The first time I grew celery, I was surprised by how much flavor homegrown celery has. The added flavor, along with the convenience of harvesting a stalk or two as needed, means celery has earned a forever place in my cool-season garden. Learning how to grow celery is easier than you think. Learn how to grow celery with these 5 tips. See the end of the article for a bonus tip about how to grow celery in containers.
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5 Tips for How to Grow Celery:
1. Choose your planting method for growing celery
Plant celery from seed, transplants, or even the cut-off base of a grocery-store bunch. Here’s what I’ve learned about the different methods.
- Starting seeds indoors gives you control over the variety and generally yields the largest plants and most consistent results.
- If you find transplants at your local nursery, it’s a great way to get a quick start.
- A cut-off base is a simple way to grow celery and fun for kids to try in the garden.
Try all three methods for growing celery and see which one works best for you.
Here’s a video tutorial that explains how to grow celery from a cut-off base.
Start celery seeds indoors 10-12 weeks before your last frost date. Transplant celery seedlings (or cut-off celery bases) when the soil temperature is at least 50°F.
Celery planting dates for the low desert of Arizona:
- Start seeds indoors: July – September
- Plant seeds outside: September 15 – November
- Plant transplants outside: September 15 – December
Transplant seedlings (or cut-off celery bases) outside 8-10 inches apart at the same level as the nursery pot. For square foot gardening, plant 4 celery per square.
If planting from seed in the garden (not recommended because of the need for a long growing season), plant seeds 1/4 inch deep and thin to 8-10 inches apart when seedlings are about 6 inches tall.
2. Celery needs plenty of water & nutrients to grow
When growing celery, the soil must be consistently moist, not soggy. If celery dries out, it can be stringy, bitter, and bolt. Mulching the soil after planting helps keep celery from drying out. I use garden grids to water my garden with excellent results.
Celery grows best in compost-rich soil that is high in organic matter.
Fertilize celery with a fish-emulsion solution once a month throughout the growing season. To do this, add fish emulsion to a container and fill it with water, following dilution instructions on the label.
Fish emulsion is an excellent source of organic nutrients and nitrogen that will not burn plants. It is easily absorbed and quickly taken up by the roots of the plants.
You can also amend the soil around celery with compost. Feeding your celery allows it to thrive.
3. Blanch celery before harvesting (if desired)
Blanching celery (even self-blanching types) helps eliminate the bitter taste and makes it sweeter and more tender. Unblanched stalks are darker green and tougher but contain more nutrients than the lighter-blanched varieties.
To blanch celery, about two weeks before harvesting, wrap or cover stalks with heavy paper, soil or mulch, juice or coffee cans, boards, or other items to keep out the light. Leaves should be exposed.
4. Harvest celery as needed throughout the season
- For best flavor, water celery well the day before harvesting.
- Harvest single stalks as needed from the outside of the plant when it reaches the desired height.
Harvest celery until it begins to get hot. For me, in Arizona, that means late spring.
Celery doesn’t like hot temperatures, and as it heats up, it will become bitter. As summer nears, blanch the celery (if desired) and then harvest the entire plant. To harvest the whole plant, cut it at soil level with a knife.
If left in the ground, the celery may also bolt, meaning that the plant’s focus turns to producing seeds. When it bolts, the central stalk of the celery becomes taller, flowers, and produces seeds.
5. Preserve harvested celery several ways
Homegrown celery has so much flavor and is worth preserving if you can’t use all the garden produces.
- Celery will keep in the fridge for several weeks if wrapped in foil or submerged in water in a sealed container.
- To freeze celery: chop, steam blanch for 2 minutes, and then flash-freeze on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, store in freezer bags for up to a year.
- Dehydrate or freeze-dry celery. Grind into celery powder before using; it does not hydrate well.
Bonus Tip: How to grow celery in containers
Celery is a good choice for containers.
- Choose a container for growing celery that holds at least 3 gallons of soil.
- Be diligent about watering container-grown celery. Celery that does not get enough water has hollow stalks and is stringy.
- Feed celery in containers with a half-strength application of liquid organic fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season.