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Growing Celery Travels back in Time

Growing Celery

growing celeryHave you ever wanted to learn how to grow celery for that fresh taste and crisp bite?  Do you seem to have a hard time getting celery to grow properly?  Wouldn’t it be cool to add your own homegrown celery stalk to your Bloody Mary drinks? Are you looking to boost your health and need a good vegetable to grow in your garden for the fall period?  You need to give growing celery in your garden a try.   It is not too hard to grow once you get it started.

Celery was once cultivated for its medicinal properties in earlier times and now its used for its flavor and healthy qualities.  The popular show Doctor Who even featured the Fifth Doctor who traveled back in time with a sprig of celery stalk on his lapel.  According to Wikipedia, “He claimed in The Caves of Androzani that the celery would turn purple in the presence of certain gases in the “Praxis” range to which he was allergic, although this allergy was not mentioned by any incarnations before or since. He said that if that happened, he would then eat the celery, adding “if nothing else, I’m sure it’s good for my teeth.”

You may not be trying to escape some allergic gas while you whisk thru time.  You might just want to grow celery as an exquisite green vegetable to grow to add to your soups.  Either way, you will find these tips and information below helpful to cultivate these glorious crunchy stems that we call celery.

Growing celery is not as complicated as many think.  It and can be grown in the spring and fall months.  Celery seeds germinate best in soil temperatures of 70° F, so giving them a head start in the early spring months is best.

Celery grows best when spaced about 8-10 inches apart.  Celery requires constant, even watering throughout its growing cycle.  Celery requires a good amount of soil nutrients to grow well, so rotted compost or aged manure is suggested.  Harvesting of celery usually takes approximately 16 weeks from seed to table.

Celery History

Celery is believed to have originated the Mediterranean basin. It was possibly cultivated for medicinal purposes before 850 B.C.   Some medicinal uses celery seed to treat the following conditions: colds, flu, water retention, poor digestion, various types of arthritis, and liver and spleen ailments.  Wild celery garlands were also reported to have been found in some tombs in Egypt.

During the classical period in Greece, athletes were adorned wreathes of celery leaves during the Nemean Games.  The Nemean Games were conducted every other year, starting in 573 BC, in the small city of Nemea.  The Romans thought celery brought bad fortune if used in certain ways.

Indigenous “wild” relatives of celery are found in other parts of the world including areas in Sweden, the British Isles, Egypt, Algeria, India, China, New Zealand, California and southernmost portions of South America.

In the 17th century, the Italians made celery a staple in their food production.  During this period of cultivation, the best types of celery were naturally selected with characteristics of less bitterness and milder flavors.  Early growers found that the naturally strong flavors could be diminished if grown in cooler conditions and also if blanched. Blanching is the practice of pushing dirt up around the base of the stalks to prevent sunlight from turning the stalks green.

Growing Celery to Keep the Cholesterol Away

Growing celery is one of those vegetables that you want to have in your corner.  Celery consumption has so many health benefits that it is tough to a pick a few to highlight.  They go so well in soups, stews, stir-frys, buffalo wings, and bloody marys.  Well, consuming too much of the last 2 might not be ideal, but I digress.  Here are some of the more profound health benefits of growing celery to eat:

  • Helps Lower High Cholesterol – Some studies have shown that eating celery every day may reduce LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad cholesterol).  It’s like the cholesterol catches a taxi ride with the celery out of your body.
  • Weight Loss – One stalk of celery contains about 10 calories.  It also contains enough fiber to help curb cravings.   Fiber is extremely helpful because it absorbs water in the digestive tract to help make you feel fuller.  Celery makes a great low-calorie snack that satisfies your belly and the crunch sensation that many may crave when you give up potato chips.
  • Sexual Arousal Benefits – Umm, well this might be a long stretch.  Some studies show that eating celery increases levels of androstenol, which are male pheromones.  This might be far-reaching, but it still does not hurt to get some celery in your diet to at least let the ladies know you mean business.
  • Reduces Blood Pressure – Celery has some anti-hypertensive properties as it contains a compound called Phthalide.  Phthalide has been shown to lower stress hormones to let more blood flow throughout the body.

Step by Step Guide on How to Grow Celery

Materials Need for Planting Celery

  • Celery Seeds– We highlighted some of our favorite varieties of celery to grow below.  Make sure you check the days to harvest on your particular celery variety to ensure you plan the time needed
  • Fertilizer or compost– Giving celery a good start of NPK is definitely beneficial for optimal growth.  It is best to start with a balanced fertilizer with an NPK ratio of at least a 10:10:10 to 14:14:14.
  • Seedling trays (optional) – It is recommended to start these in a seedling tray to maximize the growth period.  Celery requires longer growing periods than most vegetables, so getting a head start is vital.
  • Container (optional) –  This guide focuses on planting celery directly in your garden from seedlings.  However, celery plants do well in containers of at least 12 inch deep and at least 18 inches in diameter for most varieties of celery.

Steps to Grow Celery

  1. Place 1-2 seeds in each seed tray spot. Lightly cover the seeds as they need some light to help germinate.  Keep seed trays moist throughout the growing cycle.  A heating mat also helps
  2. Thin each celery seedling tray to have 1 plant per seedling tray section.
  3. The celery plants are ready to transplant anytime they are at least 6 inches and has at least 4-5 true leaves.  Note: In the springtime, you also want to make sure that your daytime temperatures are at least 50°F  for your area before transplanting your celery plants.  Roughly about 4 weeks before your last frost date
  4. Start by locating a space in your garden that you want to plant your celery in.  Ideally, a place that has full to partial sun is best for celery.
  5. Work in your compost or fertilizer into the soil prior to planting. This will promote growth for your celery plants because they are heavy feeders and need lots of nutrients.  The celery roots are shallow so make sure there is plenty in the first 2-3 inches of soil.
  6. Dig a small hole that is bigger than your potting seedling size.  You can also work in a scoop of compost in the planting hole to also.
  7. Plant your celery plant in the hole you just dug.
  8. Space each plant at least 7- 8  inches apart spaced in rows spaced at least 1-2 feet apart.
  9. Cover the celery plants with the remaining soil & water in.
  10. Mulching is highly suggested for celery plants to help control the moisture levels, especially during hot periods.
  11. It is recommended to let the celery plants grow for 5-10 days before you add liquid fertilizer to your celery plants.
  12. You may need to cover the celery stalks to help blanch your celery.  See section below on Blanching Celery.

Where is the Best Place to Grow Celery

Celery requires full sun in order to grow during its long growing cycle.  It can tolerate partial shade, but just be aware that it will extend its harvest period since growth with be minimal.  6-8 hours of sunlight is best.  It helps that there is some shade if you plant it in the summer because it does better in cooler weather.

The soil of where you plant your celery needs lots of organic matter in the form of aged compost or manure.  The celery plant is a heavy feeder, so make sure you get your soil amendments in prior to planting.  See the fertilizer section below more recommendations.

Keep in mind that during the fall and spring times that the amount of sunlight is changing due to the shift of the earth.  This means that the position of the sun during these times will vary.  Be mindful of the position of the sun as you plan out your garden in case you have structures or other tall crops close by.  You also may want to blanch your celery, so shading the stalks during its cycle can be accomplished a few ways.  See recommendations below in the Blanching Celery section.

When is the best time for Growing Celery

Celery is one of the crops that do well in cooler weather. Celery does not tolerate extreme temperatures, so most would plant them during the summer for a fall crop and early spring for a late spring/early summer crop.  It does not do well in freezing temperatures, so be aware in case you need to cover it with hay or a row cover if you get an early frost in the fall.  You can also help celery during hot and humid temperatures by shading it in the summer for your fall crop.

For a spring to early summer crop, you want to start your seeds about 10 weeks before the last frost date.  Celery is a slow growing plant, so this will give it plenty of time to develop.  You can move it into your garden and transplant it when the daytime temperatures reach about 50°F (10°C).  Make sure to keep it mulched and evenly watered as the temperatures start to rise until you are ready to harvest.

For a fall crop, you want to start your seeds about 10-12 weeks before the first frost date.  You can set it out in your garden once the seedlings are about 6 inches tall.  Be aware that celery requires adequate and consistent watering during this hot and humid period.

Companion Planting for Celery

Plants that help each other are extremely beneficial to know as a gardener.  This companionship helps to repel insects and even large critters.  As humans, we have played with nature in ways to compartmentalized gardening.  We need to take a step back and learn to promote nature’s balance.  One way to do this is to utilize companion planting.  Here are some recommendations for celery plants.

Good Companion Plants for Celery

  • Leeks
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Wild Bush Beans

Bad Plants to Grow near Celery

  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Parsley
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips

Caring for your Growing Celery

Celery Water Requirements

Celery requires even watering throughout the growing season.   Celery does best when it has 1 1/2 to 2 inches of water per week.  The celery roots are very shallow, so be careful not to get the soil too soggy.  Too little water can also turn the celery bitter, so mulching is a good way to keep the moisture levels constant.

Celery Fertilizing Requirements

Celery requires a ton of nutrients to grow.  It is recommended to start with a good amount of rotted compost or manure.  A good compost blend that will benefit your celery is vermicompost.  The celery has a shallow root system, so make sure the top of the soil is stock full of compost.

You can also use a good mix of aged cow manure, aged chicken manure, wood ashes, greensand, any other organic materials to prepare your area prior to planting celery.  You need to also give it a feeding of liquid fertilizer a week after it has been planted.  A side dressing of compost is also helpful to add during the growing period.

Celery is a heavy feeder of NPK, so it is also a good idea to plant a new crop as part of a rotation following the legume family.  Check out some other information about fertilizers in our series found here.

Pest/Diseases of Celery

Here are a few of the little pest that can affect your celery:

  • Flea Beetles – These are little black beetles speckled with orange/yellow stripes.  They are usually found on the underside of leaves or close to the soil.  They jump like fleas when they are disturbed.  The usually dot the leaves with mini dotted holes that can severely stress the plant if left untreated.
  • Parsleyworms -The yellowish-green parsley worm is the butterfly’s larval stage and its body is transverse with black bands and yellow or orange spots.
  • Carrot Rust Flies -These files are shiny, metallic, greenish-black flies about 1/4 inch long, with yellow legs and head.  They lay eggs and those larvae feast on the roots of your plants.
  • Nematodes – microscopic wormlike creatures that make little knots along the roots
  • Celery Leaftiers – tiny yellow caterpillars that have one white striped
  • Cabbage Looper – These are moths and looks like a loop when it is crawling hence its name.
  • Aphids – You may see these mini little green bugs that just suck the life out of the plants.  Usually, they are on the underside of your plants and may also have an army of ants helping them along.
  • Earwigs – You may have heard of these little guys.  They are the pincher bugs with little claws on the rear side of their body.  Thye feast on the leaves and damage is often found after rainy weather.  You can also find them under your affect containers or pots.

Here are a few diseases that can affect your celery:

  • Early and Late Blight – Yellow specks on the leaf surfaces that enlarges to brown spots.  Ultimately it could cause the plant to die.
  • Pink Rot – Brown long spots on the base of stalks with a pink outline that causes the entire stalk to rot, turn brown and collapse
  • Celery Mosaic Virus – Viral disease that causes leaves to curl or become twisted and can cause young plants to stunt.  This usually is transmitted by aphids.
  • Blackheart Disease -a non-parasitic disease that causes them to rot from the inside
  • Bacterial Soft Rot – A bacterial disease that appears as small water sunken and brown soaked spots near the base

Blanching Celery

Blanching is a way to prevent celery from becoming bitter.  It is done by covering the celery stalks to prevent photosynthesis.  This will in effect cause the celery stalks to appear pale in color.  Blanching celery inhibited some of the nutrients of celery, but it will be less bitter.  Self-blanching varieties of celery are also available.

Here are a couple of ways blanch celery:

  1. Mound the soil around the celery stalks just below the leaves.  You can do this gradually as the celery plant grows or within the last two weeks prior to harvest.
  2. Newspaper or cardboard is tied around the celery stalks to block out sunlight.

Harvesting & Storing your Celery

Celery Harvest

Celery is one of those vegetables that you can harvest throughout its growing cycle.  As long as the stalk has formed and there are several growing.  Typically, that seems to be around 60 -75 days.  You want to make sure that you cut the outside stalks first and leave enough of the leaves to continue to grow.

You can also harvest the entire stalk as well when they reach the size you want.  To do this, you would cut the celery stalk at the soil line.  Leave your cut celery plants after you have done this and you may also see some regrowth of smaller stalks that you can continue to harvest until the temperature is too hot.

Celeriac Harvest

This cousin of the celery is actually grown for its root and not the stalks.  You need to wait at least 100 days from transplanting celeriac to harvest them.  Just dig a little around the stalk and pull up when you are ready to harvest them.  The roots are fantastic when mashed up or added to soups.

Storing your Celery & Celeriac

There are a couple of options for storing your celery plants.  You can either cut up the stalk and place in a bag or store as a whole stalk.  The celery stalks can be stored directly in your crisp drawer in your refrigerator.    The celery stalks will keep for many weeks in a plastic bag.  Celery can also be cut up in 1-2 inch pieces and frozen for great additions to soups and stir-frys.

A neat little hack can be done if you had limp celery.  Over time in storage, it may lose some of its water to evaporation.  The procedure for getting limp celery crisp again is similar to how you freshen up some wilted flowers.   If the celery sticks are still on the head, cut the bottom off and separate them. If they are already removed, trim the bottom part off each piece of celery. Then, stand them up in a bowl of cold water.

Celeriac root can be stored in a root cellar or basement.  It is best if stored in a pot filled sand that is slightly damp.

Varieties of Celery to Grow

Here is a list of the different varieties of celery that you can grow in your garden.  They are grouped in two main varieties of celery: Celery and Celeriac.  Celeriac is actually a member of the Apiaceae family but is grown for its root and not its stalk.  It is grown very similar to celery, but you don’t have to be as careful with moisture and soil fertility.  These types are also best for heirloom or open-pollinated plantings to ensure you can save these seeds for planting future celery crops.

Celery

  • Chinese White Celery -100-120 days to harvest.  This celery is a delicious white stalked Chinese variety.   Stems are long, slender and hollow with a strong flavor.  This Asian variety adds a spicy celery flavor to soup and stir-fry. It is one of the easiest varieties of celery to grow and more heat tolerant than other celery varieties.
  • Tendercrisp Celery – 110 days to harvest.  A very large type of celery, excellent flavor.  A Green thumb Gardener favorite.
  • Utah Tall Celery – 110 days to harvest. Thick, crisp, medium-dark green stalks reach a foot or more when well grown, high quality. Introduced in 1953.
  • Giant Red Stalk Celery – 110 days to harvest. This celery has deep red celery stems that are colorful additions salads or soups.   The bright green leaves and red stalks make this an attractive addition to your garden.
  • Golden Pascal Celery – 90-115 days to harvest.   The thick stalks of this heirloom celery are crisp and succulently sweet.  The tall celery plants self-blanch the tender, light yellow/green stalks.
  • Golden Self Blanching Celery – 90-115 days to harvest.  The plants are stocky, solid, and thick.  This celery has stalks that blanch easily. This medium celery has light green foliage and stalks. The roots are round, smooth and have good inner quality with high yields.

Celeriac

  • Celeriac Giant Prague – 110 days to harvest.    Very popular celeriac in parts of Europe that was introduced in the 1870s.  This variety is grown for its large, white roots.  Taste and culture much like regular celery.
  • Bianco Verona Veneto Celeriac – 110 Days to harvest.  A medium sized celeriac, this white celeriac originates from the Verona region of northern Italy.  It has tender, stringless roots that are perfect for soups or mashed.

Celery Planting & Growing Guide

Planting & Growing Guide

Sowing Celery

  • Planting Depth: Very light cover
  • Soil Germination Temperature: 70°F (21°C)
  • Germination Period:  Approx. 7 days
  • Sow Outdoors: Not recommended
  • Sow Indoors: 10 weeks before the last frost

Growing Celery

  • Range of pH: 6.0-7.0
  • Best Growing Soil Temperature: 60-70°F (16-21°C)
  • Water Requirements: Heavy, but not soaking
  • Light: Full sun is optimal for the best yield, but does tolerate partial sunlight
  • Nutrients Requirements:
    • Nitrogen (N)= high;
    • Phosphorus (P) =high;
    • Potassium (K) = high
  • Seed to Harvest/Flower Period: 18-20 weeks

Jeremy Starke

About the Author

Jeremy Starke

Jeremy Starke has been gardening since he was very young. He has fond memories of his grandfather saving banana peels and eggs before organic gardening was a thing. He loves to share his passion to help others tend their garden & enjoys the community of gardeners.

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