Growing celery can be a challenge, as it has a reputation among gardeners as being a rather fussy, high maintenance plant. However, as long as the soil and water requirements are met, you can grow celery so tender and sweet, you will never buy it at the market again!
Celery is a marsh plant, so it needs lots of moisture and fertile soil as well as some sunshine each day. It does best in cool climates. Celery has a long growing period of around five months, so careful planning with your local weather in mind is essential for a successful harvest.
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Celery seed should be started indoors about eight to ten weeks before the last frost of spring. Once the seedlings have five to six leaves, which should occur about two to three weeks before the last average frost date, they may be transplanted to the garden.
If you live in a region that has cool springs and summers, it is fine to plant celery in the early spring. If your area has warm spring and summer weather, plan to place celery transplants in your garden in the late summer for a fall or early winter harvest.
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Once seed transplants are in their permanent bed outdoors, keep the soil moist and remove garden weeds promptly. Use organic garden fertilizers every two to four weeks, as celery is a heavy feeder. Plus its shallow, compact roots don’t allow it to venture too far out to find the nutrients it needs.
If you notice that your celery has a bitter taste, try this out… about ten to fourteen days before harvest, blanch (slow enzyme action by blocking out the light) your celery plant either by mounding soil around the stalks or fastening cardboard around the plant to shield it from the sun. Your crop won’t be as green after blanching, but it should taste much less bitter.
Start harvesting your celery crop before the first hard frost is scheduled for your area. When the base of each celery plant is about two to three inches in diameter, they are mature and ready to be picked.
With a sharp knife, cut the celery right at the soil level, or slightly below if you prefer.
You may store celery for 7 to 14 days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator after rinsing, drying and removing any blemished or damaged leaves and/or stalks.
Freezing celery causes the vegetable to lose its crispness, though it is still good to use in cooked dishes and stews.
Before freezing, blanch celery stalks in boiling water after cutting them into one inch lengths. Then, you may drain, cool, and package. Celery stalks may also be frozen as is with no blanching.
Celery seeds are viable for two to three years.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Celery. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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