Caring for Your Celery Plants
Celery is a vegetable enjoyed around the world; the stalk, root and seed put to numerous uses. The celery seed produces an oil used in perfume or pharmaceuticals, and it is also used as a flavoring or spice, or ground with salt to produce celery salt.
The care provided for celery plants affects the health and taste considerably. Celery requires consistent watering, feeding and temperature manipulation to survive and produce crunchy, delicious stalks. Give your celery plants the care they need to produce a healthy plant.
Protecting from Pests and Diseases
Celery is susceptible to a number of diseases such as leaf spot, blight, pink rot and black heart. Calcium and magnesium can be added to give the soil the nutrients it needs to fight against these diseases. Common pests include slugs, aphids and the celery leaf miner. To keep out slugs, sprinkle crushed eggshells or sharp gravel around your celery plants. Garlic is a companion plant to celery that deters aphids and acts as a natural fungicide against some diseases. Try planting the herb comfrey, which can act as a trap crop against slugs. Planting your celery plants at least 10 inches apart and weeding regularly will provide good air circulation which will cut down on diseases.
Sunlight and Temperature Requirements
Celery has a low tolerance for both frost and heat. Temperatures should never fall below 55 degrees, with the optimum levels being between 65 and 75 degrees F. Because of this, celery is often grown indoors where temperature is more easily regulated. If you are living in a warm climate, start growing indoors mid-summer; transplant outdoors when the temperatures begin to fall. Growing in containers can also help regulate temperature as plants can easily be moved indoors and out. Celery should receive about 6 hours of sunlight a day.
Water often enough to keep the soil moist continually. Celery stalks will end up dry and stringy if they aren't watered often enough.
Celery plants are heavy feeders, responding well to fertilizing about every other week. For organic feeding, try a compost tea or solution of seaweed extract and/or fish emulsion. If using nonorganic fertilizer, celery responds well to nitrogen rich fertilizers. Feeding is more important during the early stages of growth than at the end. Be sure to add fertilizer when transplanting.
If the weather is cool enough, celery can be transplanted to outdoors when the seedlings are about 5 inches tall. Introduce your celery to the outdoors gradually by placing them outside during the day and bringing them in at night. Plant about 10 inches apart with 2 to 3 feet between rows. Apply mulch to help keep in moisture and keep out weeds.
Blanching is a process that helps keep your celery stalks moist while turning the stalks white. To blanch, tie the stalks together in the middle and build up a mound of soil around the base several inches high about a month before harvesting.
Celery is usually ready to harvest 120 to 140 days after planting. Harvest when the stalks reach about 1 foot tall. You can harvest the outer stalks while leaving the inner stalks to develop a little longer if you'd like. Or, cut off the whole plant with clippers at the soil level.
Enjoy using your home-grown celery as a healthy snack or to flavor your favorite dishes!