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Celery is great for the body - good thing growing it has never been easier

Michael Kelly continues his 52 Veg – A Year of Growing, Cooking and Eating Your Own Food series with a look at celery.

Michael Kelly Grower

THOUGH GROWING CELERY has been made a lot easier with the arrival of self-blanching varieties, it’s still a tricky enough prospect to grow well. But stick with it and it will reward you mightily.

Celery is incredibly good for you – it benefits your nerves and can reduce blood pressure. A staple “stock-pot” veg, it tastes great raw and freezes well too.

Growing celery was traditionally labour intensive because trenches had to be prepared to grow them in and then the celery had to be regularly earthed up to blanch or whiten the stems.

Most GIYers now grow self-blanching (green) celery which does not require earthing up or trenching. Happy days.

Sowing

Celery is very slow to get started, taking eight weeks between sowing and planting out. It’s also semi-tender so you want to aim to be planting out in May.

Sow seeds in a 10cm pot from March on and keep it on a windowsill inside – it will take about two weeks to germinate. Do not cover the seeds in soil – they need light to germinate.

Prick out in to module trays (one seedling per module) with fresh compost about a week later. Plant out when the seedlings have four to six true leaves, but harden off before planting out.

Successional sowing is a good idea with celery since they don’t stand so well in the ground once ready – sow some seeds every month in March, April and May.

Source: Giy Ireland/YouTube

Growing

Dig the bed in the winter and add plenty of well rotted manure or compost. Add organic fertiliser (eg chicken manure pellets) before planting.

Blanching celery makes the stems go white and more tender. Even “self-blanching” varieties benefit from blanching.

Self-blanching celery is typically planted 25cm apart in blocks rather than in rows, so the plants shade each other from light (thereby improving the blanching process).

Water celery well in dry weather – it’s a thirsty plant and if the soil dries out the stems won’t swell. If leaves go yellow, apply an organic feed (e.g. nettle or comfrey tea or a top dressing of poultry manure pellets).

Harvesting

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Celery will be ready in around 40 weeks – usually August to October. Lift as required but finish harvesting when frosts arrive.

Use a fork to gently lift the plant, roots and all. A head of celery will keep in the fridge for up to three days.

Recommended varieties

Victoria, Tall Utah, Daybreak

Problems

Slugs like it. Also prone to celery leaf miner (tiny maggots that cause leaf blisters) and leaf spot (brown spots on leaf that look like blight).

GIY tips

  • Celery freezes well. Cut and blanch for three mins in boiling water. Cool, pack in freezer bags.
  • Homemade collars can be made from strips of black plastic wrapped around the plant to improve the blanching of the stems.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.

Read: Kohlrabi is becoming a popular veg and it’s tasty either cooked or raw

Read: Beetroot gets a rough deal. It’s time to give it another go with this marmalade

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About the author:

Michael Kelly  / Grower

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