In the Garden:
Middle South
December, 2001
Regional Report

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The ideal flavor accent for many Mexican and Thai dishes, fast-growing cilantro will reseed itself in area gardens.

A Good Year for Parsley

This year's long, mild autumn has been a dream come true for fall-sown parsley, which I plant on purpose each October. But even when I forget to sow seeds, I often find volunteers popping up here and there. Why not put on some mud shoes and check your garden for green surprises? Along with curly and flat-leafed parsley (both Petrosilenum crispum), look for sprigs of cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), variously known as Chinese or Mexican parsley, or, in its mature stage, coriander.

Overwintering Parsley

Icy weather will come sooner or later, and when it does, your parsley will suffer. But the roots will survive and regrow new leaves in the spring if you give the plants temporary protection during cold spells. I keep a few garbage bags loosely filled with dry leaves in my garage, and pile them atop my parsley during hard freezes. Cardboard boxes held in place with bricks work well, too, as do old bedspreads with polyester backing, folded over so that they are several inches thick.

The Spring

Regardless of species, any type of parsley that is subjected to the short, cold days of winter quickly gets into a flowering mood when days become longer and warmer in the spring. Cilantro often will burst into bloom in a matter of days in late March, while regular parsley often waits until May or June. I let cilantro and flat-leafed parsley grow until they shed mature seeds. In the fall, the seeds come to life with no help from me.

I can't explain why, but I seldom see new volunteer parsley plants in the spring. To make sure there will be plenty of fresh leaves to pick in summer, sow fresh seeds in early spring. Cilantro seeds usually remain viable for several years, but parsley is a moody germinator anyway, and you'll always increase your chances of success by sowing fresh seed.

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