Parsley is a biennial native to the Mediterranean area where it grows wild from Sardinia east to Lebanon. It is usually grown as an annual by those who just want the greens but allowed to grow a second year and flower if seeds are desired. The seeds are small and have a thick seed coat containing furanocoumarins, growth-inhibiting compounds, so can take up to six weeks to germinate. Two varieties of parsley are commonly grown: Italian with flat leaves, and curly with frilly leaves. Parsley flowers are cross pollinated by insects so grow varieties that bloom at different times if you want to protect the purity of certain strains. Parsley likes full sun, and fertile, moist well-drained soil. It is hardy in USDA zones 3-9.
Parsley can be sown outdoors as soon as the soil can be worked but is best started indoors because of its erratic and long germination time which make it vulnerable to being overtaken by weeds. If you decide on outdoors sowing, plant with radishes to mark the rows. Indoor sowing can be done six to eight weeks before the last frost date.
1. To hasten germination, soak seeds for forty eight hours in water, changing the water a few times.
2. Plant seeds in flats or individual pots covering thoroughly with soil 1/4 inch deep. Darkness facilitates germination.
3. Place in an area that is between 70 and 80 F and keep moist but not wet. Germination should be in three weeks if conditions are optimal but could take a lot longer if conditions are not.
4. Thin plants so that they are four inches apart.
5. Transplant outdoors when seedlings are two to three inches tall and threat of frost is past, spacing ten to twelve inches apart. In spite of its taproot, parsley transplants easily.