Parsley is grown as an annual for its flavoursome leaves that are used as a garnish or chopped into sauces, butters, dressings and stuffings. It is an essential ingredient of many dishes, including salsa verde and tabouleh. Although curly leaved parsley looks great as a garnish and has textured tactile leaves, flat-leaved parsley has a stronger taste and is more useful, and easier to prepare, in the kitchen.
Jobs to do now
- Prune leaves
- Remove flowers
Month by month
Sow outdoors from early spring to the start of summer in well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Sow seeds in shallow, 1cm ½in) deep trenches. Cover the trench and water. When they are large enough to handle, thin seedlings to 15cm (6in) apart with 15cm (6in) between rows.
Alternatively, grow in pots. Sow seeds thinly across a 25cm (10in) pot filled with seed compost, cover with a 1cm (½in) layer of compost and water. Leave in a cool spot to germinate and make sure the compost doesn’t dry out. Germination can take up to six weeks, then when they are large enough to handle, thin out seedlings, leaving about 2cm (¾in) between plants.
Keep plants well watered, especially during hot, dry spells in summer.
Give plants a boost by feeding every few weeks with a balanced liquid fertiliser.
Remove flowerheads to extend the cropping life of the plants.
Prevent plants from becoming unsightly and encourage new growth, by snipping off any lower shoots that start to turn yellow.
Parsley is closely related to carrots and celery, and can suffer similar pests and diseases.
Carrot fly is a small black-bodied fly whose larvae feed on the roots of carrots. The larvae tunnel into the developing carrots causing them to rot.
Once you have an attack of carrot fly, there is nothing you can do to get rid of this pest. Prevention is the best cure, and you should sow thinly and avoid crushing the foliage as you thin out seedlings or hand weed. You can surround your carrots with 60cm (2ft) high barriers made of clear polythene which will exclude the low-flying female flies, or cover the plants with horticultural fleece, such as Enviromesh.
Celery leaf miner
Small larvae tunnel through the leaves, leaving brown blisters. Severe attacks check growth.
Grow under horticultural fleece or mesh. Pinch out affected leaves; do not plant seedlings with affected leaves. Parsnips can also be affected.
Parsley can be harvested throughout the summer months. Take a few leafy stems from the outside of a clump, snipping them near the base with scissors.
The leaves are best used fresh, but can also be frozen or dried for use in winter.
To freeze, chop the leaves and add to an ice-cube tray, then top up with water and freeze. You can then simply add the cubes to your cooking whenever needed.
To dry, hang up a bunch of parsley in a warm, dark, well-ventilated place for a few weeks. When fully dried, crush the leaves and store in an air-tight jar.
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.