How To Grow Organic Parsley?
PARSING PARSLEY FACTS
- Growing parsley as an herb and vegetable originated around the Mediterranean Sea thousands of years ago.
- Parsley is a member of the same family as carrots. When growing parsley, be aware that the same pests afflict them similarly.
- Growing parsley for tea is recommended by Chinese and German herbologists for the controlling of high blood pressure.
WHEN TO PLANT PARSLEY
- It takes about 70 to 90 days for planting and growing parsley from the time the seeds are planted until harvesting time, depending on your climatic conditions.
- If you live in a Northerly climate, its best to plant your seeds in trays indoors, then transplant them into your garden or herb garden after the danger of frost is past.
- You’ll want to start growing parsley indoors about 6 or 8 weeks ahead of the last frost.
- In Southern climates you can seed several times throughout your growing season to achieve ongoing harvesting from April until December.
- In most climate areas in the mainland U.S., parsley can be over-wintered and harvested in the early spring.
- If you plant too early in the spring, a cold snap might cause the plant to bolt (go to seed) early.
WHERE TO PLANT PARSLEY
- Parsley prefers at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun daily, and does well with some shade as long as it gets the sun it needs.
- In warmer climates, some afternoon shade is preferable.
- Parsley actually does best in cooler climate areas, and grows best in rich, moist, but well-drained soil.
PREPARING YOUR SOIL
- While parsley grows best in a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, it will tolerate well pH levels between 5.3 and 7.3.
- Parsley needs a good supply of nitrogen (N) to grow green, quickly, and produce flowers and seeds.
- Phosphorus (P) in your soil encourages strong roots and rapid growth in parsley.
- Potassium, or Potash (K), aids in fighting disease, photosynthesis, and building of protein in parsley.
- All of these nutrients are organically available in compost, composted manure, bone meal, and blood meal among others.
- Check the pH level of your soil with a tester. If you need to make it more alkaline, add lime. To make it more acidic, add sulfur.
- To prepare your ground for planting parsley, layer about 2 to 4 inches of composted manure and/or compost (you can also add bone meal and blood meal) where your rows will be and till it into the soil to about 6 inches deep.
- Rake the row areas until smooth, remove any stick or rocks or other debris, and break up any dirt clods.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SEED VARIETIES FOR YOUR AREA
- One of the best varieties available is called “Triple Curly.” It has a good aroma and taste.
- Triple Curly grows to about a 6 inch by 6 inch cluster. It does well in both cooler and warmer climate areas.
- Triple Curly is often used as an edible border around flower beds.
SEEDS AND GERMINATION
- Parsley seeds are good for about 2 years after you’ve purchased or harvested them.
- Parsley seeds are slow germinators.
- It helps to soak your seeds for about 24 hours before you put them in the ground or in planting trays.
- Once you plant your seeds, the optimum soil temperature range is between 50° and 85°F.
- The seeds will, of course, germinate more quickly if the soil is warmer and the seeds are more fresh. Germination can take anywhere from 2 to 5 weeks.
- If you’re planting directly to your garden, the main thing you’ll need to do is make sure your soil stays moist. All other parameters should be the same.
SAVING YOUR SEEDS
- If you want to save your parsley seeds, overwinter a few plants. Parsley can survive very cold temps, but just to be sure, mulch them over the winter with 12 inches or so of barley straw or similar.
- In the spring, your parsley will flower, then go to seed.
- Make sure you plant only one variety (either “flat” or “curly”) as they will cross-pollinate.
- When the flowerheads turn brown and dry, shake them into a bowl or bucket and collect as many seeds as you need or are available.
STARTING PARSLEY INDOORS
- The easiest way to plant parsley is in trays with seed cells. If you’re only planting a few plants, small cartons or even styrofoam egg cartons will suffice.
- Seed trays are best though because you can purchase them with covers to keep the moisture from escaping as rapidly (remove the cover once the seedlings emerge).
- Use a sterile potting soil mix to prevent your plants from succumbing to disease.
- Plant several seeds per cell or pot as parsley may have a low germination rate, especially if your seeds are a little older.
- Cover your seeds with about a quarter inch of soil, then place under grow lights (fluorescent lights will work if placed very close (2 or 3 inches) above the plants.
- Move the lighting up as the plants grow, but remain within a couple inches to stimulate the seedlings to develop sturdy stems.
- Water regularly with highly diluted fish emulsion or similar (at about 1 to 2 tablespoons per gallon of water). Don’t overwater.
- If you want to grow parsley in containers, a gallon size pot, at least 8 inches deep, works well per individual plant.
- Plant 4 to 5 seeds per container to make sure you get one good plant.
- For growing parsley in containers indoors, make sure you place them in a bright, sunny room. If your parsley leans toward a light source (like a window), move it closer to the light source.
TRANSPLANTING PARSLEY TO YOUR GARDEN
- Once your seedlings have at least 2 “true leaves,” and are 2 to 3 inches tall, begin moving them out of doors during the daylight hours for a week or so, then leave them outdoors for a week in the trays or pots.
- Using a garden trowel or similar, carefully remove the parsley with roots and soil intact from the tray cells and insert into your previously prepared ground.
- Plant the parsley 4 to 8 inches apart in rows that are spaced 30 to 36 inches apart in an area that gets full sun. Afternoon shade is OK in southern or tropical climates.
- Parsley likes in a cool climate but do provide some shade if growing parsley in a tropical or very warm area.
- Water the plants immediately after transplanting to ensure the roots getting a solid start. The soil should be moist for parsley at all times and about 6 inches down.
PLANTING PARSLEY SEEDS IN YOUR GARDEN
- You can seed parsley when soil temps reach around 50°F, but preferably no sooner than 2 weeks before your last predicted frost.
- Parsley is a cold-hardy plant, but seedlings should be protected from frost.
- Mark your rows at 30 to 36 inches apart and drag a small stick or pencil down the row where you’re about to plant your seeds.
- Plant your seeds by placing them approximately one inch apart in the indentation you just made.
- Cover them with about 1/4 inch of soil and lightly pack the soil down to remove air pockets around the seeds.
- Make sure the soil is either fairly moist when planting your seeds or that you water it just after you’ve planted the seeds.
- Once your seedlings emerge (2 to 5 weeks depending on temperatures) and are about 3 inches tall, thin your plants to about 8 to 10 inches apart.
SUCCESSFULLY GROWING PARSLEY IN YOUR GARDEN
- If a flower stalk appears on your parsley, pinch it off.
- Parsley is a biennial plant, but it’s a good idea to add seeds or have an alternating parsley bed to keep fresh plants growing.
- Parsley will self-seed, but as it isn’t dependable, you’re still best to seed new seeds annually.
- If you’ve prepared your parsley bed properly by following our recommendations for preparing the soil, you shouldn’t need to fertilize your parsley during the growing season.
- If your plants begin to look a little lighter green indicating a shortage of nitrogen, you can water your plants with a dilution of fish emulsion and water (a couple tablespoons per gallon).
- Jenny’s Tip – When you’re growing parsley, spray your plants every couple of weeks with a liquid organic leaf spray fertilizer. We highly recommend Organic Garden Miracle™. OGM™ naturally stimulates your garden plants to produce more plant sugar in the photosynthesis process. That in turn creates a more robust plant, more produce from your garden, and better and sweeter flavor. And they have a really good warranty!
WEEDING AND MULCHING
- A 2 or 3 inch of mulch – barley straw or grass clippings – to help to retain soil moisture and control weeds.
- It’s a good idea to make sure your parsley has little competition from weeds.
- Hand pull weeds that are within a couple inches of your parsley, or snip them off when the plants are small.
PARSLEY WATER REQUIREMENTS
- Parsley needs about one to two inches of water weekly in order to soak the soil at least 6 inches down.
- You can use drip irrigation or overhead watering. If you’re using overhead watering, it’s a best practice to water early in the day to reduce the risk of fungi diseases in your plants.
- If your summer weather is hot and dry, you may need to water more frequently.
- If parsley runs completely out of moisture, it will die immediately. Over-watering will drown the roots.
COMPANION PLANTING AND ROTATION CONSIDERATIONS
- Parsley grows well with asparagus, carrots, chives, onions, roses, and tomatoes.
- Parsley helps repel diseases and insects that bother tomatoes and roses.
- Make a parsley tea and spray your asparagus with it to repel asparagus beetles.
- Parsley is a good deterrent to carrot flies.
- Make a tea from chopped chives to combat downy and powdery mildews in your parsley patch. Or plant it near your parsley to improve its flavor.
- Onions will repel most insects from the areas in which other plants reside, from aphids and weevils to moles and rust flies.
- Although I haven’t tried this personally, some gardeners insist that planting parsley at the bases of their rose bushes enhances their roses’ fragrance.
- Mint and parsley are said to not play well together; again, I have no experience with this except with catmint, and I didn’t see any issues there, but I have read that mint roots can overpower parsley roots.
WHEN TO HARVEST PARSLEY
- Once your parsley starts producing leaf stems with three branches, you can start removing a stem or two.
- The plants should be about 6 inches tall at this point; start by removing selected lower stems.
- “Pruning” your parsley will also encourage it to grow more stems and faster.
- Don’t prune the tops of the parsley plant or you’ll inhibit growth.
- Second year parsley, if it survives the winter, is typically more bitter than first year plants.
PARSLEY STORAGE & PRESERVATION
- Parsley will store well in a Zip Lock-type bag in your fridge for around 2 weeks.
- You can also dry parsley for use in soups or tea at a later date by hanging bunches upside down in a dark, warm, dry place.
- Another quick drying method is to place your leaves on a pan in a warm oven for a few minutes at around 100 to 110°F.
- You can also freeze fresh parsley in Zip Lock-type bags or sealed plastic containers. If you’re using this in soups, use immediately on removing it from the freezer.
- You can’t use frozen parsley anywhere except cooking that we know of.
PREVENTATIVE AND NATURAL SOLUTIONS TO PESTS
- The carrot rust fly is a perennial issue in parsley gardens. This fly is about 1/5 of an inch long and is green or black with yellow “hair,” head, and legs.
- The main problem with this fly is that it lays eggs in the crowns of plants which hatch into yellow-white larvae that attacks the roots of carrots, celery, parsley, and parsnips.
- This leads to root rot and death in your garden plants.
- Rotating your crops may help, or planting later after the maggots have starved to death.
- Row covers are another option to keep the flies out of these vegetables.
- You could also sprinkle powdered wormwood or rock phosphate on your plants to discourage the carrot flies from laying their eggs on the plants.
- Flea beetles are another garden pest that attack parsley (among other garden produce).
- These tiny beetles chew holes in leaves and stems of seedling which is when they’re most vulnerable, and can weaken or kill the plants.
- Row covers are effective if they’re completely sealed with dirt or sandbags.
- Check under your row covers to make sure you beat the beetles to your plants and to make sure the weeds aren’t choking your plants either.
- Proper nutrition and watering also helps your plants resist flea beetles.
- One effective remedy for these beetles is powdering your plants with diatomaceous earth.
- Food grade diatomaceous earth, which is composed of powdered fossilized algae, possesses razor sharp edges which are innocuous to most animals but fatal to insects.
- When insects such as slugs, thrips, fly maggots, aphids, grubs, caterpillars, or mites ingest diatomaceous earth, it punctures their guts and they die from dehydration.
- For most insects, controlling weeds is also very important. Removing weeds and debris from your garden destroys their habitat.
- The parsley worm is another pest that needs controlled. Initially its brown and white, then changes to green, yellow, and black (just to confuse you!).
- If this worm is bothered, it will emit an annoyingly sweet odor and put out a couple of orange horns.
- The adult butterfly is one of the most beautiful butterflies in our area; it is known commonly as the swallowtail butterfly. It has black wings and yellow, blue, and orange markings on them with a wingspan of around 3 inches.
- It lays single white eggs on the plants that it targets (namely, parsley).
- For gardeners, the most effective way to control parsley worms is to hand pick them in the morning.
- There is also an organic dust or spray known simply as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that is a very effective insecticide.
- Bt is harmless to humans and animals, but it will destroy beneficial insects, which is why, unless you have a serious infestations we prefer hand-picking or diatomaceous earth.
- Leaf Hoppers are a fourth pest that suck the sap out of your plants leaves, leaving them curled, stunted, and weak.
- The symptoms are warty, pronounced leaf veins, kinked petioles, rolled leaves that look cupped or ball-like, brittle, masses of hair-like growths on the taproots.
- As with the previous pests, if you’ve got a heavy infestation of leaf hoppers, dust your parsley with diatomaceous earth to control them.
- The final pest we’ll talk about here is the redbanded leaf roller, a 3/4 inch long caterpillar that’s light green and yellow.
- The adult moth is small (1/2 inch wingspan), mostly white, with a red band on the upper wings.
- The moth lays lots of eggs on the fruit, leaves, or bark of plants in large groups.
- Once the eggs hatch, the larvae (caterpillar) eats the leaves or fruit (depending on the time of season), then spins a tight web that pulls the leaf inwards; hence the name “leaf roller.”
- The caterpillar or larvae feeds on the leaves early in the season and spins fine webs.
- Introducing trichogramma wasps or other parasitic predators is very effective against leaf rollers.
- Hand-picking leaf rollers works if your infestation isn’t too serious; you can pinch the leaves off and destroy them.
- As previously mentioned, diatomaceous earth is effective against caterpillars.
- A mixture of tobacco dust and organic rotenone or pyrethrum is also effective; apply a dusting, then repeat in thirty minutes. The first dusting chases them out and the second dusting kills them.
- Damping off is a disease caused by fungi that often rots your seeds or your pre-emergent seedlings.
- It can also affect seedlings that have already come up, causing them to shoot up rapidly then collapse and die.
- Using sterilized containers and potting mixes will usually prevent damping off.
- Don’t over-water your seeds/seedlings, and don’t plant the seeds too close together.
- Another fungal disease, septoria leaf spot, begin as small, darkish lesions on your plant’s leaves. If left unchecked, it will eventually kill your plant(s).
- To avoid leaf spots, buy good quality seeds. Don’t save seed from plants that have been infected.
- Drip irrigation will prevent most fungal diseases, but a lot of us don’t have or can’t afford to set up a drip system, so water early in the day to avoid fungal disease like leaf spots.
- Remove any affected leaves and destroy them to prevent further spread of septoria.
- You can also make an organic fungicide spray using bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). In a gallon of water add a couple drops of organic olive oil, a couple drops of environmentally-friendly liquid soap, and 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Spray it on your parsley leaves to effectively control fungal diseases.
- Root and crown rot are caused by a soil-dwelling fungi. It attacks parsley at the base of the plant first, then spreads to the crown and rots the entire plant.
- This malady typically strikes in the winter if you have a warm spell, so remove as much debris and leaves from around the base of the plant as you can.
- If this fungi strikes, make sure you don’t replant parsley for at least an entire gardening season in that area.
- Remove and destroy all affected plants.
- If you catch it early, use the home-made organic spray mentioned in the previous section on septoria leaf spot.
Kindly give me information on where to source for the triple curly parsely seeds’
Several seed companies carry this variety such as Seed Saver’s Exchange. It’s a fairly common one.