How To Grow Celery

Celery tastes great and offers many health benefits. It is said by some to have zero calories, as it is possible to lose calories while crunching away. Its popularity at the table makes it popular in the garden as well.

Yet celery can be a finicky plant to grow. Even some experienced gardeners steer clear of planting it. Celery needs considerable water, and can become dry and stringy almost without notice. It needs a long growing season and is not always easy to germinate. But this should not put off the avid gardener or celery fan.

There are many varieties to choose from including, Pascal, Utah, Giant Gilded (yellow), and Rosso di Torino (red). Pascal is the traditional type of green celery, Utah is also very common. Meanwhile Giant Gilded has a milder flavor. Rosso di Torino is favored by those who like the novel and different. Seeds can be acquired from seed catalogues, the internet, gardening stores, or from previous plants which have been allowed to go to seed. Celery is a biennial that is grown in most regions as an annual.

Because celery takes a long time to germinate and needs a long growing season, it is best to plant seeds indoors several weeks before the growing season begins. Plant them in individual seed containers with only a few seeds per pot. Some recommend that two to three year old seeds be used and that these be "stratified", or kept in the refrigerator over the winter. Then they should be soaked over night.1

It is recommended that the tiny seeds be broadcast into seed trays by first pouring the seed into your hand and then taking a pinch between finger and thumb, then sprinkling lightly. The seed tray should contain good potting soil or vermiculite that has been lightly tamped down. The seeds should then be pressed into the soil with a piece of wood or perhaps a finger. Instead of pouring water directly on the seeds, try soaking the tray in water to allow it to seep into the soil. This should help prevent the seeds from clumping.2

When celery seeds have germinated, thin the seedlings. Repeat this process once more when they are a bit larger. When all danger of frost has passed it is time to get down to business! It is time to move the young tender celery plants outside. Plant them in a row about one foot apart, with rows two feet apart. The soil should of course be rich and fertile, with lots of compost.

Celery needs to be watered frequently, especially when the weather is hot and dry. It is best to mulch the area around the young plants to help retain moisture. With a growing season that can stretch to longer than 120 days, the plants do require some attention. Keep down weeds around the plants (mulch will also help with this). Many insects can be controlled by hand removal in a small garden, but sprays may be necessary for larger areas or more severe infestations. Be sure to use sprays that are safe for vegetable garden use, and read directions carefully.

Some people think that the taste of celery is bitter and prefer to blanch the plant. This is done by shading the stalk about 3 weeks before harvesting by placing a board on either side of the row or cutting out the top and bottom of a clean milk carton and placing it around the plant.3 However, it is well to remember that celery which has undergone blanching is not as healthy as that grown in the normal manner. Some celery is actually self-blanching. These are a very leafy variety. The stalks are very pale.

A method of blanching that is common in Europe is trenching. This involves planting the celery in a trench, several weeks before maturity, the trench is filled with dirt also shading the stalks and causing them to come out white.

It takes anywhere between 120-140 days for celery to reach maturity. It is possible to tell that the stalks are ready when they are about one foot tall. If there has been no frost or damage the outside stalks can be used for cooking. If there has been some frost or pest damage the outside stalks may not be useful, but the insides should be just fine.

Celery can also be grown for the seed, in which case it should be allowed to "bolt". When the seeds are dry shake them into an air-tight container. Celery leaves are also edible, they can be used in soups or dried for later use.

Cultivating celery, like growing other vegetables in the garden can be a rewarding experience.

< Health Benefits of Celery | Preserving Celery >

1. No Dig Vegetable Garden
2. National Vegetable Society
3. Garden.org on Blanching Celery

Interesting Fact:

A stick of celery is often used for a stirring stick for Bloody Marys.


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