Growing Parsley indoors is affordable and convenient. But how easy is it?
Lots of people seem to struggle with germination and I hope to show you how to get the best from each packet of seeds and how to extend the life of the parsley you have grown. The key points of moisture levels and sunlight levels will be harder to get right in deepest darkest winter, but a simple grow light may help with that.
Parsley is one of those all rounders with a taste designed to bring out the flavor in other ingredients. We love to grow parsley as a micro green and this can really improve your timescales for harvest!
How to get the best out of your parsley seeds
You want to awaken the seeds. So by giving them warmth and then cold it forces them to split and fakes Spring with its frost and warm rainfall.
First of all soak the seeds you want to plant in warmer than lukewarm water. Not hot and not tepid but almost like a baby at feed time test the water is warm but not going to destroy the cells of the seed. Leave overnight or at least 8 hours.
This bit is a bit like the Salem Witch Trials! If the seeds float they can be discarded. If they sink then you can plant them with confidence that they will germinate. This is beneficial to you as you will sow the seeds thinly, but if you are sowing dodgy ones in with the healthy ones you will have sparse planting.
Do not allow small helpers to eat the seeds as they are inedible and contain high concentrates of nasty chemicals!
Preparing the soil for planting
We use all sorts of spare single use plastics for planting. This is such a good way to save money and the planet, but make sure there is ample drainage in any homemade planters.
Then make sure the pot is clean and filled with a reasonably good quality peat free compost. If you are using soil from the garden – heads up it may contain other seeds already, so weeding may need to occur later down the line.
Parsley is a lot more fussy than people may think. Obviously one of the nation’s favourite herbs, but you will have to appreciate a massive drop off on success per seed rate. If you compared it to something easy like fennel that will literally grow in the cracks on your path, parsley is something of a drama queen.
I would say even after dunking them in warm water you will get about a 50% germination rate.
Warm and moist soil for optimum germination rates
Like a lot of seeds they like a constant temperature for germination. Something around 21 degrees is great. We do not keep our house that warm. So we choose to use an Electric Heated Propagator to keep it constant all year round.
To make sure that the seeds are comfy when they hit the soil, we water it first. Then thinly lay the seeds on top. Take a handful of soil and then between your hands kind of rub your hands together and move it across the top of the container.
Your seeds will want about 1/4 inch of soil above them. Then to ensure you don’t disturb the seeds any more than you have to spritz them with a plant mister .Then cover and put under glass when it is warm enough or into the propagator.
Keep moist, not wet. Soggy seeds lead to rotting roots and poor germination.
Parsley Germination Timescale
You will get the first leaves after about 10-21 days. The true leaves will then arrive about 3 weeks later. These are already in a pot suitable for our windowsill herb garden, but we are also growing for the Spring and Summer for outdoors.
The windowsill in our kitchen is not the brightest so we actually use the bathroom and the lounge for a year round herb garden. It may seem unorthodox but we can harvest any time we like and it helps to keep the plant healthy.
How to plant parsley outside
You can keep it growing in pots and it really suits a patio container or balcony garden. Left in the ground it will most likely keep growing throughout a mild Winter as well. But when they are in pots you have the option to cover them or bring them to a more sheltered area.
Once seedlings have got the stage of growth as above they are strong enough to be handled.
To thin them out you will need to be ruthless, only the strongest can survive. I use a kitchen knife and gently place it into the pot beside the young plant I want to move. Then hold on to the true leaves, you can see from above the first leaves that come from the seed are not the same as the crinkly ones. Hold on the those crinkly ones and lever the seedling out.
Look after its roots and them with a finger make a hole where they are to live in the pot of ground. Give them a good 9 inches apart and you can keep harvesting all season from them.
Where to Buy Parsley Seeds
At the moment garden centres are feeling the pressure, we try to buy local where possible. However as it is not possible at the moment try amazon and their great range. You will still find suppliers from the UK that way too.
Because it is always nice to grow something at home that you couldn’t just buy in the ‘fresh herbs’ section of your supermarket why not go for something a bit more exciting from a reliable on line nursery?
Like all soft herbs if you don’t eat the leaves they will die down as they get too old. So you need to keep on top of eating them in order to keep them healthy!
DO NOT USE SCISSORS!
Instead pinch the leaves from where they branch off. This will encourage new growth and be part of how we get such an abundant crop!
You can use it immediately or even freeze and use later on. We have also seen people drying their parsley. We prefer to grow it indoors for fresh use only.
How long will the Parsely plants live?
Well now it depends on the severity of your frosts, but in mainland UK we can cover over to offer extra protection and be okay!
Two years is how long this biennial should live for and keep producing tasty leaves. Realistically you can get a good crop rotation going by planting each year and harvesting as you go.
We run quite a simple garden and use parsley that has bolted to help offer a food to the pollinators in the garden.
Caterpillars and other pests
This is kind of the wrong way of looking at it but swallowtail caterpillars can be a pest. Equally the swallowtail butterfly can be essential to the healthy pollination of other garden plants. So take it on the chin and accept some losses to nature.
We have chickens so have a very unusual set up with our herb garden being behind chicken wire for parts of the year! Meaning that only the song birds can nab the pests they want to eat. So it all seems to balance out!
So you could plant some parsley in your wildlife garden and then hand pick any caterpillars you see on to your designated patch. That way you all win.