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The Basics of Growing Celery

Celery is a staple vegetable in many homes, ever-present in almost every refrigerator crisper drawer, and used freely in many culinary cuisines to add crunch and flavor. It’s a biennial plant that can be easily grown in raised beds or in-ground in backyard gardens.

Celery is a cool-weather crop with a long growing season that doesn’t take up a lot of valuable space in the garden bed. Check out our tips on the basics of growing celery so that you can have plentiful crunchy stalks of homegrown goodness growing just outside your door.

Celery seedling in a pot.

Ideal Soil Composition for Growing Celery

Growing celery is best done in soil that is rich in organic matter. Add compost and worm castings to amend the garden soil. Well-draining soil that retains moisture is essential for the successful growth of celery plants.

Celery thrives in soil that measures between 5.8 and 6.8 on the pH scale. If you are unsure of your pH, you can obtain a soil test kit from your local garden center or bring a soil sample to your local extension office to have it tested.

How to Grow Celery

This crunchy-stalked crop has a long maturation period, so it takes patience to grow from seed. However, it isn’t always readily found in the garden center, and growing from seed far outweighs the store-bought produce.

Start celery seeds indoors approximately 8-10 weeks before the last frost in your area. Celery can grow in cooler weather and be transplanted outdoors when 5 or 6 true leaves are present. Transplant seedlings outdoors in early spring only when the danger of frost has passed. While celery can tolerate an occasional mild frost, it’s best not to take the risk of damaging plants. You can also use row covers to protect your crops from frost and extend your season. It can take 16-18 weeks for seeds to grow, so it is recommended to start them early indoors.

If you can find celery in the garden center already established, be sure to purchase it early in the planting season, so it has plenty of cool weather to in grow successfully.

Celery Plant Spacing

Celery seeds can be sown indoors in seed pots and transplanted outdoors in the ground or raised garden beds with 10 to 12 inches between each plant. As stalks grow and spread, you may need to tie them together gently with garden twine to help them maintain a compact habit.

Celery plant in soil.

Light & Temperature Requirements for Growing Celery

Plant celery in a location in your garden that receives full sun. While this crop enjoys direct sunlight, it does not love the heat. Growing celery will be most successful when temperatures hover between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Water Celery Plants

If you’ve ever bitten into a celery stalk, you know that the stalk is filled with water. Celery plants need consistent hydration to thrive. Celery grown in the wild grows in boggy soils, so celery plants should definitely not be allowed to dry out. Lack of sufficient water will stunt the plant’s growth and cause stringy, emaciated stalks and plants that prematurely go to seed.

Water celery plants regularly, ensuring that soil is consistently moist. Adding organic mulch to your garden around the base of celery plants can also help retain moisture and keep plants cool.

Soil Nutrient Needs for Growing Celery

Celery plants are heavy feeders of nutrients. Ensuring that your soil is amended with well-decomposed compost is the best start that you can give these crops. They can also benefit from a slow-release fertilizer to keep crops growing strong throughout their long maturation period. Keep garden beds free from weeds that can steal water and nutrients from your growing celery plants.

woman passing freshly picked celery to a man on a farm.

Celery Plant Pests and Disease

If planted under the proper conditions, celery plants are fairly free of pests and disease. But even the sturdiest plants can be plagued by some problems. Protect young plants from pests early in the season by using row covers.

  • SlugsWard off slugs by planting celery in raised beds or burying a pie plate so that the soil’s surface is level with the rim of the dish. Add beer to the pie plate to attract slugs who will be trapped in the container.
  • Leaf Miners – Choke out Leaf Miners by squeezing affected leaves with your fingers and removing leaves with their signature wavy tracks.

How to Harvest Celery

It is easy to harvest celery, and the best part about it is that you don’t have to gather the whole plant at once as you buy it in the store. Remove any outer stalks as you need them once the plant reaches at least eight inches in height.  This method lets you use what you need while allowing the innermost stalks to continue toward maturity. Use a sharp knife to remove the outermost stem making a clean angled cut. To harvest the entire plant, use a sharp knife to cut the plant’s base at the soil level.

Recommended Celery Varieties

  • ‘Tall Utah 52-70R Improved’
  • ‘Tango Hybrid’
  • ‘Titus’
  • ‘Tendercrisp’

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celery plant growing in a pot of soil.
close up of celery garden

2 Comments

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  1. As a square foot gardener who only uses a bunch of celery a month, I’ve found the most gratifying way to grow celery is via foodscrap propagation. I cut the root end off a bunch of store bought celery in early spring and root it in a shallow bowl of water before planting it in my garden-/ I do this a few times early in the growing season and begin having celery in a short amount if time. It’s some of the best celery I’ve eaten!

    • Hi Denise, regrowing from food scarps is an excellent way to reduce waste and grow a successive harvest in the garden. Thank you so much for sharing your insight on this with us and fellow gardeners. We hope you have another fantastic season, happy gardening!

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