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Parsley Growing Guide

French Parsley - heirloom herb seeds

 

Parsley is one of the most popular herbs grown in gardens all over the world and is especially popular in Mediterranean cuisine. Parsley comes in two traditional forms, flat leaf parsley or Italian Parsley and curled leaf parsley, also known as French Parsley. Another, lesser known parsley is root parsley, which is one of the oldest vegetables still in cultivation today.

Any types of parsley is easily grown from seeds and make a flavorful and nutritious addition to any meal.

How to Sow and Plant

Parsley may be grown from seed sown indoors and transplanted outside after your last frost date or sown directly in the garden once soil temperature has reached 40 degrees F. Parsley plants can also be kept as potted specimens, either indoors or outdoors. Parsley is tolerant to cold temperatures and can withstand a frost with no problem.

 

Sowing Seeds Indoors

Sow parsley seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost in spring

Sow parsley seeds ¼ inches deep in seed-starting formula

Keep the soil evenly moist at 70 degrees F

Seedlings emerge in 7-21 days

As soon as parsley seedlings emerge, provide plenty of natural light on a sunny windowsill or grow under fluorescent light on a 12 hours cycle.

Transplant parsley plants in the garden after a period of “hardening”, increasing the seedling’s exposure to sunlight gradually over a one-week period. Seedlings are ready for transplants when they have 3 to 4 true leaves.  

Do not allow parsley seedlings to dry out for the first few weeks after transplant.

 

Sowing Seeds Outdoors

Direct sow parsley seeds in average soil in full sun after all danger of frost has passed when the soil temperature is at least 60 degrees F. Basil grows best in fine, well-draining soil of average fertility.

Sow parsley seeds evenly and cover with ¼ inches of fine soil.

Firm the soil lightly and keep evenly moist.

Seedlings will emerge in 7-21 days, possibly longer in cooler soils.

 

How to Grow

To grow Parsley, keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients. Mulching the growing area helps the soil retain moisture and prevents weed seeds from germinating.

For parsley, an organic mulch of aged bark, weed-seed free straw or shredded leaves is ideal. Mulching has many benefits including added organic matter and fertility as it will improve the soil as mulch breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.

Keep parsley plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Keep the soil moist but not saturated. Parsley plants should not be allowed to dry out.

Do not harvest too much of the plant at one time as this may weaken the plant.

 

Tips

Parsley grows best during the cool parts of the growing season. Plant your parsley as soon as soil can be worked in the spring and again in late summer for a Fall harvest.

Parsley benefits from afternoon shade in the hottest parts of the summer.

 

Preservation

To dry basil leaves, cut whole stems on a dry morning. Tie stems loosely together in small bunches and hang in a dry, airy location out of the sun. Basil may also be dried on a cheesecloth or a window screen in a dry, shady location. When thoroughly dry, store in a tightly sealed glass jar in a dry, dark location. 

Basil can also be frozen. Clean leaves can be frozen on a cookie sheet then placed in a sealed freezer bag. Another great preservation method is to mince the basil leaves and mix them with olive oil, then freeze the mixture in ice cube tray. The cubes can then be transferred to a sealed bag and kept for up to 8 months in the freezer.  

 

Common Disease and Problems

Alternaria Leaf Spot

Symptoms: Small, round reddish-brown spots with white to gray centers form on the upper surface of the leaves. The lesions may encircle the stems and cause wilt.

Causes: Fungal infection caused by warm, wet or very humid growing conditions.

Solutions: Avoid getting water on the foliage. Remove infected plant parts. Provide plenty of air circulation.

 

Cercospora Leaf Blight

Symptoms: Small flecks which develop a yellowish halo appear on the leaves and turn brown and coalesce, causing the leaves to wither and die.

Causes: Fungal infection caused by warm, wet or very humid growing conditions.

Solution: Remove infected plants and destroy all plant debris. Rotate crops.

 

Damping Off

 Symptoms: This is one of the most common problems when starting plants from seed. The seedling emerges and appears healthy; then it suddenly wilts and dies for no obvious reason.

Causes: Damping off is caused by a fungus that is active when there is abundant moisture and soils and air temperatures are above 68 degrees F. Typically, this indicates that the soil is too wet or contains high amounts of nitrogen fertilizer.

Solutions: Use well-draining soils to reduce fungus proliferation.

 

Septoria leaf spot

Symptoms: Small, angular, gray-brown spots appear on leaves. Spots have defined red margins. Black fruiting bodies may be visible. Leaves will eventually become chlorotic or necrotic.

Causes: Fungal infection.

Solutions: Rotate crops and avoid overhead watering. Increase airflow and plant spacing. Remove and destroy affected foliage.

 

Powdery Mildew

Symptoms: Whitish or greyish leaf surface. Leaves may curl.

Causes: Fungal infection caused by humid weather conditions.

Solutions: Provide good air circulation by increasing spacing and pruning.  

 

Aphids

Symptoms: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects that can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants.

Causes: Insect infestation.

Solution: Introduce beneficial insects. Create beneficial insect habitat in and around your garden. Ladybugs are a well-known predator of aphids.

 

Slugs

Symptoms: Leave large holes in the foliage or leaves missing entirely. Slime trail left on leaves and stems. Slugs cause defoliation and can kill young plants with intense feeding. They mostly feed at night. Moist weather increases their presence.

Causes: Pest infestation.

Solution: Hand pick, at night if possible. Use slug traps either using cornmeal or beer. For a beer trap, dig a hole in the ground and place a large cup or bowl into the hole; use something that has steep sides so that the slugs can’t crawl back out when they’re finished. Fill the bowl about ¾ of the way full with beer, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the bowl should be full of drowned slugs that can be dumped out for the birds to eat. For a cornmeal trap, put a tablespoon or two of cornmeal in a jar and put it on its side near the plants. Slugs are attracted to the scent of cornmeal, but they cannot digest it and it will kill them. You can also try placing a barrier around your plants of diatomaceous earth or even coffee grounds. They cannot crawl over these.

 

Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)

Symptoms: Holes in leaves, either singular or clumped together. Leaves can become skeletonized. Egg clusters may be evident on foliage with a cottony or fuzzy appearance. Young larvae are pale green and adults are darker with a light line along the side and pink underside.

Causes: Pest infestation.

Solution: Increase the presence of natural predators by providing beneficial insect habitat and birds.

 

Cutworms

Symptoms: Seedlings cut down at the soil level.

Causes: Pest infestation:

Solutions: Spread Diatomaceous Earth around the base of seedlings. Increase spacing and remove weeds.

 

Leafhoppers

Symptoms: Defoliation and stunt growth.

Causes: Pest infestation.

Solution: Remove plant debris. Increase the presence of natural predators by providing beneficial insect habitat and birds.

 

Parsley Worms

Symptoms: Severe to mild defoliation

Causes: Caterpillars for the Black Swallowtail butterflies. These colorful yellowish-greenish caterpillars with dotted black stripes can grow 2 inches long, will turn into black swallowtail butterflies. They feed on the foliage of parsley, carrots and dill.

Solution: Handpick if infestation is severe. Consider allowing a few to grow to increase the presence of pollinators and beneficial insects in and around the garden. No aggressive intervention is needed.