Celery is a vegetable plant that is often excluded from the home garden because of its reputation for being demanding and difficult to grow.
But in exchange for the effort home grown celery will reward you with flavor and nutritional value that surpasses that of the commercial varieties found at your local grocers.
Growing Celery Plants Indoors from Seed
Celery is a heavy feeder that appreciates plenty of moisture and high levels of organic matter throughout its long growing season. Raised beds are perfect for growing celery in the home garden. They can offer the fertile soil rich in organic matter that will drain quickly yet retain the moisture required for celery plants to grow rapidly and without interruption.
It takes celery seedlings a while to germinate and establish themselves, so start the seeds indoors under grow lights about ten to twelve weeks before your last frost date. Scatter the seeds onto a flat or wide container and just barely cover with a fine layer of a seed starting soil less mix.
Don’t worry if the seedlings germinate and grow rather thickly. After a few weeks prick the celery seedlings out and plant the strongest ones into individual cells or containers. Celery seedlings transplant up very easily so you should have little trouble and no losses during the process.
Planting Celery in the Garden’s Raised Beds
Add several inches of compost or aged manures to the garden area that will be used for growing your home grown celery. Celery is a heavy feeder and you’ll get the best results when nutrients are in place in the soil to sustain the plant’s unchecked growth from the time of planting until harvest.
By the time that the weather warms up outdoors the celery transplants should be stocky and about three or four inches tall with nicely developed root systems. At this time the celery seedlings can be hardened off and transplanted out into the prepared raised beds.
Space the celery transplants so that they are about six to eight inches apart in each direction across the length and width of the growing bed. This spacing will give the celery plenty of room to grow and will reduce the opportunity for weeds to grow up between the plants.
Celery can be interplanted among other vegetables or be used to fill in vacant spots throughout the garden. Just remember that celery requires a long growing season and will remain in place from spring until late summer or fall.
Care and Maintenance of Celery Plants
I have never experienced much of a problem with pests other than moles or voles attacking the celery plants. The major maintenance required will be to irrigate the plants to ensure that they receive plenty of moisture and to provide an occasional side dressing or application of an organic foliar fertilizer. Mulching the beds will reduce weed growth and help retain additional moisture.
Commercial celery is often blanched to produce tender and mild tasting celery plants. The blanching involves blocking the sunlight that reaches the plants to reduce the production of chlorophyll, resulting in stalks of celery that are pale green, mild flavored, and tender.
In the home garden blanching can be accomplished by trenching the plants or wrapping them with cardboard, or even by placing boards alongside the plants to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the stalks. There are also varieties that are naturally self blanching, especially the celery hearts.
Harvesting Home Grown Celery from the Garden
I never go through the trouble of blanching and enjoy the stronger flavor of celery that has not been blanched but is instead fully exposed to sunlight. Celery that is harvested and refrigerated or stored in a root cellar will also naturally blanch over time while in storage.
Home grown celery can be harvested a stalk or two at a time from each plant throughout the growing season. Just gently twist off the largest outer stalks from the base of the plant. Mature plants are harvested by cutting the entire plant off close to the soil level.
Tasty and Ornamental Celery Varieties
There are many types of delicious and unique celery varieties that you will never encounter for sale at the grocer or even from the farmer’s market. For the ornamental vegetable garden try one of the red stalked varieties such as Giant Red Reselection or Redventure. Other good choices for the home gardener include Golden Self-Blanching, Giant Pink Celery, Utah, and Pascal.
Ready for a challenge and want to taste more intensely flavored celery stalks? Then try you’re hand at growing a heirloom variety of home grown celery in the garden next season. If you’ve been successful at building your garden’s soil the task of raising celery in the home garden may not be as difficult as you expected.
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