Celery has its roots as a wild plant that was used as medicinal herb beginning in ancient times. Now this stalk vegetable is one of the “must-have” vegetables in nearly every kitchen’s crisper drawer.
How to Grow Celery
Celery offers gardeners a bit of challenge for growing, but the results are worth it. Celery can be started from seed, but most gardeners opt for buying and planting transplants because starting indoors can take months. Look for varieties with the shortest amount of time to maturity.
However, if you do want to grow your own transplants, allow plenty of time: 3 weeks for seeds to germinate and another 12 weeks for plants to grow to transplant size. Depending on the variety, celery can take 90 or more days to mature once planted in the garden.
- Celery is a semi-hardy cool-season crop, so plan on planting when soil temperatures are about 60 degrees or young transplants can go to seed quickly. Prepare the garden bed so it’s highly amended with compost and aged manure to create a well-drained, loamy soil. Then add a preplant fertilizer to the planting area that’s high in nitrogen.
- Celery can also be grown in large containers, like cloth pots, where gardeners can have more control over the growing conditions.
- When temperatures are warm enough and plants are about 4-6 inches tall, place celery transplants in rows spaced between 6-12 inches apart; rows should be between 18 and 40 inches apart.
- A soaker hose or drip irrigation will help to give plants the amount of water they’ll need. Never let the roots dry out because that will affect growth and lead to stringy stalks.
- Add a thick layer of mulch, like weed-free straw, to keep weeds down and to help maintain soil moisture.
- Celery needs to grow quickly to keep stalks from getting stringy and tough so keep watering and fertilizing to encourage growth.
- During the growing season, plan on sidedressing the plants with fertilizer at least twice. Spread a dry fertilizer about 6 inches away from the plants on both sides of the rows of celery, rake, and water in.
- Because the plants have a shallow root system, extra care in maintaining plants is required, so keep up with the watering, fertilizing and cultivate lightly.
- For lighter colored celery, about 2-3 weeks before harvesting, cover the stalks with milk cartons open on both ends, supported boards or another method.
- Don’t wait to harvest your celery crop. Keep track of the number of days to harvest, and when stalks are tall enough for use and in tight, firm bunches, cut them at the soil line.
- Leave the ribs attached to the stalk and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Wash well to remove any garden soil and use fresh or cooked in recipes. The leaves can be used to flavor soups and salads, too.
Plant celery with these companions:
- Cabbage family members
- Onions and Leeks
Avoid planting near potatoes
Materials for Success
- Soil thermometer
- High-quality compost and manure
- Organic mulch, such as straw
- High nitrogen fertilizer for sidedressing
- Soaker hose or drip irrigation
- Method for covering to help with blanching
- Sharp knife for harvesting
To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.