by Jennifer Poindexter
Can I share a secret with you? When I first began gardening, I was petrified of growing celery. I live in a southern climate, and it seemed as though celery wasn’t ever going to be in the “gardening cards” for me.
Years later I’ve learned celery can be grown by almost anyone, but you must be prepared to make certain adjustments to accommodate the crop. If you’d love to grow your own celery, stick around. I’ll walk you through each step of the process. Here’s what you should know to add celery to your garden this year.
Growing Conditions for Celery
Celery has specific growing conditions which must be met, or the crop won’t work for you. Celery should be planted in full to partial sunlight. It needs well-draining soil which remains consistently moist.
Be sure to amend the soil and loosen it, up to a foot below, prior to planting celery. The biggest part of growing celery is realizing it’s a cool-weather crop.
This doesn’t mean you’re counted out if you live in a warmer planting zone. Celery can be grown in planting zones two through ten.
However, you must plant the crop at different times to accommodate its need for cooler temperatures. If you can modify your grow schedule to adapt to the needs of celery, you should start off on a positive note with this plant.
How to Plant Celery
Celery is usually started indoors because of its abnormally long grow period prior to harvest. Celery takes 140 days to mature.
If you don’t have four to five months of cold weather, you should probably start the plant indoors to make sure it has time to finish growing before temperatures heat up or things begin freezing again.
To accommodate celery’s schedule, it’s best to start the seeds indoors three months prior to the final frost in your area. This is assuming you live in a northern climate.
If, like me, you live in southern areas, celery will be grown as a winter crop. Therefore, you’ll start your seeds around September or October.
Plant the seeds in a grow tray using quality soil. Don’t cover the seeds because they need light to germinate.
Once the seeds are in place, cover the grow tray. Some trays come with a plastic cover. If so, use it to create a greenhouse effect.
If not, you can wrap the top of the tray in plastic wrap. This will help hold moisture inside the tray. You’ll learn throughout the course of this article that moisture is one of the biggest keys to successfully growing celery.
Start misting the soil with a spray bottle to keep the dirt consistently moist. It shouldn’t be soggy, but you never want the soil to be dry either.
When growing celery, you’ll need grow lights. You can purchase actual grow lights, or you can use shop lights in their place.
I use shop lights because they’re less expensive, but this will boil down to personal preference. You can also place the plants in a sunny window or greenhouse.
However, if you can’t provide sixteen hours of light for the celery seeds, you should supplement them because they need their sunlight to grow.
Celery seeds take their own sweet time to germinate, so don’t become flustered if they don’t sprout quickly. The seeds can take between two and a half and three weeks to germinate.
Once the plants have sprouted, keep caring for them until they’re two inches tall. When they’ve reached this height, it’s time to transplant them into their own individual cups.
Continue to supply consistent moisture and adequate lighting. They can be moved outdoors when the night temperatures stay at or above forty-degrees Fahrenheit.
If the night temperatures drop below this, your hard work will be done in vain because the plants will bolt.
After you feel confident about the temperatures, begin hardening the plants off one week prior to transplant.
Move them to their designated grow space after hardening off is complete. Dig a hole large enough to support the root system of each celery plant.
Place a foot of space between each plant to avoid overcrowding. This will help deter disease. Once your plants are in the ground, you’re ready to learn how to properly care for them.
Before moving on to caring for celery, I want to cover one more simple way to start your own celery plants.
If you purchase celery, you can use the scraps of the plant to start new plants. Cut the base of the celery stalk away from the stalks you’ll use.
Place the base of the plant in water and wait until leaves begin to sprout. Once sprouts appear, transplant the base and new growth into soil.
Cover everything besides the new leaves. You can transplant the celery into a container or in your garden. This may not be the least expensive way to get a celery harvest, but if you don’t want a large quantity of celery, it could help you use your waste to create more plants.
Now that you know multiple ways to start celery plants, let’s cover how you can care for them properly until harvest.
Caring for Celery
There are only a few things you must know when caring for celery. First, celery has got to have water. The only issue is celery has shallow roots.
Therefore, it will need frequent shallow watering sessions. This will require the plants be watered daily, in most cases.
The next thing you’ll need to do, to care for celery, is mulch around the crop. This helps to retain moisture around the plants while keeping weeds down.
Whether you mulch or not, you’ll still need to keep weeds out of your celery bed. They’re an excellent place for diseases and pests to hide. Plus, they compete with your crops for nutrients.
Fertilizing is also a vital step in caring for celery. Between the second and fourth month of growing celery, be sure to apply a balanced fertilizer to your plants one time per month.
Our final tip on caring for celery is for those who grow it in a greenhouse. Most gardeners will start their seeds according to the instructions above. Once large enough, they’ll transplant the celery into larger containers in a greenhouse.
Once transplant has occurred, wait until the crops have doubled in size. When this happens, mound soil around the base of your plants.
You don’t want the base of the stem to be exposed because this will cause it to become white and develop a harsh flavor.
By following these few steps, your celery plants should have everything they need to grow successfully in your garden or greenhouse.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Celery
We’ve mentioned how celery is particular when it comes to the amount of water it needs, and the temperatures it will grow in.
Now, it’s time to discuss other potential threats which can make their way into your grow space. The pests you should be on the lookout for are flea beetles, thrips, aphids, earwigs, celery leaftier moth, and slugs or snails.
Celery leaftier moths, flea beetles, earwigs, aphids, and thrips may all be treated with an insecticide. Slugs and snails are easy to hand-pick from your crops.
You may also place diatomaceous earth at the base of your plants. Mix it with coffee for double the impact. The caffeine in coffee serves as a deterrent.
For the slugs or snails which still come to your garden, they’ll meet a deadly terrain when crawling over diatomaceous earth.
There are also a few diseases you should be aware of when growing celery. Be aware of mosaic virus, downy mildew, bacterial blight, and fusarium wilt.
Fusarium wilt is caused by a fungus. The best way to treat it is to remove all infected plants and destroy them. From there, cover your garden area with a black tarp and leave it for a month. This will heat the soil until the fungus can no longer live under the conditions.
Downy mildew is also a fungus. It can be treated with a fungicide, but you can deter it by watering your crops earlier in the day to give them time to dry before a dip in temperature occurs overnight.
You should also pay attention to the plant spacing while planting celery in your garden. This will ensure there’s enough room for proper airflow around the plants.
Bacterial blight should also be treated with a specialized fungicide. It starts as brown spots which eventually yellow. Prune any infected areas from the plant.
Mosaic virus is our last common disease to discuss. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this disease. If your plants have it, remove them from your garden, and destroy them immediately.
The only way to prevent mosaic virus from entering your garden is to plant disease-resistant forms of a plant and only purchase plants from a trusted source.
Celery has quite a few enemies around the garden. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to protect your crop once the enemies are spotted. Keep a close eye on your plants, and your harvest will hopefully be rewarding.
How to Harvest Celery
Celery can be harvested from summer to fall. If you live in the south, you may even be able to harvest it in the winter.
There isn’t a specific time when you must harvest celery. You can choose to pull up the entire plant or pull off a stalk at a time.
By removing only a stalk at a time, it keeps the plant producing for a longer period. When you see the plant producing, don’t feel rushed to harvest.
Celery isn’t like many plants where you must harvest while young, or it’s no longer any good. You can harvest whether young or old. It will all taste the same.
The main thing to remember is to harvest your celery before it’s impacted by frost. This isn’t a frost-tolerant plant.
Once the crop is harvested, bring it indoors, wash it, and chop it up. You can blanch it in boiling water for one minute, and place the celery in an ice bath for a rapid cool. From there, place it in storage bags for freezing.
Otherwise, store your celery in your refrigerator. It has a longer shelf life than most vegetables, so it’s still good as long as it’s green and crisp. When the vegetable becomes limp and loses color, it’s time to toss it.
This concludes our discussion on how to raise celery. It does have specific needs which must be met for this crop to grow well.
However, if you’re able to provide the proper growing conditions and adequate care, you should receive your reward in a gorgeous harvest.