Growing Celery



Apium graveolens

Celery a biennial plant and grows naturally by the sides of ditches and near the sea, where it rises with wedge-shaped leaves and a furrowed stalk, producing greenish flowers in August. Under cultivation, the leaves are feathered or multi-divided, with triangular leaflets. The leaf-stems are large, rounded, grooved, succulent, and solid or hollow according to the variety. The plant flowers during the second year, and then measures from two to three feet in height. The flowers are small, yellowish-white, and are produced in umbels, or flat, spreading groups, at the extremities of the branches; the seeds are small, somewhat triangular, of a yellowish-brown color, aromatic when crushed, and of a warm, pleasant flavor.

Soil.—Almost any good garden soil is adapted to the growth of Celery. Celery prefers a soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.8 and has a low tolerance for heat and prefers a cool, cloudy location where growing temperatures range between 60°F and 70°F.

Propagation. — Celery is always propagated by seed; one-fourth of an ounce is sufficient for a seed-bed five feet wide and ten feet long. The first sowing is usually made in a hot-bed in March. Sow celery seed ¼ to ½ inch deep, 6 to 10 inches apart; space rows 24 inches apart. Transplant seedlings started indoors or hot-beds into trenches 3 to 4 inches deep set 6 to 10 inches apart. As plants grow mound up soil around the stems to blanch them. Plant self-blanching celery in blocks 6 to 12 inches apart; planting closer will give a higher yield but more slender stalks.

Cultivation.—As soon as the young plants are about three inches high, prepare a small bed in the open air, and make the ground rich and the earth fine. Keep celery planting beds weed free to avoid competition for moisture and nutrients. Keep cultivation shallow so as not to damage roots.

When celery plants begin to grow, mound earth up on each side of the plant and in-between the plants with a small hoe to start the blanching process. Blanching is achieved by covering the stalks with soil, or some sort of cylinder such as paper rolled up to the top of the stalks to protect them from the sun, which encourages them to produce chlorophyll and turn green. You should blanch celery up to 10 to 14 days before harvesting. Celery that sits too long after blanching will become pithy and may rot.

Harvesting. — Start harvesting before the first hard frost when the head is about two to three inches in diameter at the base. Cut off the head at or slightly below soil level. Celery can be harvested and eaten directly from the garden.


Uses.—The stems of the leaves are the parts of the plant used. Celery after being blanched, are exceedingly crisp and tender, with an agreeable and peculiarly aromatic flavor. Celery is a staple in many soups, such as chicken noodle soup. Celery is also grown for its seeds and can be used as flavoring or spice, either as whole seeds or ground and mixed with salt.


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