Sunday, 18 July 2010

Growing Celery

  • Popular with both cooks and the health conscious, celery is one of the most versatile vegetables available. 
  • Celery's high water content and fibrous nature mean that it is great for those who like to snack without gaining weight.
  • Celery leaves can also be eaten raw or used in soups or used to make celery juice.
  • While it’s commonly found in the grocery store and used in a variety of preparations, celery is not commonly grown in the home garden. 
  • This is due mostly to the fact that it is one of the more difficult vegetables to grow. 
  • Celery requires cool temperatures, a long growing season of almost 5 months, and lots of water along with plenty of care to avoid growing dry, stringy stalks. 
  • A hard frost can completely destroy a whole crop.
  • If you’re interested in tackling this difficult vegetable in your allotment, you’ll no doubt reap the rewards of your effort when you’re enjoying the taste of freshly grown celery, which far surpasses that which you purchase at the supermarket.
  • Dig an organic compost or manure fertiliser into the soil a few weeks before planting out the celery seedlings.
  • Celery does not grow well in very hot conditions, a hot spell without adequate watering will result in the stems becoming tough and stringy.
  • Celery likes soil that is capable of retaining moisture and so soils that have had organic compost or manure are well suited.
  • If your soil is well drained ensure that the celery receives adequate regular watering in warm periods.
  • Celery germination rates aren't reliable,  so sow your celery seeds in stations (5 seeds a station) about 5cm (2 inches) apart and 0.5cm deep. 
  • Thin out all but the strongest plant that emerges from each station. 
  • In the UK and similar climates you can sow your celery seed in late March in a greenhouse or poly-tunnel. 
  • Germination takes from around 12-14 days and is successful when temperatures are around 21°C (70°F).
  • Plant out your celery seedlings when they are about 8cm tall (5-6 weeks) and temperatures have risen above 13°C (55°F). 
  • Space your seedlings about 15-20cm apart in rows that are about 90cm apart.
  • Careful watering is vital to good celery yields as celery requires regular frequent watering.
  • Weed carefully between the celery plants as the weeds will compete strongly against celery for nutrients, light and moisture. 
  • You can blanch your celery by covering up the stems to prevent light reaching them. 
  • Blanching your celery will reduce some ot the bitterness and will make your stalks paler. 
  • Soil or mulch can be used for blanching and should be built up as the stalks develop from about a month before you harvest the celery.
  • Harvest celery when it has reached the desired size, cut the plant off above the soil line so that all stalks are still as one unit. 
  • Wash the stalk bulb in cold water and dry. 
  • You can, if you want, remove a few stalks at a time rather than harvesting the whole plant. 
  • If doing this remove the outer stalks first and let the less developed inner stalks continue in their development. 
  • Take care not to damage the rest of the plant if removing individual stalks.
  • Celery will keep in the domestic fridge for a couple of weeks. 
  • Celery will blanch naturally when in storage.

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