Growing Parsley

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Parsley

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Parsley is a biennial plant with bright green, feather-like leaves and is in the same family as dill. Here’s how to grow parsley in your own garden.

About Parsley

This popular herb is used in sauces, salads, and especially soups, as it lessens the need for salt. Not only is parsley the perfect garnish, it’s also good for you; it’s rich in iron and vitamins A and C!

Native to Mediterranean Europe, the parsley plant is a biennial, but is usually grown as an annual in home gardens. After the first year, the leaves tend to become more bitter and tough, but the plant will gladly reseed itself in temperate zones.

Planting

When to Plant Parsley

Parsley seeds can be started indoors or sown directly in the garden. However, the taproot of parsley plants is delicate, so take extra care if transplanting!

  • For a head start, plant seeds in individual pots indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost date.
  • Sow seeds outdoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost, as parsley is a slow starter. 
  • The germination rate of parsley seeds tends to be low, so consider soaking the seeds overnight to improve your chances of success.
  • For the best germination, soil should be around 70ºF (21°C), though parsley seeds will germinate in colder temperatures, too.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Parsley enjoys well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.
  • Pick a spot that gets full sun (6 to 8 hours of sunlight).
  • Try to choose an area that is weed-free; that way, you’ll be able to see the parsley sprouting after about 3 weeks.

How to Plant Parsley

  • Sow parsley seeds ¼ inch deep.
  • Sow seeds about 6 to 8 inches apart. For larger plants, sow about 8 to 10 inches apart.
  • Be sure to keep soil moist while seeds germinate. 
  • It can take 2 to 4 weeks for seedlings to appear. 
    • Tip: Plant radish seeds in the gaps between parsley seeds. The radishes will sprout and grow before the parsley appears, and the radishes will mark the row.
  • Indoors, you can use a grow light to help seedlings grow. Make sure it remains at least two inches above the leaves at all times.

Care

How to Care for Parsley

  • Be sure to keep parsley plants sufficiently watered, especially through the heat of summer.
  • Lightly mulch around the plants to conserve moisture.

Pests/Diseases

  • Stem rot
  • Leaf spots
  • Carrot fly and celery fly larvae

Parsley is a favorite of black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars as well.

Harvest/Storage

How to Harvest Parsley

  • When the leaf stems have three segments, parsley is ready to be harvested.
  • Cut leaves from the outer portions of the plant whenever you need them. Leave the inner portions of the plant to mature.
  • If you want fresh parsley throughout the winter, replant a parsley plant in a pot and keep it in a sunny window.

How to Store Parsley

  • One method of storing the parsley fresh is to put the leaf stalks in water and keep them in the refrigerator.
  • Another method of storage is drying the parsley. Cut the parsley at the base and hang it in a well-ventilated, shady, and warm place. Once it’s completely dry, crumble it up and store it in an airtight container.

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

Recipes

Vegetable Gardener's Handbook

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Growing Parsley

Botanical Name Petroselinum crispum
Plant Type Herb
Sun Exposure Full Sun, Part Sun
Soil Type Loamy, Sandy
Soil pH Slightly Acidic to Neutral
Bloom Time
Flower Color
Hardiness Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Special Features