Parsley is an herb that is low maintenance, therefore it is easy to grow. It looks a lot like cilantro. It has feather-like leaves that are bright green in color and has a mild aroma. The plant can grow up to a foot tall.
Parsley is a biennial herb meaning it takes one year to grow the plant itself, it lays dormant in the cold months and then the next year it grows it flowers, but it is usually grown as an annual. Once the herb bolts, and goes to seed, it is time to call it quits. The plant becomes more bitter after it goes to seed.
Parsley is used in a lot of different foods and dishes. It is also good as a garnish. It’s rich in Vitamins A and C and Iron. In the 18th century, parsley was believed to freshen breath and rid strong flavors, which is why it’s often served with fish and garlic.
Varieties Of Parsley
Flat leaf is also known as Italian Parsley. The flat leaf is used more in cooking because it is easier to work with, and has a better flavor. The different cultivars of this flat leaf variety are Italian Plain Leaf, Gigante Catalogno, and Italian Dark Green.
Curly Leaf Parsley
Curly leaf has ruffled leaves. The curly leaf is used more for garnishment as it doesn’t actually have much flavor, or is more bitter than that of the flat leaf. Some of the different cultivars of the curled leaf variety are Extra Triple Curled, Frisca, Forest Green, and Decorator parsley.
This herb has a somewhat peppery flavor to it, and some think that it tastes like grass. The stems of the parsley has a stronger flavor than the actual leaves so be sure to use them in soups and homemade stock.
Each leaf of parsley has natural oils running through it. These oils tend to range from sweet to salty in taste. The leaves can be picked and then dried for preserving. The mix of taste that parley provides from peppery to a sweet and salty flavor complements several recipes bringing out a balanced flavor in the dish.
Starting Parsley From Seed
Parsley is slow to start from seed. To plant your parsley in a container it needs to be in a rich moist soil. It is recommended to soak the seeds in water, before planting, to increase the possibility of germination. Plant the seeds about ¼ inch deep and then evenly water.
Parsley seeds do not like to be in soaked soil. The soil should be around 70 degrees F (21 C) for proper growth. You can set the seeds under a grow light to encourage sprouting. Be sure the light is at least two inches above the sprouts.
Parsley needs to be in full sun to partial shade. The plants prefer moist, fertile soil that is rich in organic matter but will grow in any type of soil. Make sure the soil is slightly dry before watering as the plant does not like to sit in soggy soil.
Planting Parsley in Containers
There are several reasons to grow parsley in containers, easy access being one of them. It is handy to be able to reach onto the window seal or run out to the back porch to grab some parsley for cooking.
Reason two is it makes for a great space saver, it grows well in mixed containers with other herbs and flowers, and is a good filler plant for the empty spots.
It is best to set the containers of parsley outside where it can get some shade. To much sun can burn the plant up. Parsley likes cool weather.
Before you move your plant outside permanently you will need to harden it off. This is done by bringing it outside during the day and then back in. Do this for a few days so that the plant can adjust to the change in temperature.
Once the seedlings have started to grow their real leaves, you can start to fertilize them. It does not matter the type of fertilizer so long as they receive it. Be sure to follow the directions on the type of fertilizer that you use so that you don’t overfeed them.
Pests that Could Affect Parsley
1. Caterpillars: The black swallowtail larvae are a huge pest of parsley. The caterpillars do not kill the plant, but feast on it. It is recommended to not kill the caterpillar, but to share with them, and soon enough you will have black swallowtail butterflies all around your garden.
2. Cutworms: The cutworm is a green-brown caterpillar that lives in the soil. It feeds on the seedlings and young shoots of the plant just under the soil. This is a non crawling worm so the easiest method to keep it from eating your plant is to build a barricade that it can’t get over. You can simply build this out of rolled up newspaper or plastic containers to keep them from getting through the soil and getting your plant.
3. Armyworms: This worm will eat holes in your leaves or eat the whole leaf itself; this is a sure sign of armyworms. Young larvae are green-brown in color, and grow to be 1 to 2 inches in size. To rid the armyworm you may need to physically remove it by hand or have a natural enemy that enjoys it, such as the ladybug or the wasp.
4. Carrot root fly: The female fly lays eggs in the soil. The eggs hatch and are a creamy-white legless worm. The worm eats the roots of the plant and stunts its growth. To treat easily you can mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 10 parts of water. The oxygen from the breakdown in the soil kills the worms on contact. You can apply this mix up to twice a week to control this pest.
1. Crown and Root Rot: This disease is just like it sounds, and is caused by a fungus and bacteria. The plant starts to rot, and the leaves turn yellow and brown before it dies. This is usually due to the soil being too wet.
To treat this disease you can use a fungicide if caught early enough. The other alternative is to pull the infected plant and start over but put it in a new pot or location. It is also necessary to have a well draining soil and to not overwater.
2. Leaf Spots: This is the most common fungal disease of parsley. The leaves start with yellow spots, and then darken to brown and have a golden halo around it. The leaves wilt and then can fall off. This fungus causes the whole plant to be weakened and can cause the entire crop to die. To treat this disease you can use a fungicide, as well as disease-resistant seeds.
3. Blight: This fungus is also called gray mold. The leaves start out with black to brown spots on the leaves. Then the entire leaf surface turns to a white-gray color, and then dies. To treat this disease you can use a fungicide or remove the infected plant completely and dispose of it.
You can harvest parsley as soon as it has a few true leaves, but it is best to wait until it has about ten leaves. The mature outer leaves are where you harvest from, do not pull the whole plant when harvesting.
Pinch or cut off the outer leaves, and leave the inner ones to continue to grow and mature. Regular harvesting of parsley will promote it to continue to grow.
To store your freshly harvested parsley you can put the stalks in the refrigerator in a glass of water until you are ready to use it. You can also pick your parsley and hang it to dry. Cut it at the base and hang it to dry in a dark, well ventilated area until it is dry. Then crumble the dried parsley and store it in an airtight container.
To have a steady supply of parsley throughout the year you will want to grow it in a container inside the house. If you grow your parsley in a container, you’ll always have a fresh supply to accommodate any of your savory dishes that you cook up. After the plant has bolted at the end of season you can collect the seeds to replant next year.
Sarah Rodriguez is a homesteading wife and mother of five living in Appalachia. She grew up in a homesteading and logging family.
She and her husband Arnie work their 10-acre homestead together alongside their growing family. Sarah honed her self-reliance skills through 4-H and FFA at an early age and is now teaching her children to live off the land, raise livestock, and the importance of both sustainability and frugality.