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How to Grow Celery

Sally Painter
Celery growing in the garden

Learn how to grow celery using different methods. These include growing from seeds and transplanting into your garden, direct sow and reusing the celery base.

How to Grow Celery Seedlings

Before you pick up your celery seeds, there are a few things to know about growing them.

  • Celery is a cool weather vegetable and reaches maturation in 140 days or more. This limits the growing timetable in some regions.
  • This slow growing vegetable isn't suited for hot Southern summers and should be planted as a fall or winter crop.
  • Cooler summer climates require starting the seeds indoors about 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost.
  • If you have a short growing season, you need to start the seedlings indoors so you'll have time to transplant them outdoors during the growing seasons.

How to Sow Seeds Indoors

Before you plant celery seeds, you need to soak them overnight to promote germination since the outer hulls are tough. You will need to gather a few supplies.

Supplies

  • Seed start trays with drainage trays
  • Seedling potting soil
  • Celery seeds
  • Water
  • Grow light or direct light

Planting Instructions

  1. Use seeding soil or mix your own soil at a 1:1 ratio of sand and compost.
  2. Plant two seeds together in each planting cell.
  3. Don't cover the seeds with soil.
  4. Instead, gently press the seeds into soil with your fingertips, gently.
  5. Water generously.
  6. Use a seed heating pad to maintain ideal germination temperature between 70°F and 75°F.
  7. When plants emerge thin out the weaker plants.
  8. When plants have their second set of true leaves, transplant into larger pots.
  9. Allow plants to continue growing indoors until the weather is warm enough. By this time, your plants should be around 6"-8" high.

Instructions for Hardening Off Celery Plants

Move the celery plants to a shaded area outside to harden off. The first day only leave the plants outside for a couple of hours, brining inside for the night. Over the next week, gradually increase the amount of time you keep the plants outside in the shade.

Move Plants Into Sun

By the fifth day, you can move the celery plants into direct sunlight. However, only leave them in the sun for one hour and in the shade for the remainder of the time. By now, the night temperatures should not fall below 40°F, if not, continue to take the plants indoors at night. Over the course of the week, increase the amount of time you leave the plants in the sun, careful not the rest of the time outside.

Time to Transplant Celery Seedlings

Once the danger of frost has passed and the average daily temperatures are in the 50°F-70°F, you can safely transplant your celery seedlings.

  1. If temperatures still drop below 50°F at night, wait to transplant celery seedlings. If the plants are exposed to temperatures below 50°F for 10-12 hours, the plants will bolt.
  2. Set the plants about in row trenches that are 3"-4" deep.
  3. Space plants 8"-10" apart.
  4. Mound the soil around the plant stems, but not the leaves.
  5. Continue to add soil mounded around the plants as they grow. This is known as blanching.
farmer's hands planting a celery seedling

How to Direct Sow Celery Seeds

If you have a long cool summer ,then you may prefer to direct sow celery. You will need to prepare the garden bed with rich soil. You can amend soils with compost.

  1. Soak celery seeds over night
  2. Sow seeds in rows 1/2" deep.
  3. Place two seeds in each hole.
  4. Space seeds 8"-10" apart.
  5. When plants emerge and begin to grow, thin by removing the weaker of the two plants or simply snip the plant stem with scissors.

Tips for Growing Celery

Some varieties are self-blanching (check packets) and should be planted in beds so they are 6"-12" apart. If using square foot gardening techniques, plant one celery plant per square. Homegrown celery typically has slender and less sturdy stalks than celery commercially grown in greenhouses. However, homegrown celery has stronger flavor than those purchased in grocery stores.

How to Care for Celery Plants

Celery requires more care than other vegetables. Make time to properly mulch, water, fertilize, and blanche for the best harvest results.

  1. Your plants need 1" of water per week.
  2. Keep the soil moist with about 2" of mulch to encourage growth.
  3. Fertilize the celery plants every two weeks with a fish emulsion spray or side dressing. If stalks are stringy, the plants are receiving enough water.
  4. Continue to build the mound around the plants as they grow. Don't cover up the leaves.

Preparing for Harvest

You will need to plan your harvest so you can fully blanche the celery plants. Most gardeners begin two weeks out from their harvest date.

  1. Bunch the top of the plants and secure with a gardening band or simply tie with a string.
  2. Bring the soil and mulch up the plant, stopping where the leaves branch out.
  3. Cut from a roll of kraft paper or paper bags and wrap around the stalks and tie in place with string.
  4. Water around the plants, not directly on the plants since this will cause the plants to rot.
  5. Blanching blocks the sun and prevents celery from developing a bitter taste during it's final growth.
  6. Once the plants have blanched for two weeks, you can harvest by cutting the plants at the base. Be sure that you remove some of the surrounding soil to expose the roots and cut the celery bunch along the soil line so you have the base intact.

This video demonstrates how to blanche celery.

Replanting Celery Base in Container

When you cut off the celery stalks, you're left with what's known as the celery base. Instead of discarding, you can grow celery in pots or containers by first rooting the celery base.

Supplies

  • Celery base, preferably organic
  • Medium size bowl with water
  • Grow container or pot
  • Potting soil
Growing celery in water

Instructions

Even up the base by cutting the remaining stalk ends about two inches from the bottom of the celery base.

  1. Set the celery base in the empty bowl
  2. Add water, to submerge half of the celery base.
  3. Roots will sprout within a day or two.
  4. Allow the roots to grow for a couple more days.
  5. When the celery has formed several roots (1"-2" long), it's time to transplant into your container/pot.
  6. Fill the container or pot with potting soil, stopping about 1" from the container rim.
  7. Scoop out a basin deep enough to cover the celery roots.
  8. Set the celery base upright.
  9. Tamp the soil around the base, covering all the roots.
  10. Slow flow water around the celery to moisten the soil.

Patience Is Required to Grow Celery

The length of time and the many steps required when growing celery requires patience and consistent care. You'll be rewarded with celery stalks you can eat, freeze, and enjoy for months to come.

How to Grow Celery