Celery adds a delicious savoury hint to recipes and by planting ready-grown seedlings in the spring you will be picking fresh, crunchy stems from summer into autumn. Here’s our guide to growing the best.
Celery has long been considered a difficult crop to grow, largely because traditional varieties need a lot of work and attention – they have to be planted in deep trenches and require layers of soil added regularly to blanch the green stems. Fortunately modern plant breeding has led to many easier, self-blanching varieties that don’t need earthing up to produce tender white stems. Although plants can be grown from seed sown in early spring, it’s far easier to buy ready-grown seedlings, which can be planted out in May or June.
Where to grow
Celery prefers moisture-retentive, well-drained soil in a sunny spot. It’s an ideal crop for an allotment, but a short row can be squeezed into a garden, raised bed or you could even try dotting the odd plant into a border. If you have a tiny garden it’s possible to grow celery in very deep, long tom style pots.
What to do
- Dig the soil in the spring before planting, removing big stones, weeds and incorporating plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure.
- A week or so before planting, rake a general purpose granular fertiliser (90g per square metre) into the surface layer of the bed.
How to sow seeds
- If you have time, plants can be started off by sowing seeds during March and April. To do this, fill a small pot or seed tray – what you use depends on how many plants you want – with fine seed compost, level and tap to settle.
- Celery seed is tiny, so take a pinch and lightly sow across the surface of the soil. Watering from the top is likely to disturb the seed, so fill a bowl with water and put in the pot. It can be removed once the water has been drawn to the surface.
- Finish by covering with a thin layer of vermiculite and putting in a heated propagator on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. Water daily to ensure the compost doesn’t dry out.
- Take the seedlings out of the propagator when they’ve germinated. They’re ready to be given pots of their own when the first proper leaves have formed.
- Use 7.5cm pots filled with multi-purpose compost and keep well-watered. Plants will be ready to go outside about five weeks later, when they’re 8cm tall.
- Toughen them up first by placing in a cold frame or sheltered, but shaded place outdoors. Plant as for ready-grown plants.
- For perfect plants with lots of well-branched sticks, plant celery seedlings (there are lots of suppliers) about 27cm apart ensuring the crown of the plant is at ground level.
- Plants will grow better if they’re arranged in a grid pattern, rather than planted in long rows.
- Keep celery well-watered and the area around them free from weeds.
- Plants can be given a boost by feeding with a balanced liquid fertiliser about a month after planting.
- Celery will be ready for picking from August until the first frosts. To harvest, simply lift plants as required using a hand fork, taking care not to damage neighbouring plants.
Five self-blanching types to try
- ‘Galaxy’ – crunchy and tender
- ‘Tango ‘ – long green stems
- ‘Golden self-blanching ‘ – yellow foliage and cream stalks
- ‘Loretta’ – thick, sweet stems
- ‘Green Utah’ – crisp, smooth stems