Parsley is one of the most common and popular culinary herbs. It comes in many varieties and is used all over the world in nearly every type of cuisine. Some varieties yield a root tuber similar to carrots and parsnips. While many gardeners choose to purchase starter plants, planting parsley seed is simple and requires just a little preparation. Simply plant the seeds in rich, well-drained soil at a depth of about 1/4 inch (0.5 cm).
In warmer areas, parsley can be planted almost any time and is a biennial herb. In areas with cooler climates, parsley survives mild winters but is usually treated as an annual herb. In these areas, it should be planted after the danger of frost has passed in spring. Check with your local agricultural extension office or in an almanac to find the average date of the last spring frost in your area. Alternatively, the seeds may be started in small, indoor pots, in a sunny location, like a south-facing windowsill.
The first step in preparing to plant parsley seed is to make sure the soil is well tilled and loosened, to a depth of at least six inches. Rake the soil to level the surface. Parsley likes rich soil, so adding compost to the soil at this stage will help produce large, vigorous plants. Choose a location that gets plenty of sun. Parsley seeds are very slow to germinate and may not sprout for four to six weeks.
Parsley seed can be planted one of two ways. Sowing individual seeds conserves seed and reduces the need for thinning the seedlings later on, but can be time consuming. The seeds of the parsley plant are small and should be not be planted too deep, or the new sprouts will not be able to push through the surface. If you choose this method of planting parsley seed, plant seeds two at a time, about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) apart Plant parsley seed approximately 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) deep, cover loosely with soil, and water lightly. The soil should not be packed down.
The small size of the seeds can make them somewhat difficult to handle individually, so many gardeners choose to plant parsley seed by broadcast sowing. Broadcast sowing is a method that saves time, but wastes seed. With parsley seed, this is not usually an issue, as most packets of seed contain more than enough seed for most people's uses. Use one hand to scatter the seed over the planting area, a rake to gently work the seed into the top 1/4 inch (0.5 cm) of soil, and water lightly. After the seedlings sprout and have grown to a height of about 2 inches (5 cm) thin them so that they are approximately 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) apart.