The Cottage Smallholder

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Growing parsley

Photo: December parsley

Photo: December parsley

“I need quite a lot of parsley to make a decent sauce.”
My friend Jo was harvesting handfuls of lush Italian flat leaf parsley. In January.
“But how do you get it to grow so well in mid winter?”
“The secret is a cloche.” She gently set a long smart cloche over the bountiful row.
“We grow new plants every other year so it’s always at its best. And I find that the flavour of flat leaf parsley is better.”

I like the look of the curled parsley and have never tried growing the flat leaf varieties. In fact I’m pretty hopeless with parsley. I haven’t even been able to germinate the seeds in my electric propagator. So I tend to buy a box of plantlets each Spring for Danny’s parsley and thyme bath. By July the parsley looks promising but it rarely survives the winter.

My mum’s parsley self seeds like a weed in her garden but it keeled over in mine.
“Just pour some boiling water into the furrow when you set the seeds. Let a couple of plants go to seed and you will have new plants in the Spring. It’s easy.”
More like maddening and expensive for me – even pots of parsley bought at the supermarket would take a peek at the kitchen windowsill and die within days.

So this Spring I actually opened a book and discovered that parsley is a greedy feeder. For some unknown reason I thought that parsley didn’t need much attention. I knew that it likes a lot of water so just the parsley half of the bath is watered. This seems to suit the thyme plants fine.

Determined to compete in the parsley growing stakes, I bought some more established plants – including a pot of flat leaf parsley. I fed the parsley at two weekly intervals with an organic tomato feed. This seems to have done the trick.

The flat leaf parsley has romped away. Even the curled parsley has had its best summer ever. I’m now protecting my parsley plants with a pair of self watering cloches that I found at the back of the shed. Perhaps this is the first year that we can use our own parsley on Christmas Day.

And in the New Year I’m determined to propagate some seeds. So any tips would be very welcome.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Sir Francis

    I think that parsley is part of the Umbelliferae(Apiaceae)family.

    I hadn’t heard of “Never plant out parsley or you’ll plant out one of your family” – fascinating stuff. Thanks for sharing about the passover ritual.

  2. Sir Francis

    Certainly, where I come from, Parsley had all these superstitions attached to it: ‘Parsley goes to the Devil and back’; ‘Parsley can only be grown in a household where the woman wears the trousers’; ‘Never plant out Parsley or you’ll plant out one of your family…’
    I wonder whether the fact that it features in the Passover Ritual gives it some of these magical overtones: and is it one of the Cruciferae?

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Magic Cochin

    What a great saying – I’ve not heard of that.

    I think I’ll try growing some in August this year.

    Hi Tamar

    I agree parsley like copier paper is better than no parsley. Would freezing it soften it a bit?

    Hi Helen

    Well done! Later planting is clearly a good option.

    Hi Toffeeapple

    Isn’t that incredible. But there is that old saying – when a wife wears the trousers parsley will flourish!

    Hello Diane

    I think that the cloches are important. I’ve never had self seeded parsley but perhaps I will this year.

    Hello Belinda

    Gosh I didn’t know that it could get so cold in Australia. Thanks for the tips – I’ll try soaking the seed.

    Hi Michelle

    Parcel sounds good – must give it a whirl.

    I love the idea of parsley growing as tall as your shoulder. Amazing.

  4. Michelle in NZ

    I do hope you get parsley growing. My flat leaf parsley was beautifully going to seed during winter when my mowing service choppped it down. One plant was shoulder height!. I have started again.

    A variation to try is parsel – looks like curly leaf parsel but tastes like celery. lovely to cook with.

    Huggles to you all, Michelle.

    (Zebby is under his quilt yet again)

  5. It overwinters here & we get down to minus 8C overnight through winter.

    Parsley seed takes at least 30 days to do anything – you can soak them overnight in a glass of water before planting – this helps it be about half. If the soil they are planted in dried out too much they just curl up & die.

    The problem with Australian summers is that it is so hot things just bolt to seed – almost all of my parsley over 6 monthes of age has bolted due to the heat wave we experienced a few weeks back.

    I am reduced to just a square foot of parsley. We love tabouli so I usually grow a square metre of it.

    Good luck Fiona.

  6. Even in Rhode Island which is southern New England I can overwinter parsley under cover. It produces well the next spring but gets tough as it goes to seed in it’s second season. By that time, with luck, my new plants are big enough to harvest. I start the seed in late winter or early spring and have lately been saving my own seed. I like curled best and so do the black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars so I grow lots.

  7. Toffeeapple

    Sigh…I have the opposite problem – how to get rid of it! It just springs up each year, taking over most of my patch of earth.

  8. My parsley history is much like your many many seeds sown absolutely no action. However some seed was sown very late this year in a raised planter just outside my conservatory door I grew salad leaves there all summer and it has gone weedy BUT the parsley is now there just six inches tall the flat leaved type. I will get a cloche over it PDQ just as you suggest. Gosh hard frost yesterday I hope its OK.

  9. We had a very tough growing season over here, but one of the successes was a parsley plant. Or at least I thought so. The leaves have gotten so big and robust that they’ve gotten tough, with the consistency of copier paper.

    Neverthess, we put it in a pot and brought it inside for the winter. Tough parsley is better than no parsley.

    Congratulations on solving a gardening problem. I’ve found them to be intractable, with elusive solutions.

  10. magic cochin

    Parsley seed takes so long to germinate because it has to go down to the Devil and back seven times before it starts to grow 😉 I think my Dad told me that one.

    We’ve had some really tricky seasons lately, I can well believe the saying! The parsley I sowed in late August along with late salads and oriental greens has done pretty well. And the previous year’s plants I let go to seed will hopefully produce some more plants for next year.

    Good reminder to protect some of the Parsley plants for Christmas.


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