is the only pest you’re likely to have to contend with. Hand-pick it off the plants.
Parsley has no serious disease problems.