Picture courtesy of Fir0002/Flagstaffotos from Wikimedia Commons.
Celery is a commonly used vegetable. We eat it raw as part of the ubiquitous vegetable tray as well as cooked in many soups and dishes. Did you know it is one of the most highly-treated conventionally grown vegetables, with a variety of different pesticides commonly use? Homegrown organic celery tastes better, has more “snap” when fresh, and is free of the pesticides used by conventional growers. However, it is often considered difficult to grow to your home garden.
Plant Family: Celery is part of the Umbellifer (or Apiaceae) family, along with carrots, fennel, dill, cilantro, anise, and parsley. For crop rotation purposes, consider celery as part of the root family (i.e., carrots). It can follow any other crop and should follow legumes or onions.
How to Grow: Celery has a long growing season and prefers cool conditions (Spring and Fall). Seeds need to be started indoors 10-12 weeks before the frost date/planting date. The small seeds require a constant soil temperature of 70-75°. It requires hardening off before planting outside when the temperature is above 50°. Celery can be challenging to grown from seed (for new and experienced gardeners alike), but luckily it is often available as a young plant from local garden centers.
Celery is a heavy feeder and likes nitrogen, so it benefits from soil amended with compost and fertilizer (i.e., chicken manure fertilizer). Transplant seedlings 3 to 4 inches deep and 6 to 10 inches apart. Celery likes to have its feet wet at all times – keep the soil moist but not water-logged. It benefits from mulching around plants to keep the soil moist. It benefits from mid-season side-dressing with a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer. Keeping celery in the shade of plants that are growing taller may help you extend the growing season as the weather warms.
Container Friendly?: Yes, celery can be grown in containers. Any 12” pot that has drainage holes can be used for a single plant. Larger pots can handle several plants. Celery needs more water than other plants, so it benefits greatly from the moisture-retentive properties of plastic containers.
Try This: Grow the celery from an organic root piece (the base of the stalks that you’ve used) from the grocery store! Learn how here.
How to Harvest: You can cut celery stalks individually from the outside of the plant as it grows or you can harvest the whole head at once. If you cut the stalks about 1-2 inches above the soil level and keep the stump watered, it may regrow more celery!
Common Varieties: Tango and Conquistador are common, early varieties that are available from common seed providers and maybe also available from local garden centers. Conquistador is tolerant of higher temperatures. Catalogs also have some red varieties!
Recipes: Celery is a great vegetable to eat raw – either “as is” or with your favorite hummus or dip. It is also used in a variety of recipes, including appetizers, salad, and soups.
Other celery recipe ideas: