Grow celery from stalk

#INSTAGETTY

Regrowing celery from stalks in the fridge is a fun and productive way to use the stem ends of celery. You’ll see remarkable results in days and if you want, you can transplant the celery outdoors and have a great harvest at the end of the growing season.

Celery ends are another kitchen scrap that you can regrow quite successfully just like green onions and romaine lettuce. If you’re like us, you go through a few celery bunches and can have a whole collection like we do here – a fresh cut stalk, one that’s been in water for couple of weeks and one that’s been potted.

Step by Step Instructions for Regrowing Celery

1. Eat celery stalks, cutting the stalks at about 1 to 2 inches from the bottom.

2. Place remaining stem in a shallow dish of water (about 1/2 inch).

3. Place on a window sill or under grow lights.

4. Change water every 1 to 2 days.

5. Watch the celery grow new shoots. Also notice that the color of the celery deepens to a lovely green. As the center grows, you’ll want to peel back and discard some of the outer layers as they start to decay.

6. If you look at the bottom of your celery, you may see roots develop as well. A good sign that you can transplant your celery to a pot or into the garden.

How cool is that? I’ve done this several times and am always impressed by how quickly the celery turns green and starts sprouting new shoots. If you don’t want to go any further than this step – that’s fine. Use these greens in soups or salads for a fresh flavor burst.

After about 20 days, take the celery out of the water, strip off some of the yucky outer layers that don’t have any growth and plant the celery in a pot of soil. I’m actually not sure how long the celery would continue to grow in just water, I’ve always put it in soil after at around 20 days figuring it must need nutrients at some point.

Transplanting Celery Outdoors

Last year, I transplanted two celery plants I had regrown from stalks outside.

They grew into giant plants, I was so impressed! Here’s a look at mid-summer.

Here’s one of the plants at the end of the summer.

Whether you grow celery from seed, from fridge scraps or from greenhouse transplants, celery needs a lot of consistent watering to turn into crunchy, delicious stalks. If it doesn’t get enough water as it is growing, it will be tough and taste quite sharp. So water your celery frequently and deeply for best flavor, if not the celery will still be quite tasty in soups and other recipes.

Growing green things on my windowsill from kitchen scraps brightens the long winter days. Here’s our latest fridge grown romaine lettuce head.

I’d love to hear your experience regrowing things from the fridge.

Other posts on regrowing kitchen scraps including my earlier, less successful attempts:

How to Regrow Romaine Lettuce from the Stem

Growing Green Onions from the Fridge

Will you try regrowing celery from the stalk end? Let me know how things go if you do.

Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.

Do you enjoy the fresh, crisp taste of celery? I mean, nothing makes a better snack than a piece of celery coated in peanut butter, homemade pimento cheese, or some delicious veggie dip.

But are you aware that celery offers a ton of health benefits too. You actually burn more calories chewing celery than what it contains so it is considered a negative calorie food. Plus, it is also a wonderful anti-inflammatory food which is very important for our health. It can help fight cancer and chronic disease.

So with all of this in mind, wouldn’t you love to know how to grow it yourself?

It is known as being a difficult plant to grow. But with these two methods of growing it, hopefully you can find success with it and enjoy as much celery as you’d like.

Celery Plant Info

  • Hardiness Zones: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
  • Soil: Loam, clay, sandy, fertile, PH between 6.0 to 6.8, thin layer of compost before planting
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial shade
  • Planting:
    • Start Indoors: 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost date
    • Start Indoors (in fall): 20 to 26 weeks before the first frost date
    • Hardening Off: At least 7 to 10 days before transplanting
    • Transplant Outdoors: When the weather has settled after the last frost, when seedlings have 3 to 4 true leaves
  • Spacing: 6 to 12 inches between plants and 18 to 40 inches between rows
  • Depth: ¼ to ½ inch seed depth
  • Best Companions: Beans, onions, cabbage, leek, cauliflower, spinach, tomato, cucumber, garlic, lettuce
  • Worst Companions: Corn, carrots, irish potato, parsley, parsnip
  • Watering: Heavy, at least 1 inch per week
  • Fertilizing: Apply balanced fertilizer 2 to 3 weeks before planting, side-dress after every 10 to 14 days
  • Common Problems: Bacterial blight, soft rot, celery mosaic, dumpin off, early blight, downy mildew, late blight, fusarium yellows, powdery mildew, pink rot, armyworm, aphids, nematodes
  • Harvest: 100 to 130 days after seed starting, when the stalks are at least 8 inches long

Here is how you grow celery:

Method 1: Growing Celery Indoors

via David Wolfe

I love the idea of growing celery indoors. I think it is neat to have your vegetables readily available and growing fresh right on your counter or windowsill.

Also, most people don’t preserve celery. So you don’t need a ton of it at once usually. Which means having it on hand for a recipe or a snack is much easier when growing indoors.

Here is how you grow your own celery right in your kitchen:

1. Buy Celery from the Store and Use the Base

This method does require that you start with celery that is already grown. You’ll need to purchase a bunch of celery from your local supermarket or farmer’s market.

Then you’ll want to cut the base of the celery off of the bunch. You will wash and store the celery stalks as usual and use them at your convenience.

However, you’ll want to save the base because this is your new celery plant.

2. Give it a Spa Day

After cutting the base off of the bunch of celery it is time to soak it. You’ll want to fill a small bowl with warm water. The warm water helps germination take place so that is an important step.

Then you’ll place the base of the celery in the warm water and leave it for one week. Be sure that the cut side of the base is facing up in the bowl. Also, you’ll want to be sure that the bowl is near a window for natural light.

3. Transplant the Base

After the one week has passed, you should begin to see tiny sprouts of new growth. This is when you’ll know that the base is ready to be transplanted.

So you’ll remove the base of the celery from the warm bowl of water. Then you’ll need to fill a flower pot with potting soil. You will want to cover the celery base completely.

However, it is important to note that the sprouts should be left sticking up out of the potting soil. Then you’ll need to water your new plant.

It is recommended that you use a spray bottle with water in it. That way you don’t over water the plant. You want it to be moist and remain moist without drowning it.

So using a spritzer bottle should help you to accomplish that. But if you aren’t seeing growth or if your stalks begin to look small or brown, then know that you aren’t watering the plant enough.

4. Enjoy Your Celery

The final step in this process is to harvest your celery. It will take the plant about 5 months to regenerate growth.

Obviously, this is the easiest method (in my opinion) but is not the fastest. Yet, you can have a constant celery source right on your kitchen counter using this method.

Also, it is really great that after you have more celery grow, you can repeat the same process and grow even more celery right in your own kitchen.

Otherwise, you’ll wait until a stalk becomes large enough to eat, and gently cut it from the plant. Remember that the more green the stalk is the more nutrients it provides to you.

Method 2: Growing Celery Outdoors

Growing celery outside is rather complicated. It doesn’t like heat and love constant moisture. It is also very difficult to transplant. Yet oddly enough, farmers say that is how you get your best success rate.

1. Start Your Seeds

It is important to start your celery seeds indoors about 10 weeks before the final frost. This will give the seeds time to germinate and become stronger for the transplant.

If you decide to direct sow your seeds make sure not to sow them until the temperature is going to be between 55 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Celery will begin to wilt if planted during a time when it will get hotter than these temperatures, and it won’t produce if the temperatures are any lower.

This is why in the North celery is grown during the summer and in the south it is a late fall or winter crop. Be sure to use the almanac to know when is the best time to grow celery in your area.

2. Plant Your Seedlings

Celery loves to eat. This means that you need to work fertilizer and compost into your soil before planting your seedlings.

When planting your seedlings, make sure they are planted 10-12 inches apart. If you are sowing the seeds directly into the soil, they’ll need to be planted a quarter of an inch deep, and then you’ll need to return to thin them out after germination has occurred. You want a 12 inch space between them after they have reached 6 inches or greater in height.

3. Mulch Your Seedlings

Remember when I mentioned that celery is a heavy feeding plant that loves moisture? Well, it needs to be mulched in order to retain the moisture and the food that it so desperately desires.

So after your seedlings have been planted (or your seeds have become seedlings if you directly sowed them) be sure to mulch around each plant. This extra step can help give the plant what it needs and give you a greater chance of being successful at raising celery.

4. Water, Feed, and Tie

You will need to add mulch and compost regularly to your celery. This will help with food and moisture. Then you’ll need to be sure to water the celery regularly throughout the entire growing period. If your stalks are looking small and dry, then you know they aren’t being watered enough.

After you have the food and water part covered, you’ll need to remember to tie the stalks together. When your celery begins to take off, instead of letting the stalks lay everywhere, it is important to tie them together neatly. This will keep them from crawling all over the ground.

5. Be on the Lookout for Pests

Celery has pests that will naturally impact them if you grow celery outdoors. You’ll need to look for pests such as cutworms, whiteflies, aphids, and mosaic virus. If you can keep your plants fed, watered, cool, and pest free, then you should hopefully end up with a good crop.

6. Harvest and Store

Celery is harvested at the stalks. You’ll want to cut the stalks from the outside and work your way in. The greener you allow the stalks to become the more nutrients it should provide for you.

So after you harvest the stalks of celery, you’ll want to place them in a plastic bag and keep them in the fridge for no more than two weeks.

Recipes to Use Your Celery

If you love celery, you might be ecstatic to learn how to grow it. But if you are someone that likes to grow as much of their own food as possible, but just can’t see yourself utilizing all of this celery, then you might need a few recipes to point you in the right direction.

Here are 5 recipes that will help you to use your celery in functional but unique ways:

1. Braised Celery

This recipe shows you how to use celery as a delicious side dish. It requires only a few basic ingredients and would accompany most meat dishes well.

So if you are looking for all of the healthy vitamins and minerals that celery can provide in a different way, then you’ll want to give this recipe a try.

Make this celery dish.

2. Cream of Celery Soup

This is another super simple recipe that will allow you to use your fresh grown celery. You might be wondering when you would use a cream of celery soup.

Well, it could make a great base to some cream soups, or you could use it with crock pot chicken recipes to give it a different taste.

Make this celery dish.

3. Green Apple, Celery, and Walnut Salad

Do you like different crunchy salads? Well, if so, then you will probably love this recipe. It has a ton of fresh ingredients that all offer a lot of crunch with it.

Plus, it also shows you how to make a delicious vinaigrette dressing to accompany this very appetizing salad.

Make this celery dish.

4. Frozen Celery

I told you earlier that most people don’t preserve celery. Just because they don’t commonly can it, doesn’t mean it can’t be frozen.

So this tutorial shows you how to freeze celery so it is easy to use for different recipes or even a quick snack. Plus, you don’t lose any produce this way.

Make this celery dish.

5. Buffalo Chicken and Celery Appetizer

I really like this celery recipe. The reason is that I love celery with all kinds of different items on it. Since I’m a huge buffalo chicken fan, this would naturally be a great topping for me.

So if you like to enjoy celery with yummy goodness heaped on top of it, then you’ll want to check out this recipe.

Make this celery dish.

Now, you not only know how to grow your celery both indoors and outdoors, but you are also prepared to use the celery in 5 different ways.

Hopefully this will help you to enjoy a fresh harvest of celery when you want it and save a little money along the way as well.

But I’d love to hear what you think. Have you ever grown celery? What challenges did you face? Was it easy or hard for you? And how did you utilize or preserve your harvest?

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Only recently have I begun to appreciate the celery stalk—adding it to soups and grinding it down into a salt—as my new kitchen secret for adding subtle bits of flavor. So when I spotted this resourceful celery growing experiment from Mary Andrews and Tim Vidra, I thought I would share their findings. See the process below and see more at 17 Apart.

Photography courtesy of 17 Apart.

Above: The celery plant after about three weeks of growth.

Above: After you’ve eaten the stalks and inner leaves of your organic store-bought celery, save the root. Rinse it, and place it in a bowl of warm water near a sun-soaked windowsill; base down, stalk up.

Above: After about a week in the water bowl, transfer the root to a pot filled with mulch and potting soil for proper drainage.

Above: Water the celery generously (and continue to water at consistent intervals, being careful not to over water the plant—you don’t want the leaves to turn yellow).

Above: The celery plant, as it began to grow out of the oatmeal can.

Above: The result is an established celery plant with leaves you can carefully use right away—and stalks you can use later as the celery continues to grow.

For more DIY ideas see our previous posts: Maidenhair Fern for Bathroom Greenery and Bottle-Fed Paperwhites.

N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published April 3, 2013.

Growing Celery Indoors: Never Buy Celery Again

Remember when we tested and shared how to grow onions indefinitely last week? Well, at the same time, we’ve been testing out another little indoor gardening project first gleaned from Pinterest that we’re excited to share the success of today — regrowing celery from its base.

We’ve figured out how to literally re-grow organic celery from the base of the bunch we bought from the store a couple weeks ago. I swear, we must have been living under a rock all these years or just not be that resourceful when it comes to food, but we’re having more fun learning all these new little tips and tricks as we dive deeper into trying to grow more of our own food.

This project is almost as simple as the onion growing project — simply chop the celery stalks from the base of the celery you bought from the store and use as you normally would. In our case, we had a particular homemade bean dip that needed sampling!

Instead of tossing the base, rinse it off and place it in a small saucer or bowl of warm water on or near a sunny windowsill — base side down and cut stalks facing upright.

We let our celery base hang out in the saucer of water for right around one week, give or take. Over the course of the week, the surrounding stalks began to dry out significantly, but the tiny little yellow leaves from the center of the base began thickening, growing up and out from the center, and turned a dark green. The growth was slow, but steady and evident.

After the 5-7 days were complete, we transferred our celery base to a planter and covered it completely save for the leaf tips with a mixture of dirt and potting soil.

We watered it generously and after planting in the soil, the overall growth really took off. Not only do we have celery leaves regenerating themselves from the base, but you can see clear stalks making their way up and out. It’s truly fascinating what we have not even a week after planting in the soil:

A few notes:

  • Change out the water every couple of days while in the “saucer” phase of the project. We also used a spray bottle to spray water directly onto the base of the celery where the leaves were growing out.
  • The tutorials we saw showed planting the celery directly into the dirt outside — you may want to go this route if you live in a temperate area or want to be able to harvest outdoors. We went with an indoor planter since it’s still pretty cold here in VA, we have limited outdoor space in the city, and the space we do have is currently unprotected from our curious puppy.
  • Continue to generously water the celery after planting to keep it thriving.

Be sure to follow 17 Apart for more updates!

Grow an Indoor Salad Garden From Stems

Start an easy salad garden without planting a single seed!

Everybody needs a food garden. No matter how small your garden and meager your harvest, the fresh food that you produce there will will be tasty and nutritious. It will connect you with the natural world.

Okay, maybe you don’t have much or any outdoor space. Or, perhaps it’s not spring and seed packets are hard to find. But you could also start an indoor salad garden by using the produce from your local grocery store!

Stumps, Stems, and Roots

Begin in the produce aisle of your local supermarket. Toss in a couple of bunches of celery and and couple of heads of Romaine lettuce (or other lettuce attached to an intact base), a few small onions, and several packages of the fresh herbs that you use most: basil, oregano, mint, thyme, sage, rosemary. You’ll want stems 4 to 6 inches long.

Head for the organic section to collect a couple of sweet potatoes, a few beets, a few large radishes, and a few unwaxed turnips. Why organic? You’ll want your roots to sprout, and many conventionally grown root vegetables have been sprayed to prevent sprouting.

These vegetables comprise your garden starters. The cost is negligible, because you get to eat a lot of what you’ve bought.

Gardening Supplies

You’ll also need:

  • Containers for your plants. Your imagination is the limiting factor here. The only requirements for a good plant container: It must hold soil, drain well, and have contained no toxic or hazardous materials. Coffee cans, plastic buckets, galvanized tubs, all with drainage holes punched into the bottom and sides; clay pots of any size or shape; burlap bags; wooden crates; polypropylene shopping bags; sandbags; window boxes; cut-away soda bottles; a length of PVC pipe with planting holes cut out; pieces of roof gutter with holes drilled in the bottom.
  • A bag of sterile potting soil. Don’t use ordinary topsoil. It’s too heavy for indoor plantings and may contain weed seeds, spores of plant diseases, and insect pests.
  • Some form of liquid fertilizer. You can find many complete liquid fertilizers at garden centers. I use a commercial product containing a mixture of fish emulsion and seaweed extract. (It’s very smelly, but the smell dissipates within a few hours.) Use any fertilizer according to package directions.
  • Sunny windowsills or a full-spectrum fluorescent light fixture or two. Although leafy crops don’t need as much sun as those that flower and fruit, your growing crops will still need a few hours of sunlight each day. Indoor growers have developed some truly ingenious ways to make the most of what light they have.
  • A watering can and maybe a plant mister. You can even make your own waterer from a plastic jug. A repurposed spray bottle or one from the dollar store will work fine for misting.

Growing salads and soup greens

  • Celery from a stump: Just cut the bottom 2 inches from a bunch of celery (refrigerate the stalks for later use) and “plant” it, root side down, in a saucer of water or an inch or two or pot of moist sand or potting soil. Leaves, then tender stalks will slowly emerge from the center. When the stump is well rooted, transplant it into a larger pot. You’ll be able to harvest tender stems and leaves for soups and salads for many months.
  • Romaine or other lettuce from a stump: Follow the same procedure as for celery. Pick the outer leaves as they mature, leaving new leaves to grow from the center.
  • Clone new basil, sage, mint, thyme, oregano, or rosemary plants: Remove lower leaves from the stems of fresh herbs and set the stems in water. Keep the water fresh. Once your stem has a good set of roots, you can plant it in potting soil in a suitable container. Keep the plants growing in a sunny windowsill or under a full-spectrum fluorescent. Trim “branches” as needed to clone new plants.
  • Sweet potato foliage: Unless you often shop at ethnic supermarkets or do a lot of Asian-style cooking, you may not know that sweet potato foliage is edible, tasty, nutritious–and makes a gorgeous, irrepressibly vining houseplant. Note: Don’t try this with regular potatoes, whose sprouts and leaves are poisonous. Slice the sweet potato root in half or leave it whole. Use the toothpick method to suspend your sweet potato in a jar of water with the cut side under water until it begins rooting and sprouting. Each little “eye” above the water level will grow a new slip that you can remove and place in water to root. You can even grow tubers from your rooted slips in a large polypropylene shopping bag or other suitable container if you have enough space.
  • For fresh green onions: Cut a bit of the root ends from cooking onions (leaving an inch or so of flesh) or from a bunch of scallions and plant them in a pot of moist growing medium. You can even plant a whole cooking onion that’s begun to sprout. Trim blades for use as the new scallions reach harvestable size.
  • To grow beet, radish, or turnip greens: Follow steps similar to those outlined for sweet potatoes. You can use the toothpick-suspension method or plant your cut roots in a large, shallow bowl with water and clean sand or some some small rocks. Remove the largest outer leaves (if any), cut off about a third of the root, and set the flat cut end in the bowl. Once each root grows a healthy set of roots and leaves, plant it in a container of potting soil. As the new plant grows, harvest the outer leaves for salads or cooking; leave the center leaves to grow.

Try it yourself and let us know how it goes!

Did you know that when you buy celery at the supermarket, there are ways to recover the plant and get it to grow again? It’s an easy project to carry out on the average windowsill and a great way to show the children how plants grow… but it’s also a net savings for you, because the original celery plant will provide several more months of greenery. Here’s what to do:

The next time you chop up a bunch of store-bought celery, leave its base intact (aim for a height of about 2 inches/5 cm). Now place the stump in a bowl, cut side up, and add enough water so the base sits in it. Soon small white roots will appear and new leaves will emerge from the center of the stump. For good green growth to occur, you’ll need to place the bowl on a sunny windowsill… and add water regularly as soon as the level drops. The base must be moist at all times. The leaves produced rarely result in the long thick stalks you’re used to, but are still perfectly edible and you can chop them up and use them in any recipe that calls for celery.

Better Than Water

Growing a celery stump in water is a bit of a gimmick, though. It’s great for kids and seems to please non-gardeners who somehow feel that growing anything is just plain water is really cool. But it you want truly long lasting results, try growing it in soil.

To do so, fill a pot with moist potting soil and set the stump firmly into it. Now that it’s growing in an environment more like that of a vegetable garden, it will be much more productive and long lasting. Put the pot in a sunny spot, keep the soil slightly moist and you can usually get at least 4 to 5 months of growth, often more.

Of course, that’s on a windowsill. Still not ideal conditions for a celery plant. Better yet, therefore, when your celery stump is well rooted, plant it outdoors in the vegetable garden, in full sun (acclimatize it first) and rich, moist soil. It will take off and grow just like a seed-sown celery plant, giving a full-sized plant of supermarket quality, ready to harvest at the end of the summer. And then you can harvest the stump and start all over again!

All About Growing Celery

For more information about types of celery and our recommended varieties, see our Celeries at a Glance chart.

When to Plant Celery

Celery seeds of all types are small and may germinate erratically. Start them in doors or in a greenhouse 10 to 12 weeks before your last spring frost and give them bright light. Seedlings that have more than five leaves can be hardened off and set out when average night temperatures are above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposure to cold for more than a week can trigger plants to bolt and produce seeds. In hot summer areas with mild winters, start seeds indoors in late summer and set them out in early fall. Plants should be ready to harvest about 90 days after you put your seedlings in the ground.

How to Plant Celery

Choose a sunny site that is convenient to water, because celery requires constant moisture. If possible, allow space between rows for a shallow trench that can be flooded with water in dry weather. Dig in a 1-inch layer of rich compost and a standard application of a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer, such as dried poultry manure, and water well. Wait at least three days before planting seedlings 12 to 14 inches apart. Before hot weather comes, mulch between plants with grass clippings or another organic mulch to keep the soil cool and moist.

Growing Celery: Tips and Tricks

Celery and celeriac seedlings should show vigorous new growth a few weeks after they have been transplanted. Plants that are making little progress should be drenched with fish emulsion or another organic liquid fertilizer. Try to keep the plants’ roots moist at all times, and don’t worry about excessive rain — celery and celeriac tolerate waterlogged soil better than other vegetables.

To encourage stalk celery to develop a pale, mild-flavored heart, use an elastic hair scrunchie or strips of soft cloth to secure the stalks into a bunch after the plants have been growing in the garden for eight to 10 weeks. Blanching — excluding light from the stalks to prevent chlorophyll production — for one to two weeks is necessary to grow celery that looks lighter and tastes milder (think supermarket celery).

Harvesting and Storage

Cut high, 1 to 2 inches from the ground, when harvesting celery hearts. A new stalk (and sometimes two or three) will sprout from the stump left behind. Trim off excess leaves and tough outer stalks before storing celery in the refrigerator. Freeze blemished celery and the outside stalks that are dark and coarse for flavoring broths and stocks. Include bits of celery or cutting celery in packets of frozen garden veggies. Blanch and dry a bumper crop of stalk celery or cutting celery. Dried celery makes a great addition to homemade soup mixes.

Celeriac plants shed their lowest, oldest leaves naturally beginning in midsummer. Low, hollow stems in good condition can even be used as novel drinking straws. Harvest celeriac before hard freezes damage the roots. Clip off all leaves and roots before storing celeriac in the refrigerator or packed in damp sand in your root cellar.

Propagating Celery

Celery is a biennial plant capable of producing large amounts of seed for eating and replanting in climates where plants survive winter (Zones 5 and 6, depending on exposure). Cutting celery in particular will reseed itself to become a welcome volunteer crop. To grow a crop of celery seed, lightly mulch over the crowns of 1-year-old plants in early winter, after they have been killed back by cold. Or, protect them with a dome or tipi made from scraps of row cover. Remove mulch or covers in early spring, and allow the plants to grow until they produce tiny white flowers followed by dark brown seeds. Collect seed-bearing stems in a paper bag and allow them to dry indoors for a few days. The ripe seeds will accumulate at the bottom of the bag.

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Celeriac seed can be grown this way as well, or you can start seeds indoors in late winter and set out the plants under row covers while the weather is still cold. Exposure to cold triggers bolting, making it possible to grow a seed crop of celeriac (or other celery) in one growing season.

Final Recommendations for Growing Celery

Commercial celery crops suffer from a long list of insect and disease problems, but garden celery is often trouble-free when grown in rich, moist soil. Be sure to rotate celery with unrelated vegetables to prevent the buildup of soilborne diseases that flourish in wet soil.

Stems that seem dry and have hollow channels did not receive enough water. The best crops come in rainy years. Celery and celeriac benefit from frequent drenches with a liquid organic fertilizer.

In the Kitchen

Low in calories yet high in fiber, celery is a good source of vitamins A, C and K. Chop stalk celery into salads, soups and main dishes to impart flavor and texture. You can do the same with cutting celery by choosing young stalks and cutting them into small pieces. If any garden celery tastes so strong it’s almost bitter (a side effect of strong sun), blanch pieces for a minute or two in boiling water before adding to cooked dishes. Peel celeriac with a sharp knife, and cook the nutty flesh like potatoes. If you’ve never tasted celeriac, you’ll become a devotee after you’ve sampled it braised in butter with a little salt.

If you buy organic celery, immediately cut off the bottom inch of the bunch and plant it to half its depth in a pot of moist soil. By the time you have used the celery you bought, a small new bunch of two or three stalks should appear in the pot. Harvest it when they are about 8 inches tall, because the minimally rooted base won’t be able to support a full-sized plant. Trimmed celery stalks will keep for weeks in the refrigerator if wrapped in aluminum foil.

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.

Growing Celery

Celery has a reputation for being a fussy, hard-to-grow vegetable. There’s a lot of truth to that, but with the right climate and some care, you can grow large, tender plants. A dozen plants will take up five or six feet of row, and it’s worth trying.

A Long Season Crop

Celery is challenging because it needs a long time to grow – up to 130 or 140 days of mostly cool weather – and it’s quite demanding when it comes to water and fertilizer. ‘Utah 52-70R Improved’ is a good, well-adapted variety. If your soil stays moist and has plenty of organic matter in it, you’re in good shape for growing celery. Shut off the water supply even for a short time, however, and you’re in trouble.

The roots of celery plants are limited, usually stretching just six to eight inches away from the plant and only two to three inches deep, so the top part of the soil not only has to have enough moisture, it must also contain all the nutrients the plants need.

Keep Celery Cool

Celery plants don’t like hot weather at all. The crop will thrive only where the winters are mild, or where the summers are relatively cool, or where there’s a long, cool growing period in the fall.

Getting Started

Because celery takes such a long time to grow, in most parts of the country it’s best to start the seeds in plant boxes or flats indoors to get a jump on the season. Celery seeds are slow to germinate, so soak them overnight to speed up the process. Plant them indoors 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost. When the plants are two inches tall, transplant them to individual peat pots or to another, deeper, flat with new potting soil. If you use flats, put the plants at least two inches apart.

Transplanting

Transplant celery to the garden as early as a week or two before the last frost date. Plants should be four to six inches high when you set them out. Be sure to harden plants off first for a week to 10 days to get them used to spring weather. It the weather turns cold after you set your celery out (night temperatures consistently under 55° F for about two weeks), the plants may go to seed prematurely. But because of the need for a long growing season, it’s often worth the gamble to set at least some plants out early.

To transplant celery, first work the soil, mixing in the fertilizer (about one pound of 5-10-10 per 30 square feet). Remove some of the outside leaves from each plant before setting them in. As with head lettuce, this trimming helps the roots recover from the transplant shock and resume normal growth more quickly.

Space the plants about eight inches apart, setting them a little deeper than they were growing in the flat. Mulch the plants after they’re about six inches tall to help keep the soil moist and roots cool. It will also help to keep down weeds, which is important because celery grows slowly and doesn’t appreciate any competition from weeds. If you don’t mulch, be careful not to weed too deeply near plants. Celery has a shallow root system that can be harmed by deep cultivation.

Fertilizing and Watering

Sidedressings of 5-10-10 or a similar balanced fertilizer or manure tea in the second and third month of growth will help keep celery growing steadily. Use one tablespoon per plant and sprinkle it in a shallow furrow three to four inches from the plant and cover it with soil. Continue to apply manure tea weekly as you water the plants.

Give your plants plenty of water. If celery is short on moisture, or a hot spell hits, the stalks get tough and stringy. They can also develop hollow or pithy stalks in dry spells.

When celery gets big enough to eat, start harvesting the larger, outer stalks as you need them. The center will keep producing stalks. To harvest big plants at the end of the season, simply pull up the whole plant and trim off the roots.

Blanching

Unblanched celery has a deeper green color and a stronger flavor than blanched celery, and it’s higher in nutrition. If you prefer the taste of blanched celery, try one of the self-blanching varieties, such as ‘Golden Self-Blanching’. To blanch celery, open the tops and bottoms of half-gallon milk cartons and use them as “sleeves.” Set the cartons over the plants a week, 10 days or even longer before you want to harvest. The color of the stalks will lighten, and their flavor will become milder.

Some people place boards close along each side of the row to blanch celery. Others simply bring soil or mulch up around the plant to block out the sun, although this method may let dirt fall into the interior of the stalks, making them hard to clean. Plants should be dry if blanched with soil or else they may rot.

There’s no need to blanch the top leaves, of course, just the stalks.

Storing

Celery stores really well – you can keep it for many weeks with no trouble. Dig up the plants carefully, disturbing the roots as little as possible. Replant them in boxes of sand in your root cellar or set them close together in a trench in your cold frame where you can keep them from freezing. As long as the roots stay moist and the stalks dry, they’ll really keep. Temperatures in the range of 35F to 40F are best for good storage.

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