Parsley is an easy-to-grow annual that produces an abundance of tangy leaves throughout the summer. Curly leaved varieties are highly decorative with a mild flavour, while flat-leaved varieties have a stronger flavour and are generally easier to prepare in the kitchen. The leaves are used as a garnish or chopped into sauces, butters, dressings and stuffings.
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Sow outdoors from early spring to early summer into well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Sow seeds thinly in 1cm (½in) deep drills, cover with soil and water gently. Space rows 15cm (6in) apart. Germination can be slow, taking up to six weeks. Keep the soil free of weeds.
When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out to 15cm (6in) apart. The thinnings can be added to salads.
Parsley makes an attractive edging to herb beds and veg plots, or even flower borders.
You can also grow parsley in large pots. Scatter the seeds thinly into a 25cm (10in) pot filled with seed compost, cover with a 1cm (½in) layer of compost and water gently. Place in a cool, lightly shaded spot to germinate, and make sure the compost doesn’t dry out.
The seeds can take a month or more to germinate, so be patient. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them out, leaving about 2cm (¾in) between plants.
Keep plants well watered, especially during hot, dry spells in summer. Harvest the leaves regularly, to encourage more to form.
Give plants a boost, especially those in containers, by feeding every few weeks with a balanced liquid fertiliser.
Tidy up plants and encourage new growth by snipping off any lower leaves that start to turn yellow.
Remove flowerheads to extend the cropping life of the plants.
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.