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Friday Rookie Topic XIII: CELERY

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Friday Rookie Topic XIII: CELERY

Post  pattipan on 7/8/2011, 12:46 am

Friday Rookie Topic XIII: CELERY

Have you ever considered growing celery before? I had always heard that it is very difficult to start celery from seed, and that it prefers to grow in cooler climates. However, when I was at my local greenhouse last May to buy some herbs I happened upon some really nice celery plants. I know I heard them speak to me, "Take me home and plant me!" My greenhouse had two different types...so not knowing the difference, I purchased two 6-packs of some healthy looking Celery "Gold"/Self-Blanching.



After these celery plants followed me home...I came here to the forum first to ask if anyone else was growing celery. Got some really got input and tips from member westie42 in this thread:

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7086-i-bought-celery-plants-today

Unfortunately, neither of Mel's books (ALL NEW SFG'ing and his original SFG book) had specific information on growing celery, so I did some further researching on the Web. I am certainly no expert, but I do know how to use Google. Smile



Celery's close relatives are parsley and carrots. In fact, I have a square of Italian parsley growing in front of my celery and their leaves look almost identical. The main difference of course, is that we grow celery mainly for its leafstalks, technically called petioles.

Types & varieties. There are two main types of celery, standard and self-blanching. Self-blanching types have stems that grow close together allowing the new growth in the center to remain pale. Paler green stalks are good where celery is concerned, but we'll talk more about blanching later in this article.

There are many varieties of celery, and if you choose to start yours from seed you can experiment square by square, to find the ones you like the best. Utah and Pascal are two popular standard varieties. Equally popular self-blanching varieties are Galaxy and Golden. See the resource links below for other suggested varieties.

Planting. Of course it IS possible to start celery from seed, but if you've ever seeded parsley or carrot directly in your garden, you know what a challenge it can be to germinate the seeds. If you can find plants at your local greenhouse you'll have a head start. If you begin from seed, start your seedlings indoors, 6 to 10 weeks before your last spring frost. Use Mel's method of starting the seeds in moist vermiculite and then transfer them to individual pots after the seedlings sprout. When the plants are about 6" begin hardening them off to be ready to plant outdoors in your SFG.

Growing celery requires rich organic soil and plenty of water -- which means that Mel's Mix is an the perfect growing medium! Protection from the hot sun is also needed. If you have squares that are semi-shaded, or a box that gets shade during the hottest part of the day, choose to plant your celery there. And if you live in the Pacific Northwest or Canada, why aren't you already growing celery? Smile

Although celery may grow "best" in cool temperate climates, don't let that stop you fro trying. The good news is that just about any zone can grow celery. Quoting from and Organic Gardening article: "Grow celery as a winter crop in the South, a summer crop in the far North, and a fall crop in most other areas."[1]

When you transplant them to your SFG, plant them no deeper than they were in their pots, or in other words, don't cover the separating stems with soil. Spacing for celery is typically 8" apart, so plant one per square if you want large stalks and large plants, or you can try two per square, planting them diagonally from each other.

Growing & Care. Keep your celery well watered throughout the season, never letting the soil go completely dry. Mulch with straw to retain moisture during the hot weeks. Use a shade-cloth if the temperatures get hot. Fertilizing is recommended on most sites, as celery is a heavy feeder. Use you're own judgment on that. Fish emulsion is recommended on some sites, but I have this fear that my celery will taste fishy! (Ever do that experiment when you a kid of putting celery stalks in colored water?)

Blanching. Many farmers use a technique called "blanching" about two weeks prior to harvesting their celery. Basically, blanching is a way to block out the sun so the celery stems will contain less chlorophyll. Chlorophyll can make your celery taste strong and bitter and stringy...which is okay for soups, but not so good for eating raw.

You can make blanching "collars" out of plastic coffee containers (do they make coffee cans anymore?), rolled up cardboard or something similarly opaque. Self-blanching types of celery can simply be tied loosely with twine or cut-up strips of cloth. Water more carefully (at the soil base of the plant only) during blanching time to prevent water from pooling between the stems.

Pests & diseases. As I mentioned near the beginning of this article, celery is related to parsley and carrots, so pests like the parsleyworm (a.k.a. the caterpillar of the Swallowtail butterfly) will also target celery. Slugs, earwigs and tarnished stink bugs can also cause superficial damage. Diseases that affect celery are usually fungal and can be prevented by proper watering, good air circulation and crop rotation.

Harvesting: You can harvest the outer stems at any time once your celery plants get established. Refer to your seed packet or catalog for approximate harvest times, but generally you can harvest celery 16 weeks after transplanting to your garden. Harvest the entire plant, cutting just above the roots to keep the bunch intact. Taste and texture may suffer is celery is left to grow through the hottest part of summer. If you have a longer growing season try setting out transplants in spring for an early summer harvest, and then again in mid-July for a fall harvest.

You can lengthen celery's storage life in the Fall by harvesting the plants with roots intact and placing them in deep containers, just covering the roots with moist soil or sand. Set in a cool location and your celery will keep this way for several weeks.

Resources:
[1] http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/celery-growing-guide
http://www.gardenguides.com/351-celery.html
http://www.gardeninginfozone.com/growing-celery-how-to-grow-celery
http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com/growing-celery.html
http://extension.usu.edu/yardandgarden/htm/vegetables_herbs/celery

Recipes? In French cuisine celery is one of the three essential aromatics of "mirepoix." It's globally popular...stir fries, soups, stews, salads, turkey stuffing...celery is in there! Golly, who doesn't have a favorite recipe that includes celery?

I'll post some pictures of my celery later. I need to get my DH to hold back the parsley so I can get a photo without falling on my head -- or my camera! The stalks still seem kind of small to me, but it has grown!

~~~~~~
pattipan

pattipan

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XIII: CELERY

Post  westie42 on 7/8/2011, 1:35 am

Thanks for the timely topic, one of my favorites. I am having very good results and am already harvesting a few stalks daily. They are working well here at 4 plants per square in my first year boxes less could be ok but 4 seems right for me. My best results come from not cutting or picking a whole plant but just selecting the largest stalks from several plants and letting the main body of each plant continue to expand outward with new growth. Really hot dry weather can slow and wilt them a bit but they will nicely revive later in cooler weather. Don’t give up on a tough looking plant just pamper it with a little extra water and some temporary portable shade. MM seems to be a very ideal growing medium for celery. Celery rocks.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XIII: CELERY

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 7/8/2011, 10:33 am

Great idea for a topic, Patti! I had a decent amount of luck with my spring celery this year. It wasn't as "tough" as other sites suggest to grow for me. Hopefully, my fall crop will behave the same this year.

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XIII: CELERY

Post  pattipan on 7/8/2011, 10:04 pm

@westie42 wrote:Thanks for the timely topic, one of my favorites. I am having very good results and am already harvesting a few stalks daily. They are working well here at 4 plants per square in my first year boxes less could be ok but 4 seems right for me. My best results come from not cutting or picking a whole plant but just selecting the largest stalks from several plants and letting the main body of each plant continue to expand outward with new growth. Really hot dry weather can slow and wilt them a bit but they will nicely revive later in cooler weather. Don’t give up on a tough looking plant just pamper it with a little extra water and some temporary portable shade. MM seems to be a very ideal growing medium for celery. Celery rocks.

westie42,
It was due to your great input on celery that inspired me to write more about it. It doesn't cover everything by any means, but I hope it encourages others to try growing it!

I planted my celery in two different places. Four per square in two squares in a semi-shaded box near my back door. And then I planted two per square in two squares in a sunny box. The celery in the semi-shaded box looks much nicer. I haven't cut any of the outer stems yet, I will definitely do that tomorrow!

These first three photos are my evidence that the celery actually HAS grown. These are the ones in the semi-shade box. That Italian parsley you see in front of the celery is in its second year and is determined to bloom. The flower stems are as thick as celery! Shocked







Here's a quick picture of the stalks of the above, as of July 7. I do think that harvesting those small outer stems may help it overall. Got my camera lens wet and almost fell into the parsley taking that picture!



pattipan

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Re: Friday Rookie Topic XIII: CELERY

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