Growing Celery from Sowing to Harvest

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Growing celery

Super, sensational celery! It’s a bit of a staple in my garden because it’s so incredibly useful. I like it chopped into salads and stir-fries, of course – but it’s also the starting point to soups, many curries or simply braised in stews and casseroles. You can’t help but love it! Celery isn’t difficult to grow and will potentially keep you in crisp, crunchy stems for months at a time. So here’s our Sowing to Harvest guide to celery...

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Types of Celery

There are two types of celery. Trenching celery needs soil mounded up against the stems as they grow to produce crisp, pale stems. To make this easier trenching celery is typically planted into trenches, hence the name, but some gardeners aid this blanching process using cardboard tubes, pipes or collars.

The alternative is to grow self-blanching celery, which requires none of these extra steps. This makes it a lot easier to grow, and the stems are just as tasty!

“Sowing
Sow tiny celery seeds carefully and lightly cover them over

How to Sow Celery

Sow celery under cover from early spring. The seeds are tiny, so you’ll need to sow with care and a keen eye. Start by filling pots or seed flats with a good-quality seed starting mix then gently firm it level. The easiest way to sow the seeds is to carefully tap the packet above the surface of the potting mix and watch carefully as the seeds fall. Ideally you want them to fall about an inch (2cm) apart. Once you’re done, firm the seeds into place.

The seeds need light to germinate, so cover them with just the very finest layer of potting soil or vermiculite. This will help to trap moisture around the seeds to prevent them from drying out. Water from below then remove pots once you can see moisture at the top.

Celery seeds need gentle warmth to germinate. If it’s still cold you can pop them into a propagator set to about 60ºF (15ºC), though an indoor windowsill works just fine. Germination is slow and can take up to three weeks, so you’ll need to be patient. Once they’re big enough to handle transplant them into plug trays or, to buy you a little more time, move them into their own pots.

“Planting
Plant celery in moisture retentive soil and keep it well watered

How to Plant Celery

Celery loves a nutritious soil that has been enriched with plenty of compost or well-rotted manure. Wild celery grows in boggy ground, so you’ll need to ensure consistent moisture for this thirsty vegetable, while a sunny spot should ensure good, even growth.

Begin acclimatizing celery to the outdoors two weeks before planting. To do this, simply leave your plants outside for progressively longer each day, taking care to bring them back under cover if frost threatens. Plant them after your last expected frost date. This is important, because a sudden cold snap can encourage plants to bolt (flower prematurely) before they’re ready to harvest. If you’ve missed the window for sowing, you can often find ready-to-plant celery in garden centers.

Self-blanching types can be planted in a block about nine inches (23cm) apart in both directions. Planting fairly close together like this will create a lot of shade between them and help the stems to blanch. To plant trenching varieties the trenches would need to be just over a foot (30cm) apart, and around a foot (30cm) deep.

“Trenching
Choose between trenching celery and self-blanching varieties

Growing Celery

Once they’re planted your most important task is to keep celery well-watered at all times, which will reduce the risk of plants bolting or stems turning stringy. Add a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer as plants are establishing to help to give them a boost. Comfrey pellets are great, as are coffee grounds, tickled into the soil between plants. You could also lay a mulch of organic matter such as compost between your plants. This will keep the roots cool, help to feed your plants, and lock in that all-important soil moisture.

Start earthing up trenching varieties once the stems reach about a foot (30cm) tall, banking the soil up by about three inches (8cm) each time until you can hill up no more.

Celery is pretty trouble-free but watch out for slugs early on. Beer traps will tempt slugs away from young plants and the unfortunate victims can be disposed of as necessary.

“Harvested
Pick indiviual stems or whole heads of celery

How to Harvest Celery

Harvest celery from summer and through the autumn until the first hard frosts stop growth. In milder areas celery may overwinter, producing occasional stems throughout the coldest months then picking up again in spring before finally stretching to flower. You can harvest plants whole but cutting or picking individual stems as required will keep plants producing over a longer period.

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Comments

 
"I think you have a conversion error. 15°C is the setting you want for 60°F"
R.C. on Tuesday 30 June 2020
"You're right - that's a typo. Thanks for letting us know. We'll get that changed. "
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 30 June 2020
"Hi, I'm a first-time allotmenteer. I've grown Hopkins Fenlander this year with great success; I've been picking stems (I tend to use in soffritto or mirepoix) through mid-summer and it looks like continuing well into autumn, possibly early winter - I'm hoping."
John Boulton on Sunday 2 August 2020
"Fingers crossed for you John - I hope they keep on cropping."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 3 August 2020
"Hi I have volunteer celery ( self sewn) in my garden and always have troubl3e with it getting too stringy and it gets brown patches on the stems, a fungus I understand. The less ventilation the worse the fungus. However, when it volunteers amongst spinach and other big leaved things the stems are much less stringy and more like store bought celery, BUT the fungus is worse. Any ideas Please. This is in South Australia in an elevated cool climate, frosts and down to minus 5 but up to 40 in summer. "
caroline on Tuesday 18 August 2020
"Hi Caroline. I often have brown patches on the stems too, which I just cut out before using. I imagine the spinach and other leafy veggies are offering shade, which helps the stems to be crisp and white like the stuff you buy in the shops. As to the fungus though, I'm not sure how you'd avoid that. Celery does like it very wet, but clearly the very close air around the stems is raising the humidity and making conditions more suitable to fungal attacks. The only thing I can suggest is to make sure you're watering right at the base of the plants, so you're not wetting the foliage. I imagine the combination of hot summers and moist growing environment is enough to favour fungal attacks."
Ben Vanheems on Tuesday 18 August 2020
"Hi Ben, Yes the whole property is watered overhead all summer. Summers in South Australia are like those of Greece or the Cape. Dry as a bone! in line watering never really spreads the water around enough so overhead is favoured. The fungus is happy, never the less. AS far as keeping the stems crisp and white...well...I have never seen white home grown celery. Nor certified organic celery for sale. I suspect non certified celery is sprayed with nasty things to protect it against fungi that are inevitable if the stems are blanched. Mine's always bright pale lime green. More healthy for one I suspect. Milk perhaps. Has anyone prevented fungus with milk sprays?"
caroline Johnson on Wednesday 19 August 2020
"Yes, the overhead watering might be making conditions preferable for some diseases, but I appreciate it's likely a lot easier for you. I have used a dilute milk spray (one third milk to two-thirds water) in the past, but have sprayed this on squash plants. It did seem to work. It may well work for celery too - certainly worth a try."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 19 August 2020

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