Parsley is a herb with a light spicy aroma, tiny hints of anise and lemon and is used fresh in salads, cooking sauces, stuffings and much more. When used in cooking, it’s usually added at the end so that it keeps its fresh flavour.
There are two types of parsley; curly leaf which has dark green, finely divided ruffled leaves, and flat-leaf parsley which has flat, bright green leaves. Curly leaf parsley grows to about 20-30cm high and flat leaf parsley to around 45-60cm. Flat-leaf parsley, which has a stronger and more pungent taste than curly parsley, is also called French or Italian parsley.
Parsley is a biennial herb usually grown as an annual because it grows to its full size the first season, and after the winter it blooms, sets seeds, and dies in its second season. When it blooms it loses its desired flavour.
The best time to sow Parsley in your Sprout Mini Greenhouse is today. Why? Because it’s really slow to germinate and can take up to 5-6 weeks to grace us with its presence! Do not let this discourage you from growing it, as it will keep on producing for a very long time! Soaking the seeds for 24 hours in warm water can help speed up the germination. It is generally recommended to sow late winter or early spring but with your Sprout you can grow this great herb all year around.
Fill a tray with general compost, water it and then scatter the seeds out. Cover with 0.5cm of compost and press down slightly to make sure that the seeds have good contact with the soil. Water again and keep the soil evenly moist until seeds germinate. If they dry out, they will most likely not germinate at all. This can be aided with a plastic dome over the tray but it is not a must. As a general rule, the colder the soil the less moisture you want. A cold and very wet growing medium often results in rotten seeds!
How close you space the seeds depends on how you intend to grow them.
– Microgreens: sow 1cm apart or even closer
– Transplant into your garden: 3-5cm apart so that you can easily lift them out
– Grow to maturity in Harvst Mini Greenhouse: sow 7.5cm apart and later thin them out
Keep the soil evenly moist but do not overwater. Parsley is a hungry plant, and keep in mind that any compost in a tray or container will only have enough nutrition for a few weeks – so make sure you add nutrients with an organic fertiliser.
You can choose from one of the growing options below or do a combination of 2, 3 or 4! If you are transplanting outdoors, wait till mid to late spring after the soil has warmed to at least 10°C.
- Baby Leaves/microgreens: Start harvesting the leaves when they have formed a few true leaves! If you pick one or two leaves of each plant, rather than the whole plant, it should keep on growing for a while and give you a few harvests!
- Grow till maturity in your Sprout: When the seedlings have emerged, thin them to 15-20cm apart. This can be done by cutting the rejects with scissors (eat them in a salad!) or carefully using a stick/pencil to loosen the soil and lift the seedling up by its leaves and transplant to elsewhere. Make sure they are big enough to handle before you set out to do this. The compost will only have enough nutrients for a few weeks so you will have to feed the plants with an organic fertiliser throughout the growing season.
- Plant outside: When the seedlings have developed their true set of leaves (not the first set appearing but the second set) they can be transplanted out into your garden. Space them 15-20cm apart. If you have problems with slugs, or it is still very cold, you can pot them on and keep them in your Sprout a little longer. A bigger plant can resist a slug attack much better! When planting outside it is best to make sure that your soil is great before planting, by adding well rotten manure or other organic material so that it’s full of nutrients for your plants. If your soil is not great you can feed the plants with an organic fertiliser throughout the growing season. When transplanting seedlings, ideally plant out early morning or evening and/or on an overcast day. Avoid planting at peak sun times or on windy days as this can cause sun or windburn which can lead to death!
- Container Grown: Parsley grows very well outside or inside in a container but try to choose one that is at least 15cm wide and deep. Keep in mind that the compost will only have enough nutrients for a few weeks so you will have to feed the plants with an organic fertiliser throughout the growing season.
Generally, Parsley grows best in partial shade and can therefore be planted on the East side of taller plants which will shade them in the afternoon. It grows best when the air temperature is 15-20°C and can therefore suffer a bit in very hot summers. It can tolerate frost well when it is a mature plant, so can keep on growing in the autumn and the winter outside.
Harvest parsley stems and leaves as you need them. You can pick leaves or cut a stalk at the base, which will make sure that the plant grows bushier. Harvest from the outside first.
Whitefly and spider mites can attack parsley, but a strong and healthy plant can usually resist these attacks well. Spray the undersides of the leaves thoroughly with an organic insecticidal soap to control large attacks of whiteflies and give the plants an occasional rinse to keep spider mites from infesting. Crown rot can also occur if the soil is too wet and not well-drained.
When harvesting, cut the outside stems at the base to keep the plant productive. Remove flower stalks that form because when flowers are allowed to remain, the leaves will lose their flavour and become bitter.
Flat leaf parsley’s botanical name is Petroselinum crispumneapolitanum and curly leaf parsley is Peroselinum crispum and they are a member of the Apiaceae family along with carrots.
Flat leaf Parsley : ‘Giant Italian’ and ‘Giant of Naples’ grow huge leaves
Curly leaf Parsley: ‘Moss Curled’ and ‘Extra Curled’ are very productive.