How To Grow - Celery

Celery can be grown from seed or ready-grown seedlings. In the past it was considered difficult as a crop to grow, requiring a lot of work and attention. However this is no longer the case as modern plant-breeding has yielded easier varieties to care for. The delicate, savoury taste of this crunchy vegetable is great in salads, as a snack, in soup or turned into juice. . . . Just follow our easy growing guide.

When and where

Seeds should be planted out in March and April once there is no risk of a hard frost. Ready-grown seedlings need to be planted from May to June. The soil needs to be well prepared. Dig it over prior to planting, removing stones and weeds, and mixing in well-rotted manure. A light sprinkling of general purpose granular fertiliser should be raked in around a week before planting. Ideally, the environment for celery needs to avoid temperature or weather extremes.

How to plant

To plant from seed, fill a container – a tray or pot – with seed compost. Level and settle the compost. Celery seed is particularly fine and it can be difficult to handle. Lightly sow it across the surface of the compost – it may be easier to take a pinch of seed at a time. Water by standing the container in a saucer or larger tray of water, enabling the water to soak up into the compost, rather than pouring in from on top to disturb the seeds. Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite and place the pot or tray in a location with constant warmth. A heated propagating matt is ideal, although you could alternatively use a windowsill or a greenhouse. Keep the compost moist, don’t let it dry out. If you are using a propagator, remove the seedlings once germinated. When the seedlings have formed leaves they need to be potted on. Use standard 7 to 8 cm pots. Fill these with multi-purpose compost and water the plants in. After five weeks, or when the seedlings have reached 8 to 10 cm in height, the plants can be toughened up in a cold frame or sheltered outdoors location. In May or June when weather conditions are good, plant out into their final location.

Plant out your seedlings in deep trenches, with the crown of each plant at ground level. Leave a space of 25 to 30 cm between plants, and arrange them in a grid rather than a row for best results. Water plants in thoroughly.

Harvesting

Celery is usually harvested from August on until the first frosts of Autumn. When the celery has reached the size required, harvest it either by cutting off the plant just above the soil line - all the stalks as one unit - or harvest the outer stalks leaving the inner ones intact. Wash the stalks or stalk bulb and dry. Stored in the fridge the celery will last for two weeks. It will blanch white naturally.

Through the year

Water regularly and frequently – this is key to producing a good crop. Keep the plants weed free, as weeds will compete for nutrients and moisture. Feed once with a liquid fertiliser around 4 weeks after planting out to help your celery along.

Handy tips

Although celery will blanch naturally after it is picked, and some varieties are self-blanching, some gardeners blanch the stalks while growing to reduce bitterness and to produce the pale stems usually eaten. Covering the stems with soil or mulch will produce this result, built up around the stalks around 4 weeks before harvesting.


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