Cheating at Herbs

10_Parsley in terracotta pots

Are you a cheat? Would you cheat in certain circumstances?  What do you think about cheats and cheating?

Maybe we need to think about the word cheat before we all get on our collective high judgemental horse; the English Oxford Dictionary defines cheat as: –


    • [no  object] act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage: she always cheats at cards
    • [with  object] gain an advantage over or deprive of something by using unfair or deceitful methods; defraud:he had cheated her out of everything she had
    • informal be sexually unfaithful: his wife was cheating on him
    • [with  object] avoid (something undesirable) by luck or skill: she cheated death in a spectacular crash


    • a person who behaves dishonestly in order to gain an advantage
    • an act of cheating; a fraud or deception.
    • [mass noun] a children’s card game, the object of which is to get rid of one’s cards while making declarations about them which may or may not be truthful.

And while we’re on the subject of definitions, Herbs according to the Oxford English Dictionary are: –


  • any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine, or perfume:bundles of dried herbs [as modifier]:a herb garden
  • Botany any seed-bearing plant which does not have a woody stem and dies down to the ground after flowering: the banana plant is the world’s largest herb

My definition of Cheats Herbs is: –

  • herbs that are Fresh, Home-grown, Easy, Practical, Value for money, Time and Effort saving, Likely to succeed and dare I say it – a quick-fix?

You can keep your words like Deceive and Swindle, Fraud and Dupe and join the Cheats Club – I cheat and so can you.

Parsley seeds are fuss pots when it comes to germination, so save yourselves the faff and bother and buy a plant. That’s what I do.  But here’s the trick or how to gain an advantage, you can propagate or increase your parsley plant so that you have plenty for your kitchen and if you have a few too many you can pass one over the garden wall to your neighbour.

So no more excuses, we can ALL grow a few fresh herbs and you don’t have to be an expert to do so. In fact let’s say that no prior gardening experience is necessary.

Let’s re-name this post – Practical Herbs, or Herbs in 10 easy steps! How about – Winning with Herbs! Or Easy Garden Herbs! Maybe growing herbs made easy or no fuss home-grown herbsGet picking your parsley, Parsley pluckers…..……

OK I’ll stop with the magazine titles and just say here’s how you can grow pots of fresh Parsley no matter what your gardening skills, location, size of garden, window box or terrace. You can grow them and it’s easy, you don’t need anything special to be able to snip a sprig of fresh parsley to sprinkle on your spaghetti.


    1. Buy a pot of “Living Herbs”  (they cost about £1 – £2) Curly or Flat Leaf Parsley, whichever you prefer to cook and eat. Choose one that looks healthy and happy. Nice and green and bushy, not tried, wilting and frankly miserable. Remember it needs to look alive and in fact be alive for this to work!
    2. Take it home, take the plastic wrapper off and place the pot in a bowl or saucer of tap water
    3. Leave it there for a few hours (24 hours is good) to really let the plant soak up the water; you may need to top it up depending on how thirsty and pot bound the plant is
    4. Next you need a few pots – roughly the same size as the pot of Parsley you bought, or a window box or a patch of earth. If planting into pots you will need some potting compost – nothing special just ordinary compost that you can buy at a garden centre. And if not, soil works perfectly fine too!
    5. Take the shop bought Parsley out of its pot. Take a look at it, you can see lots of roots and where the plant starts life above ground you will see lots of green stalks in clumps.
    6. Gently start pulling the plant apart – the aim is to separate out some of those clumps. You are looking to make about 5 or 6 new plants. Gently tease the plant apart but do this by pulling at the roots and not the nice stalks. – don’t separate them all out, just pull a few apart.
    7. When you have 5 or 6 clumps of Parsley, take a handful of compost and put it in the bottom of the pot, place your newly separated parsley clump into the pot (holding it gently so that the green stalks are level with the top of the pot) and then start adding more compost around the roots until the pot if filled. Repeat with the rest of the clumps.
    8. Water well and place on a window sill – it doesn’t HAVE to be sunny, just somewhere it can get light
    9. It will look a little miserable at first – I’m sure you and I would if we’d just been pulled apart! But after a few days it will perk up and settle in.
    10. 10. You’ll need to water it regularly in dry weather

I’ve found, over the years that parsley can be grown like this and if you live in a mildish area it will continue to grow and live throughout winter (I have photos of the plants covered in snow) and it will come back in Spring with a few new shoots. I grow it in the garden along the edge of the path, I grow it in pots on the back windowsill and I grow a bunch in the greenhouse. Yes I like parsley! But think about it – in the dead of winter you could have a few springs of freshly cut parsley to sprinkle on a salad or omelette – how good would that be?

The last thing I’ll say is that I’ve tried this technique with Coriander and Basil but haven’t had the same success as I have with Parsley. But maybe you could tell me something different and give me a tip or two?  Or maybe I need to sow some seeds….



  • Great post! We do have a herb garden but some of them are temperamental little things and we’ve never had any success growing basil from seeds for example, however much we’ve loved and nurture them… so I have bought living herbs for cooking, and then so as not to waste them, I have planted them outside in a bigger pot and reaped the rewards! (I wouldn’t actually throw them away, the remains of the living herb would go in the compost bin!
    Great post!

    • Herbs can be temperamental can’t they – I can get basil seeds growing but then seem to manage to kill the plants off! I love parsley as it’s tougher than other herbs and can survive a winter. Great to know “great minds think a like ” 🙂

  • Hi Claire, I only grown my herbs in pots even in the summer as we live in the city and I am unsure of how safe our soil is. If the plant is particularly healthy at the end if the summer, I usually cut it down to about 2cm from the soil and cover it with dried leaves and store them in my shed over winter. Some have survived but the winter can’t be too cold. I have not had any success with cilantro or coriander, even in the summer they flower and go to seed so quickly. I try to cut the flowers off before they have a chance, but it still dies. Any tips you can give me on growing cilantro/coriander would be appreciated.
    I’m trying to find a decent looking hydroponic system so that I can grow my herbs inside over the winter; I really don’t want soil (because of bugs) in the house!

    • That’s a great tip about cutting them back and covering them up Eva, thanks for that one! I’m going to have a read up about coriander as I too struggle with them going to seed. Maybe there’s a coriander expert reading the blog and they could help us?!

  • I love parsley too and have found to my delight that they will grow from seed here, though i always buy one big one for the verandah to get me started. I wish we could buy living herbs in the supermarkets here but no go i am afraid.. I used to when i lived in london though.. have a lovely day.. c

    • Oh I need lessons from the farmy! I find space is a premium here and growing herbs – usually starting them indoors is a pain as the windowsills and tables are all taken up with veggies for the allotment! But I do have a lovely new plant stand (recycled fruit crates) that may be perfect for next years seedlings…..

  • Claire .. I just love your photos and your gardening – your passion, parsley is the only herb I buy fresh – everything else I buy frozen, because the flavor is much more intense when the herbs has been frozen. And all herbs can be frozen without any problems, the only one you have to chop down a bit is parsley – otherwise just freeze the herb leafs and your crumble them fine when frozen.
    Coriander is very difficult – basil a bit easier to grow …
    Your photos are so fantastic .. just love when I land in your world.

  • Brilliant – I’m up for a bit of cheating. Wish I could learn to cheat at cards so that I could beat Big Man, but he’s too sharp for that! I will be putting some parsley into our Bexhill garden soon, and this is a great tip as it doubles, triples, quadruples the chances of a successful plant!

  • I’ve grown the large leaved Italian basil for pesto and Thai basil for summer rolls from seeds but don’t really have the staying power to harvest and replant as required. And I use parsley so very rarely, even in making soups, and in such small amounts that it makes more sense to buy it. Even the rare batch of chimichurri in the summer to put on bbq’d meat.

    But I respect those who commit to gardening and will continue to admire from a safe distance. I’ll bring you a glass of iced tea with mint while you toil in the heat. 🙂

  • I cheat! I buy a tray of plug plants at the garden centre, share them with the neighbours, and then let nature do the rest. I also trim them back well to encourage bushy growth! Happy weekend, Claire. xx

  • Spreading the parsley plant gives it so much room to grow and be more than it was originally! Love that because, yeah, fresh parsley anytime is a delight.

  • I love growing herbs!!! Have some 20-30 pots on the sunny side of the house, even tho’ some’like basil’ do not overwinter or are annual to begin with. Now I have had little success with seeds and do not think it is at all ‘cheating’ to go to the Nursery in early spring and fill my shopping trolley with established plants. I mean I’m the one to repot and water and fertilize and divide and go talk to them every day 🙂 !!! My babies who are usually very good 😀 !

  • Hi Claire. I think I’ll have to try this! I have had no luck with parsley this year… plug plants (abysmal), seeds (tricky) and small plants that just stay small and I daredn’t harvest them! The snails also completely devoured my sole plant in the ground! On the other hand, coriander and basil grow wonderfully for me from seed…. 😀

    • I’m thinking ” you win some you lose some” Cathy! I need to have another go with Basil seeds, one of my problems is space for seedlings, that and my general neglect of seedlings. But now the garden is done and is more organised I should (read SHOULD) have more space and time……..

  • I assume these are the ones you buy in the supermarket? We find them here, too…I use the same technique as you do when I need a basil…wonder why it won’t work for you? I try and let the parsley seed itself, but have to start over every few years with fresh plants when some overzealous weeder accidentally pulls all the babies up! 🙂

    • I think I need to try the Basil again, maybe I need to find a super healthy looking one…… and yes I’m talking about the ones from the supermarkets

  • I believe that cheating is self destructive. Little cheats are self destructive to a little, minor degree.

  • Great tips for ‘cheating’ at herb growing! I cheat by leaving the parsley to run to seed – then there are loads of seedlings the following spring… works for coriander too!

  • Do you find you need to grow quite a bit more parsley than you actually desire in order to share with the caterpillars? I know I do.

    There is a variety of cilantro called Slo-bolt that I have grown from seed a few times. It still bolts earlier than I’d like, but seeing as there is quite the climate difference between your garden and mine, perhaps it will last awhile for you?

    I, too, struggle with basil seed. I’ve succeeded with Thai basil (and even had it self-seed here.) The cute little sprouts of Italian varieties seem to never reach “plant” size under my care. I do wonder if there is some trick (or “cheat”) we’re not privy to?

    • I don’t have too many problems with insects and bugs on the parsley (crossed fingers!)
      and thanks for the info about the slo-bolt coriander I’ll look out for that and see if I have more luck.

  • Love this idea Claire! Nothing better than a sprinkle of greenery to pep up an otherwise beige dish. I’ve never thought of separating a parsley plant. Definitely going to give it a try. While we’re in confessing mode: I have cheated too and grown a whole new coriander plant from a bunch of supermarket coriander. After stripping it of all its leaves, I trimmed the stalks down to about an inch, shoved the root/stalk clump in a pot, fed/watered it and was rewarded with a whole new plant in a relatively short time!

  • I cheat too….Rosemary either won’t grow or barely grows from seed for me…I pick a pot or two up from a garden center not far from here. 🙂
    Have you tried Flat leaved Parsley? Though I grow both flat and curly leave, the flat leave grow well for me! 🙂 Garden looks wonderful!

    • Isn’t it strange what will and won’t grow for us? Yes I love flat leaf parsley, and I’ve found it’s pretty tough and survives the winters well here – I like the flavour, and love it in salads
      And the garden, as I’m sure you know, is a work in progress…..

  • Claire, I was glad to see your post. I have to resort to an indoor herb garden because of foraging critters, etc., and now I can have my parsley and eat it, too. 🙂 Thanks for the tutorial!

  • Claire, I had no success with parsley in California, but since moving here I have found that I never have to replant it! It is a biennial and grows for two years. This spring most of mine has gone to seed. Now I will cut back the seed stalks and lay them into the flowerbed, in place or wherever I want new plants. By next spring I will have several new plants. For all the hundreds of seeds produced I will average only about 8 to ten seedlings. The weather here is very hot and humid in summer, can get down to freezing many nights in winter, and sometimes down to 0 degrees. If you have many nights of very cold weather in winter, then you might consider “winter sowing” your parsley.

    For cilantro and basil I find that cilantro will bolt as soon as the weather gets into the 80’s here. So I just don’t try to plant it again until the temps go down. I do let the bolted plants set seed and treat them in the same manner as the parsley. Some will grow with the heat but won’t get large. Still, I get a few leaves for recipes now and again in the heat. Basil, on the other hand, LOVES the heat! Just keep it watered. 😉

    • Thank you Lynda, we don’t have many very cold nights here on the coast, the sea air tends to keep it milder. But boy has it been humid recently!
      I’ll have to try your tips with the Basil, I love the scent o fit so much! Thank you x

  • I’m trying to dredge my horticultural brain…I believe that commercial growers of living herbs treat then with a growth inhibiting hormone…possibly so that they don’t bolt but more likely so that you will buy more of theirs and not grow your own! So I am slightly puzzled by your success with parsley! Well done, you have beaten the hormones 🙂 and big business. Very subversive.

    • I remember reading or hearing about that process too, but I’ve done it so many times now that it doesn’t seem to either a) have an affect or ) be true….. either way I get parsley 🙂

  • Yes I do this too 🙂 great succes with basil last year. I bought a huge plant and split it into two and we had basil for months. Also keot a spermarket chilli plant which kept going over winter, flowered and fruited fir second time last month. We also used plug lettuces as we were so late getting going. I am one of your club for sure x

    • A friend of mine house sat some chillies once, the owners were away and they had quite a collection and yes they overwintered them successfully every year. I’ve been told the crop is even better the following year……

      • Now that I did not know, and I am building a greenhouse when we move. I will certainly want to try overwintering a few specimens!

  • I think “cheating” in the garden (or the kitchen) is absolutely fine. Inspired, in fact. I have done more herbs in pots this year and am looking forward to seeing what I can coax into surviving in my back porch this winter.

  • Hi Claire, How terribly true! I totally felt like a “cheater” when I bought my artichoke plant instead of starting it from seeds. Thankfully, I got over that fairly quickly! I definitely felt the same way with parsley (only a very small bit growing in the garden). I’m gonna change that and by me a pot to plant up! Thanks for helping us to let go of the guilt! 🙂 Dana

  • Yours is a great idea.
    I did an abnormally large plot of curly and flat parsley in the garden- like 3x 5 ft I bet. Not sure what I was thinking but haven’t had fresh parsley in so long, I went a little overboard.

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