How to Plant Chervil
Chervil is considered a cool-season crop, thanks to its preference for light shade and moist soil, but it can be grown and harvested from early spring through late summer depending on your location. If you live in a frost-free zone, chervil can even be planted in early to late fall.
- Pick the site. Chervil has a tendency to bolt quickly in warm weather conditions, sending up white flowers (umbels) that turn into seed heads and dull the flavor of the remaining leaves, so avoid sites with full sun to extend their lifespan. Instead, choose a planting site with partial shade for your chervil plant to grow in.
- Prepare the site. Chervil prefers a damp, fertile soil pH between 6.5 and 7.0. To prepare the soil for planting, incorporate a good amount of organic matter like compost to boost the nutrients, and mix in peat, or bits of coconut coir, to assist with water retention.
- Start indoors. To start chervil indoors, sow seeds up to two months before the final frost date in peat pots filled with a seed-starting mix from a garden center or nursery. Keep moist and warm, and place on a sunny windowsill or under a grow light as soon as seedlings emerge. Harden off young plants before planting in the ground to prevent transplant shock.
- Plant. Chervil seeds, or seedlings, can be sown directly in the ground around two weeks before the final frost date, so that the plant can take full advantage of the cool weather of early spring. Plant seeds ⅛ inch below the surface of the soil; once the seedlings reach two inches tall, thin to create 10 inches of space between each seedling so they have room to grow.
How to Care for Chervil
Chervil requires routine watering, mulching, and pest control to thrive.
- Water. Like most herbs, chervil needs about an inch of water a week. Water more judiciously during especially warm weather.
- Mulch. A light layer of soft bark or straw will regulate the temperature and moisture of the soil and keep weeds from taking hold. Avoid smothering the root-end of the stems when mulching, as trapping too much moisture leads to root rot.
- Control pests. Chervil is a target for aphids and slugs. Cultivating companion plants nearby and picking any slugs off by hand can help keep pests at bay.
- Prune. To prevent chervil from bolting, trim and use often. This will encourage bushier, fuller growth from your chervil plant.
- Succession planting. If your chervil does bolt despite your best efforts, you can always start new plants on a rotating schedule to ensure a steady supply. (This is a common technique with single-harvest crops like lettuce and radishes.)
How to Harvest Chervil
Chervil plants are ready to harvest around 8–10 weeks after planting. To harvest chervil, pick as needed once the plants have reached a few inches tall, harvesting first from the outside of the plant, to allow the new growth at the center to flourish.
Use fresh chervil as a garnish for fish, vegetables, and egg dishes like omelets, or as a seasoning in a rich, velvety butter sauce.
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