Basil and Italian Parsley...when to pull?

evapercontiSeptember 20, 2007

Please help a city girl transplanted to the desert Southwest with closing down her first herb garden! I have had a very successful first year's garden and now that the weather is turning I am not sure what to do!

I have Genovese Basil and Italian Parsley in my herb garden. It's down to the high 50s at night although it does get into the 80s during the day still (high desert in central AZ) and it's sunny.

I would like the parsley to seed, the plants currently have those green seed pods but they are not dry or anything. Do I just let them go until they die? Will they drop seeds on their own or do I have to harvest them and plant them later? Should I let all of them drop their seeds (I have 10 goodsize plants) or just a couple? What do I do with the others? Can I still harvest leaves from them now that they have flowers?

And as for the basil, I know they are annuals, so when do I need to pull them out for good?

I've also got Greek Oregano, thyme and garlic chives. I know those will come back next year. Do I need to do anything now except continue to water? What about in the winter, do I have to mulch? How does one mulch, anyway?

I also have two huge mints in large urns that are going gangbusters...I know you can't kill the stuff, but should I be doing anything to help it come back next year?

Thanks so much for any help!!

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Parsley with green seed pods? Maybe it's just a vocabulary issue but parsley really doesn't have pods per se. The seeds are formed where the umbrel (meaning umbrella-like) flower head was. If you know what dill seed heads look like, that is what the parsley seed heads should look similar to. I found a picture of parsley blooming for you:

The dry seeds are collected directly from the plant. Dill and the other flower/seed umbrel plants are some of the easiest ones to harvest seeds from. Save the seeds and plant them next spring.

As far as the annuals, let them grow until they give up the ghost. Sometimes it is surprising how long they can hang on.

If you are a new herb gardener, go to your local book store and look at the books they have on growing herbs. Find a book that resonates with you. It will help you immensely in planning, harvesting, and growing the plants in your garden.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 2:29PM
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Parsley seeds take quite a lot time to ripen up. When ripe, they'll be brown. Just be patient - you'll know when they're ready to collect. That means, of course, that you just leave the plants where they are. Some will inevitably fall by themselves, but I've always found that the fairies pick up these seeds and spread them all over the garden - including into the cracks between concrete pavers - so I end up with parsley plants all over the place! I don't mind that in the least!

I have no experience with gardening in a cold climate, but if you do a search around this forum you'll get plenty of information on how to prepare your plants for winter.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 6:49PM
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Thank you both! Yes, I did mean flower head...and that's exactly what they look like. I'll leave them until they dry and then collect the seeds. I'll also be on the lookout for errant parsley amid the rocks!

I was hoping I could leave the basil for a while's not horribly cold and we don't get a frost warning until late in October/early November usually.

Thanks again for all of your wonderful wisdom, both here and in general on the forum. You're very kind to share your wealth of knowledge so generously.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 12:12AM
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It's always a pleasure to be of help, AND to receive a thanks in return!

You'll know when to get rid of the basil, just by looking at it. It will resemble something like the cat had a long play with, then dragged in! Very sick and sorry for itself and at its last gasp.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 4:45AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Thanks and I agree, it is a pleasure to help!

The garden forums here are by far some of the most pleasant on-line discussions that I have taken part of over the years. I suspect it is because gardeners are a different sort of people. You can't be as close to the earth and our green and leafy friends as gardeners are and not be affected in a very positive way. ;)


    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 8:42AM
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lillyvw(6 WV)

Herbs can be frozen by putting a little olive oil in the food chopper when you chop them and they don't get dried out and freezer burn. Everything is better with olive oil on it anyway.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2007 at 11:31PM
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This info was very helpful. Can the leaves of parsley be harvested even if there are flower heads? I am in a climate where there is snow November through March. I brought my parsley inside and it has grown pretty well. I did not know it would get the flower heads! (New to herbs!) Can I use the parsley anyway? Will it be bitter or have a different flavor? Is there any way to prevent the flowers from forming?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 11:40AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

The general consensus with annual and biennial herbs is that the quality is best before flowering. But can you still use it, certainly.

Parsley is a biennial. That means it has a 2-growing season life cycle, but given enough stresses it can "bolt" before that. The flowers and subsequent seeds once it bolts complete its life cycle and it will die. Avoiding stresses (like bringing a plant indoors for the winter or transplanting) so it doesn't bolt early is good. Some also suggest clipping flower heads with herbs like angelica (also a biennial) to forestall the completion of its life cycle but I've had less than stellar results with that. Best is to start new parsley plants.


    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 8:58AM
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