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Growing Celery - essential tips on how to grow Celery

Preparation

Dig an organic compost or manure fertiliser into the soil a few weeks before planting out the celery seedlings. 

Sowing

Celery germination rates aren't great so sow your celery seeds in stations (5 seeds a station in a seed plug) a few inches apart and 0.5 cm deep. Thin out all but the strongest plant that emerges from each station. In the UK and similar climates you can sow your celery seed in late March or about 8 weeks before the last frost. A hard frost can completely destroy a whole crop. Germination takes from around 12-14 days and is successful when temperatures are around 70 deg F.

Plant out your celery seedlings when they are about 8cm tall (5-6 weeks) and temperatures have risen above 55 deg F. Space your seedlings about 20cm apart in rows that are about 90cm apart. 

If you have missed the window for sowing Celery then you can still try growing a crop by purchasing seedlings from your garden centre or online suppliers. These can be planted out into the garden after the last frosts. The crown of the plant should be at soil level.

Position

Celery does not grow well in very hot conditions, a hot spell without adequate watering will result in the stems becoming tough and stringy. A position that receives a good amount of sun but is shaded for the hottest part of the day is a good choice if possible. You can grow the plants in grids or in rows.

Soil type

Celery likes soil that is capable of retaining moisture and so soils that have had a lot of organic compost or manure dug into them are well suited.

If your soil is well drained ensure that the celery recieves adequate regular watering in warm periods.

Tending

Celery has a long growng period - around 5 months . Careful watering is vital for good celery yields as celery requires regular frequent watering.

Weed carefully between the celery plants as the weeds will compete strongly against celery for nutrients, light and moisture.

Some gardeners prefer to blanch their celery as this will reduce the presence of any bitterness in the stalks flavour and will make your stalks paler. You can blanch your celery by covering up the stems to prevent light reaching them.

Soil or mulch can be used for blanching and should be built up as the stalks develop from about a month before you harvest the celery. The process of covering the stems with soil is sometimes known as 'earthing up'. 

Good news for gardeners...

The efforts and requirements of blanching and the requirement of a moist soil have often earned Celery a reputation as being quite a difficult crop to grow but in recent years a number of 'self-blanching' varieties have been introduced

Harvesting

Harvest celery when it has reached the desired size (around 12-18 inches), cut the plant off above the soil line so that all stalks are still as one unit. Wash the stalk bulb in cold water and dry. Celery will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Celery will blanch natrurally when in storage.

You can if you desire remove a few stalks at a time rather than harvesting the whole plant. If doing this remove the outer stalks first and let the less developed inner stalks continue in their development. Take care not to damage the rest of the plant if removing individual stalks.

Diseases

Various pests such as aphids, slugs and celery flies. The process of earthing up to blanch the celery can increase the abundance of pests.

Culinary uses

Celery's high water content and fibrous nature mean that it is great for those who like to snack without gaining weight. It is great as use as crudite for dipping in hummus, sour cream dips etc.

Celery is also a key component of the 'ploughmans lunch' which also includes cheese, apple and bread. It is also used to make vegetable stocks and as one of the base flavours for soups and stews.

Celery leaves can also be eaten or used in soups or used to make celery juice.