Learn How to Grow Celery

Growing celery starts with growing vegetables indoors.

| November/December 2014

  • Chopped celery ready for the stockpot.
    Photo by iStockphoto.com/Funwithfood
  • Celery grown in your garden is a far cry from store-bought varieties.
    Photo by iStockphoto.com/marekp
  • Harvest celery when the stalks are about 8 inches tall.
    Photo by Rick Wetherbee

Thoughts of celery often evoke memories of the peanut butter-smeared stalks, but celery could never stand on its own until I grew it myself. Fresh from the garden, celery offers an unequaled season of flavor, with succulent, crisp and tasty stalks that are solid — not stringy — and never taste sharp or bitter.

My first experience growing celery was many years ago during our market days. After sorting through the cultural myths and baggage, I came up with a simple plan geared toward meeting this vegetable’s needs. The subsequent harvests were so succulent that most of our farmers’ market customers didn’t even know that we had celery for sale, as it usually sold out within the first half hour.

So what’s the secret? It doesn’t involve trenching or blanching, that’s for sure. What it does involve are these four essential steps to growing tasty celery, along with a few simple tips that will ensure celery success both in the garden and in the kitchen.

Step 1: Tune in on timing

Celery is a cool-season vegetable and can be grown in USDA zones 2 through 10 — given the right conditions. As a cool-season veggie, celery performs best between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. With the right conditions, the temperature can be pushed to 80 degrees. Extend the range on both ends with protection from sun, high temperatures, or a stream of cold weather.

A succession of weather fluctuations and cold nighttime temperatures below 50 degrees for more than seven to 10 days can cause celery to bolt. A run of hot weather can result in stalks that taste bitter, or are hollow and tough. And a heavy frost will knock out this veggie fast.

The growing season is a long one, with seed-to-harvest dates between 16 to 18 weeks. That’s why timing is so critical when it comes to starting celery indoors and planting it outdoors. Where winters are mild, celery is grown for fall harvests. Where summers are hot and winters temperate, celery is a winter crop. In areas where winters are cold, grow celery as a summer crop.

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