How do you feel about vegetable gardens? Would you like to grow your own chillies, garlic, tomatoes or runner beans? Take it one step further! Celery is renowned amongst advocates of wholesome diets because it contains nutrients like vitamins and minerals and boasts zero calories.
The brilliant bit is celery isn’t difficult to grow and can easily be handled by beginner gardeners. It requires about sixteen weeks of cool weather to be ready for harvest. But, that doesn’t mean people residing in warm spring/summer regions have to forego their love of celery.
Before you get too frazzled with the information overload, take a deep breath. Our step-by-step celery growing guide will walk you through the entire process in detail. From prepping the soil to transplanting, and harvesting – we’ve covered it all.
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It’s best to start your celery-growing project from scratch and sow seeds indoors at least two months before the last frost date in spring. Celery tends to thrive in rich soil, which means it’s not wrong to add mulch and organic matter (manure, leaves, plant roots, etc.) to the soil to ensure the celery seeds get premium nutrition.
Another essential component of soil preparation is ensuring the type of soil you’re using is moisture-retentive with a pH that ranges from 5.8 to 6.8. Celery doesn’t need warmth and does poorly in heat. It requires the temperature range to stay between 15 to 21 degrees Celsius.
Additionally, it’s best to factor in the time celery transplants need in cool weather (approximately 120 to 130 days) to mature when you’re planning on sowing seeds so that harvesting time goes according to plan.
Sowing the seeds indoors
Planting celery requires basic math skills to make sure your gardening project doesn’t run into unexpected problems. Because young plants need around seventeen weeks of maturing time, you can sow your celery seeds indoors before the last frost in mid-March.
First, you’re going to need to add loose nutrient-rich soil to each cell of the seed trays. If the soil surface is too uneven, use your fingers to tamp the soil gently. Next, add only three seeds per cell. You can wet a cotton ball to load some seeds and use a toothpick to drop the desired number of seeds per cell. The process is an exercise in patience, but it’s important if you don’t want to deal with thinning later on.
Don’t attempt to push them under the soil because these seeds need plenty of sunshine to germinate. If you live in an area that doesn’t receive too much sunlight during the March-April months, you can always invest in a high-quality fluorescent (grow) light to substitute the sunlight.
If you can use sunlight for germination, place the seed trays near the windows or directly underneath the fluorescent grow light. Next, dampen the seeds with water generously and use plastic wrap to cover the trays to trap the heat and humidity the sunlight will generate.
Don’t panic if you don’t see any visible changes in a day or two because these seeds can take up to two weeks or more to germinate. If you plan on sowing seeds in late summer because you experience warm summer climates, you can skip the trays and sow your seeds outdoors in your garden bed directly. Make sure the soil checks out according to the requirements listed in the soil prep section before sowing the seeds. Plant the seeds (three per plant) about 25cm apart in loose soil.
If celery is a staple ingredient in your household, you likely have some celery stalks from the grocery store. You can skip the whole sowing seeds process and utilise the stalks to grow your Apium graveolens with half the effort.
Cut off the base of the stalk with a sharp knife and place it in a glass or bowl of water near the windowsill – with the stem facing upward. In seven days or so, you’ll notice little leaves sprouting from the base. That means it’s time to transfer the stalk to your vegetable garden. Cover the stalk in moist and loose soil, but make sure you don’t cover the leaves. Keep your celeriac well-watered and observe as a brand new celery plant emerges from the stalk.
Transplanting them to the garden
Once the seedlings have sprouted five to six celery leaves, they’re ready to be transplanted to the veggie raised bed in your outdoor garden. Once again, it’s vital to ensure the soil you use is suitable for the celery seedlings. Be sure to check the soil’s moisture-retention capabilities and pH (5.8 to 6.8) levels. Celery roots are rather delicate; it’s best not to plant them in heavy or clay dirt that might interfere with growth.
You can increase the natural nutrients present in the soil in various ways: mixing in potting soil, mulch, or even coffee grounds because they’re nitrogen-rich. Once your raised bed is ready, plant your seedlings and keep the soil nice and moist. Remember, celery needs around 7 hours of full sun – every day – so ensure the raised bed is situated in a bright spot.
Proper care and conditions
Timing the transplant of your celery seedlings is essential. That’s because celery can’t handle extreme temperatures – hot or cold. Generally, try and plant your seedlings outdoors when the weather is 10 degrees Celsius and remains in the 4-5 degrees Celsius range through the night.
If you plant too early, unsuitable temperatures might lead to bolting. Control the weed population near your celery plants and give them plenty of water but not so much that will turn the soil marshy or boggy.
Besides that, some celeriac cultivars need blanching to keep from turning too bitter. You can blanch your biennial celery plants when their size has doubled since the seedling stage. Start by collecting soil around the base of the plants to form a mound to protect the outer stalks from turning bitter. A more straightforward method for first-time gardeners is to buy self blanching celery cultivars to save time and effort. Although, you may still have to secure the stalks together with twine to promote blanching.
Use fertilisers like 5-10-10 during the growing season from the second to the fourth month. Don’t add them directly to the plant; instead, dig a shallow hole about 8cm away from the plant and add four to five teaspoons of the fertiliser to it.
Finally, your plants will need approximately 4cm of water on a weekly basis. Skimping on watering your celery can lead to the plants becoming stringy and shrivelled.
What about harvesting and storing
The time to harvest celery is before the arrival of hard frost or when the celery base measures about 5-7cm (in diameter).To gather, all you need to do is cut off the head just below or above the soil level.
Once your harvesting is done, you can store your home-grown celery in the refrigerator for about 14 days. Celery leaves last up to 7 days in the fridge, which is why it’s best to cut them out and store them separately.
You may not have believed us at first, but we’re sure you plan to set your green thumbs to work sometime soon. Once you know what to do, you can grow your own vegetables without any hassle. And celery is no different. You can have your first celery harvest ready in no time if you start now. Just remember, anything’s possible with planning, proper soil, seeds, enough water and a little bit of luck!