Celery is a popular vegetable that can be grown easily. There are a number of different varieties, including the well-known English celery, the American green (not popular until recently due to rather bitter flavours), and leaf celery, which is used as a herb. Celery is usually grown from seeds obtainable from garden centers or home-growing catalogues, and is transplanted out once they are ready.
Care should be taken whenever you are transplanting vegetables from indoors to outside; ensure that the weather is fine enough for the seedlings, and that they have not acquired pests – celery fly is a big source of trouble for amateur gardeners.
Celery links a trench about 12 inches deep, and 15 inches wide. It can be placed in rows with a 5 inch gap between them. If the ground as not had celery grown in it before, be careful to till the soil prior to planting, and remove any slugs, snails or ‘critters’ before the celery is planted; this is the best way to ensure that celery seedlings survive the early planting.
Before planting celery, work manure well into the soil area; a complete fertilizer will work as well as manure, but should be distributed more widely. Be careful not to disturb more than the top inch of soil, as the celery roots will not extend much further.
Seedlings should be planted at the end of May, or the beginning of June, after the threat of frosts has passed. Self-blanching celery may be placed out in frames earlier, but only at the beginning of May.
Celery can sometimes be sewn in ‘modules’, which are biodegradable, so that the plants do not have to be transplanted – this is recommended, as celery can suffer from transplant shock and premature ‘bolting’ – producing an early flower-stalk, causing the leaves and stem of the celery to remain small. Celery is considered ready for transplanting when there are 5 or 6 ‘true’ leaves.
It is considered advisable to ‘harden off’ celery seedlings before planting – that requires the young plants to be left out of doors (in their seed trays) for a few days before planting, as this acclimatizes them to the outdoors. If the celery has been grown from seed, then it is advisable to only transplant the strongest of the seedlings.
Once the Celery is Planted
Celery roots are relatively shallow, so it is important to feed and water them regularly. In order to prevent celery from drying out, mulch the plant regularly. In fact, celery is generally considered tastiest when it has been watered the day before harvest, as this allows it to draw up water through its stems, making a succulent and juicy celery stalk.
Ensure regular watering by installing a sprinkler system near the celery bed. Keep the soil around the plants moist, particularly during the early weeks – celery is best when it has around an inch of fresh water every week.
Celery can be prevented from growing for a period, in order to delay the harvest time, but cutting the seedlings down to around 3 inches, and then letting them grow from that – but this should only be done once warmer weather has arrived.