Parsley is a popular herb to grow in the garden. It can be used to flavor or garnish foods and is full of vitamin A and C, calcium, riboflavin and niacin. Parsley is a good plant to have in any garden because it enhances the flavor and scent of many other plants. It is used in the kitchen with meat and fish and gives a little flavor to potato and vegetable dishes. It has even been used as a medication in the past as a natural diuretic.
Parsley is a member of the carrot family and is treated like an annual in cold climates. It is a biennial whose life cycle continues through two years. The most common parsley has flat, green-toothed leaves made up of three small leaflets connected by short stems; the stalks can grow as long as 8 inches.
Italian flat leaf parsley is used for cooking because of the strong flavor. Curly parsley is most often used as a garnish, because the flavor is not as strong and the ruffled curly leaves are bright green and complement a plate.
Parsley grows well from seed as long as the temperature of the ground is 70 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Seeds should be soaked in water for at least 12 hours right before planting. Sew in the garden when the soil is warm enough, covering seeds with about ¼ inch of soil. The seeds must be kept moist; they will sprout in 14 to 20 days. They should be thinned to 4 inches apart. Plant a border of seed all around the herb garden to make a mini-hedge.
Those wanting to have parsley a little earlier in the summer should purchase transplants. They should be planted about 5 to 8 inches apart in an area of the garden. Parsley does not enjoy being moved, so try not to disturb the roots much when planting. Keep the plants well-watered and shaded for a few days after planting.
Parsley needs about eight hours of sun per day, but it does not like hot temperatures. Therefore, it can be planted in an area of the garden where filtered sun will come in part of the day. Soil should be kept evenly moist but not soggy. Mulch parsley to retain moisture. If flowers do appear they should be pinched off immediately to preserve flavor.
Harvest and Storage
Harvest the largest leaves first and take them whenever needed. Sprigs can be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for about two weeks. Before the first frost harvest all parsley. It can be dried in the oven or frozen for future use.
Parsley gets along with all herbs in the herb garden except mint. It is particularly fond of chives. Plant some outside the herb garden along with carrots, asparagus, peppers, onions and tomatoes to encourage vigorous growth and enhance flavor. It will also make roses smell especially sweet. Parsley will keep beetles out of the garden as well.