Of all our herbs, parsley is perhaps the most widely grown on the allotment, being useful as a garnish and ingredient in lots of traditional dishes.
Being biennial (growing one year, setting seeds and dying the next), it is necessary to grow a fresh supply every year.
Several types of leafy parsley are popular, including Petroselinum crispum, the common parsley, the familiar curled-leaf form.
The flat-leafed type, commonly called French or broad-leaf parsley is very popular at the moment and both types are relatively easy to grow from seed.
Germination can be slow and erratic, but in the case of the leafy types is improved if seeds are sown in gentle heat (18C/65F) using a heated propagator, early in the year in cell trays.
Plant out once well established without disturbing the roots as you do so.
If sowing direct into the soil use a cloche or a black polythene mulch to warm the soil prior to planting and use the cloche again after sowing to keep your germinating seedlings warm.
Sow a batch of French or curly parsley once a month from February to June to provide a succession of cropping.
Maintain watering during the growing season to prevent wilting during dry spells and keep watch for carrot fly which will spread to the plants from surrounding carrot crops to which parsley is related.
Growing in semi-shade reduces stress and the likelihood of bolting and is also said to help deter the carrot fly.
Dig up the roots of Hamburg parsley in the autumn and store in boxes of slightly damp sand.
Harvest the foliage of leafy types as required and when they are at their best preserve a supply by storing in food bags in the freezer or chop some leaves and preserve them as ice cubes.
Growing in pots
Parsley grows well in pots providing enough water is provided during the summer months.
If it becomes too dry it will wilt and may bolt (run to seed) in its first year.
Grow a small pot on the windowsill for a supply of fresh leaves when it is too miserable to venture outside to pick them.
Feed pot-grown plants whether inside or out each week to encourage a good supply of delicious leaves.
Rich in iron and vitamin C, parsley is also a valuable source of these and other minerals and has been used in traditional medicine to aid digestion, to cure urinary infections and to freshen breath.
Soaking the seeds prior to sowing can improve germination when sowing outdoors. Some gardeners also recommend watering the bottom of the seed drill prior to sowing for the same reason.