Growing Parsley

Today we begin a new series on growing herbs.

We begin with parsley, the most popular culinary herb, used around the world in so many dishes. It should be part of every kitchen garden.

Growth habits and planting needs

Parsley is a biennial herb and will produce flowers and seeds in the second year. Sowing after the first year will ensure a continuous crop of leaves for the kitchen.

The choice of growing site depends on the type of parsley that you choose to grow.Flat leaf parsley grows best in full sun.

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Flat leaf or Italian parsley.

On the other hand, curley leaf parsley grows best in part shade with fewer hours of sunshine.

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Curly leaf parsley that is so popular for using as a garnish.

Parsley needs rich, well drained soil. Prepare the garden bed well by digging it over to a depth of 30 cm removing any clods and stones to a good tilth. Dig through some well aged compost and rotted chicken or cow manure to enrich the soil. Then let the garden bed rest for 6 weeks to allow the nutrients to rot down and become available to the plants . Parsley, being a leafy herb, should follow legumes in the crop rotation system.

The soil should have a neutral pH of 7.0, so test the soil and amend it if it is too acidic by adding a little garden lime. Further information can be found at this link .

Parsley can be sown in the garden bed from September to the end of May in Sydney that has a temperate climate and can also be successfully grown in large pots.

Sow the seeds over the soil and then pur some boiling water over the seeds. This is to speed up germination which can take from 3-4 weeks.  Cover the seeds lightly with a thin layer of propagation mix and water well with diluted liquid seaweed solution.

Keep the soil moist until the seedlings have emerged. When the seedlings have grown to about 10 cm thin the excess plants with small scissors and space the remaining plants to about 20-30 cm apart to give them enough room as they grow.

Apply mulch around the parsley plants to stop evaporation and conserve moisture in the soil. Continue to water well over the growing season and never allow parsley to dry out. This is especially important in the summer time because, left to dry out, parsley will bolt to seed.

Water fortnightly with diluted fish emulsion. Dig in more compost and cow manure around the plants the following spring to promote the next years growth.

Harvesting

When you need some parsley just take the whole stems from the outside of the plant and this will have the added benefit of encouraging further leaf growth and make the plants bushy.

Cut parsley can be kept in the crisper in the refrigerator or as a green bouquet in a vase of water to use as needed.

The parsley root has an intense flacour and can also be harvested. Remove the fine roots and then scrub well. The roots can then be cooked like carrots in soups and stews or baked with other root vegetables. They can also be chopped and used in salads.

Alternatively, rather than pulling out the long carrot like root below the ground, you can cut the plants back at ground level leaving the roots to break down and decompose in the garden bed. Compost the upper leaves before they set seeds.

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Parsley can be used in so many ways. It is often used in combination with root vegetables and celery to enhance the flavour of soups and stews.

 Seed Saving

In the second year parsley will go to seed. Choose a healthy plant and allow it to flower. When the seed heads have dried out, put a pillow case over the plant, tie it and cut it down at the base. Allow the seed heads in the pillow case to dry further hanging upside down in a cool dry place. When fully dried out sift the dried leaves from the seeds and store in a cool dark place with the date of saving.

You will also find that parsley readily self seeds around the garden and these seedlings can be transplanted while the plants are young.

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The beautiful and delicate umbelliferous flower heads of the parsley in the second year of growth.

Companion Planting

Parsley can be grown with carrots, asparagus chives and tomatoes. In fact it can add to the flavour of tomatoes when grown together.

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Growing parsley with tomatoes improves their flavour.

I have found that parsley growing thickly around  broccoli seems to deter pests like the cabbage butterfly.

 

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Broccoli growing amongst a large bed of parsley showing how they have been protected from pests.

 

 

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