How to grow parsley

This crop is usually grown by small producers for the winter soup season, says Bill Kerr.

How to grow parsley
- Advertisement -

Parsley does not do well in excessive heat or cold. In frosty areas, it is usually planted when the heavy frosts are past and sometimes protected with cover going into winter. In subtropical areas, it is grown through winter and into early summer.

There are two basic types, curly leaved Petroselinum crispum and the flat-leaved or Italian parsley P. neapolitanum. The former is usually used as a garnish and the Italian type for adding to dishes, smoothies and so on. It is sweeter and has a stronger flavour.

The crop favours well-fertilised soil with a healthy organic content. Side dress with LAN when the leaves start to become pale.

- Advertisement -

Parsley can be slow to germinate, which might lead to problems. Speed up germination by soaking the seed in warm water for 24 hours and then drying it on paper or cloth in the shade until it is dry enough to handle.

Years ago, I was working for a dehydration plant when the CEO asked me to grow a few hectares of parsley for drying. I had never planted this crop before, but knowing that it was a member of the carrot family, I used a carrot planter and the same spacing. Parsley takes much longer to germinate than carrots and I took a chance using linuron, the herbicide for carrots.

I carefully checked the germination status to apply the linuron just before virtually all the weeds that were going to germinate were up. I applied the herbicide, which is very effective at this stage, at a fairly low rate. This gave me an opportunity to wait until the crop was at about the six-leaf stage for the next application. This worked very well.

After three months, the crop was dark and lush and at knee height, and I was very proud of my efforts. The CEO then called me in to say they had just landed a good contract to dehydrate garlic. As there was no factory capacity to dehydrate the parsley, I should plough it in as a green manure crop, he said.

Not willing to give in without a fight, I went to a neighbour who had vacant tobacco-curing barns using a bulk bin system with coal as fuel. We agreed on a price and he taught me the procedure. I then cut the crop with a sickle bar mower, raked it into heaps, loaded it onto trailers and took it to the barns.

The next day the parsley was dry and looked beautiful. The CEO was surprised and pleased, and we processed it into little flakes and sold tons to a spice company.

This crop is very disease-resistant. Harvest it by taking the outer leaves and cutting the petioles closest to the ground. Do not leave too few leaves on the plant – this will slow down new growth.