Celery that you buy from the grocery stores usually is full of pesticide. Therefore, it is better for you to grow celery in your own garden. Some people are unwilling to grow this vegetable in their garden. It is because celery is a bit challenging to grow, especially if you start it from seed. However, once you understand this vegetable plant better, you will be able to harvest pesticide-free celery.
Celery: Plant Description
Apium graveolens, or celery, is a biennial plant. Farmers and gardeners grow celery for its leaves and stalks. They eat them raw and cooked. In some countries, they even harvest the seed for spice. Moreover, the seed is also extracted to produce celery seed essential oil. In addition, certain cultivar is grown for its roots.
To understand more about celery, you need to check these out.
1. Size and shape
This vegetable plant has fibrous stalks that grow in a rosette form. These stalks are long and narrowing into leaves at the tops. The height of this plant can reach up to 1 m tall. In addition, the leaves are pinnate and not very big. It is about 3 to 6 cm in length and 2 to 4 cm in width.
Celery produces very small flowers in umbels. These white flowers will develop very small seeds when pollinated. The oval seeds have low germination rate. They take a long time to germinate. You may need to wait until 90 days to see the seeds grow into seedlings.
3. Growing season
This vegetable is a long season crop. In average, it needs 125 days of cool days to mature. In some varieties, you may need to wait until 140 days. However, you don’t need to wait that long to harvest the stalks and leaves. When the plant is about 20 cm, you can harvest this aromatic vegetable.
One of the ways to propagate celery is seed propagation. This method requires some patient. However, if you know what to do to grow celery from seed, you will be able to germinate the seed successfully. In growing this vegetable, you can follow these steps.
Before you germinate the seed, you need to have a seed tray, high quality seed starting mix, and a plastic wrap. Some people also use a heat mat to maintain soil temperature and a grow light because they germinate the seed indoors.
Moreover, to increase the germination rate, you need to buy celery seeds from the best nursery. It is also necessary for you to soak the celery seeds in warm water for a night. After that, you need to sow the seeds.
- Fill in each cell of the seed tray with the seed starting mix.
- Press the celery seeds on the surface of the medium. The seeds are very small so that you may plant too many of them in each cell. It must be avoided because too many seeds in one cell can prevent germination. Therefore, you need to make sure that you only plant 1 or 2 seeds in it.
- Mist the medium regularly. It is necessary to keep the soil moist. In order to do it, you can cover the tray with a plastic wrap.
- Maintain the temperature of the soil. You can do it by placing the tray indoors, near a sunny window. As an alternative, you can place a heat mat under the tray. The best soil temperature to germinate celery seeds is between 15oC and 21o
- If everything goes well, you will see the seedlings start to appear in the 3rd week. When it happens, remove the plastic wrap.
- You need to make sure that the seedlings get enough light. If you don’t have a sunny window, you can place the tray under a grow light and turn it on for 16 hours.
- Mist the seedlings regularly and maintain the temperature of the room at about 21oC during the day.
You need to transplant celery seedlings when they have 5 to 6 leaves or when they are 5 cm tall. Before you grow celery plants on the permanent planting site, you need to mix the soil with compost. In addition, you also need to work the soil so that it meets the requirement of growing celery.
The best time to grow celery seedlings is when the outdoor temperature is at least 10oC during the day and at least 5oC during the night. Moreover, the seedlings must be planted 20 cm apart.
3. Caring for celery plants
If you plant to grow celery, you must be prepared to water the plant often. This vegetable plant cannot tolerate drought. Therefore, you must not let the soil dry between watering.
You need to fertilize the plant several times during its growing season. Some gardeners recommend compost and 5-10-10 fertilizer for celery. However, they have different opinions about when to fertilize the plant. Some of them think that it is best to do it in the 2nd and 3rd month of the celery’s growing season. Others think that it must be done every two weeks.
3. Controlling pests
Slugs, flea beetles, snails, and earwigs are some of the pests that may affect celery. To control the pests, you need a row cover to protect the plant. Some gardeners usually apply the row cover for the first 4 or 6 weeks of the plant’s growing season.
If you want to grow celery that looks like a supermarket product, you need to blanch the celery stalk. To blanch your celery, you need to tie the stalks together and create a mound of dirt around the stalk. After that, increase the mound regularly.
You can also do it by covering the stalk with a thick brown paper. It must be done a few weeks before harvest. Both of these blanching methods allow you to grow celery with white and tender stalks
When you grow celery, you can harvest it when it is young. Harvest the outer stalks when they are about 20 cm tall. But, if you blanch your celery, you cannot harvest the stalks one by one. You must cut the plant at the base, below the soil.
If you don’t have celery seeds, you can try to grow celery from the stalk you bought in grocery stores. To have a new celery plant, you must cut the base of the stalk, about 5 cm thick. After that, soak the cut in a bowl of water with the top facing upward. Next, place the bowl near a sunny window.
In about a week, the cut grows small green leaves on the center. After that, transplant the new plant in your garden. Make sure that the soil is moist, loose, and fertile before you grow celery from old stalk base. Cover the whole cut with the soil, except the small leaves. After that, you need to take care of it in similar way of taking care of a seedling.
This cool season plant can only grow in certain environment or condition. Therefore, you need to grow celery at the right place. This place must meet these criteria.
1. Hardiness zone
You can grow celery in USDA hardiness zones 2 – 10. However, some cultivars are only suitable for certain hardiness zones. Moreover, you may need to protect the plant from heat if you live in warmer areas.
In cooler regions, celery will thrive in full sun. But, in warmer regions, this plant may suffer from the scorching sun. Therefore, it is better for you to plant it in a partially shaded area if you live in those regions.
Celery grows best in temperature of 15.5oC to 21oC. However, they can adapt to temperature of 5oC to 27oC if it gets lots of moisture.
This vegetable plant will thrive in fertile and moist soil. It tolerates various type of soil. Therefore, you can grow it in loamy, sandy or clay soil. However, the soil mustbe loose and have excellent drainage. Celery prefers to grow in slightly acidic soil, pH level of 5.8 to 6.8.
Water is very essential for growing celery. This plant needs constant watering. If it lacks of water, the stalks will be bitter and hard.
You can use water as the medium to grow celery. However, it only works if you grow the stalk. Moreover, to ensure your success in re-growing this old stalk, you need to make sure that you only use clean water to soak the stalk. Therefore, you must change the water periodically. For best result, you must place the bowl of water and celery stalk near a sunny window and in a room with the right temperature.
If you live in warmer regions, you can grow celery indoors during the hot days. You can start this planting method from seedlings that you bought from local nurseries or seeds. If you choose the later, you must germinate celery seeds beforehand.
While you are waiting the seedlings to appear, you can prepare to transplant them. You will need pots that are 20 cm deep. You must have excellent potting soil, fertilizer, and some pebbles. When the seedlings are ready to be transplanted, you must add a layer of pebbles and then fill in 3/4 of the pots with potting soil.
Place a seedling in the middle of the pot. Cover the root with soil. You will be successful in transplanting a celery seedling if you do not plant it too deep. Moreover, you must not cover the outer stalks. Place the potted celery near a sunny window so that it gets plenty of sun.
After that, you must moist the soil regularly. A potted celery will need more frequent watering because the soil gets dray quickly. Moreover, you also need to side dress the plant with slow release fertilizer once a month. You can also apply liquid fertilizer every two weeks. When the stalk reaches the desired size, you can harvest them.
Celery requires more maintenance compared to other vegetable plants. It is not easy to grow either. Therefore, you need some tips to make your celery growing experience more rewarding.
1. Start the seeds early
Celery needs 130 to 140 days to reach maturity. In addition, it takes a lot of time to germinate the seeds. On the other hand, not everyone lives in areas with long and cool growing season. If you are one of these people, you need to start the seeds early.
Starting the seeds 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost give you enough time to germinate the celery seeds indoors. It also allows you to grow the seedlings until they are ready for transplantation. Therefore, when the temperature is ideal, you can transplant celery seedlings immediately.
2. Avoid bolting
Bolting happens when the celery plants bloom early. It can cause bitter celery and stalk. The causes of this phenomenon are wrong planting time and hot weather. To avoid it, you need to make sure that you plant the seedlings when the temperature is right.
In addition, you also need to grow them at the right spot. Therefore, the heat of the sun will not harm them. Constant watering is also needed to avoid bolting.
3. Grow it at the best time
Growing celery at the best time will increase your success in harvesting the stalks. If you live in cooler regions, the best time to grow celery is in the spring. But, if you live in warmer regions, the best time to grow this vegetable is in the fall. If you have mild winter, you can even grow it in the winter.
Adding a layer of mulch around the celery plant will give you some advantages. Mulch will help you to maintain the moisture level of the soil. In addition, it allows you to protect the root from heat. Mulch will also keep weeds away. Therefore, mulching your celery plant is necessary to do.
Growing celery may seem a bit complicated for beginners. However, once you understand the basic requirement and characters of this vegetable plant. You will have a better chance to have a bountiful harvest from the celery you grow.