Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables
Celery and Friends (page 2 of 2)
by Peter Kopcinski
Use a good seed-germination soil mix . I prefer plug trays, but any kind of container in which seedlings remain individual works well. Germination occurs best when temperatures alternate between 60° F at night and 72° F during the day. Keep soil moist, and you'll see seedlings within three weeks. Thin to one plant per cell or container.
The emerging plants are delicate, so continuous moisture is essential. Once plants are three to four inches tall, the roots fill the plug and the plants are ready for the garden. Do not harden off celery by reducing temperatures, however. Rather than toughen plants, this can induce seed-stalk development. Transplant into the garden one week prior to the average last frost date.
Incorporate 6 to 10 cubic feet of compost into the top six inches of a 100-square-foot bed prior to planting. Set seedlings 8 to 10 inches apart, and mulch with any material that will not interfere with drainage (I prefer straw). Keep seedlings moist, and feed with a liquid fertilizer, such as a 20-30-20, every 10 days.
If you live in a mild-winter area, you can sow celery seed directly into the garden. Sow the seed thinly and cover with 1/8 inch of soil. After germination, thin seedlings until you have 8 to 10 inches between plants. Remember to mulch as soon as the plants are tall enough not be damaged.
Blanch stalks of either Pascal- or self-blanching-type celeries by wrapping the stalks in a brown paper bag once they reach 18 inches. Tie off the bag with string or a rubber band, leaving the top six inches of leaf exposed. In 12 to 14 days your blanched celery will be tender and sweet.
Problems and Pests
Black heart, the main cause of celery demise, is caused by uneven soil moisture. The first symptom is browning of leaf tips, but the disease soon spreads to the heart tissue. Avoid leaf blights by sowing seeds that are three years or more old. For the occasional aphid I use rotenone; for cabbage loopers Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
Cutting celery looks like flat-leafed parsley, but is loaded with celery flavor. In Holland it is used to flavor soups and stews. Harvest cutting celery when it is 15 inches high. Dry by hanging the stems and leaves upside down in a well-ventilated location. Grow cutting celery just like common celery but with one exception: Don't thin seedlings in your plug or pot. Simply transplant clumps to the garden, spacing them about six inches apart.
Celeriac is the cooking celery of northern Europe. It looks like our common celery, but stalks are thinner and much tougher and are generally considered inedible. It's the knoblike root that's the prize. Peeled and diced, it can be used anywhere you would celery. Or peel and julienne it, then steam and serve it as a cooked vegetable, perhaps with a few slices of carrot added in for color. Celeriac varieties include 'Brilliant' (smooth, medium size, resistant to hollow heart), 'Giant Prague' (vigorous, old-fashioned, open-pollinated) and 'Monarch' (large roots with firm, white flesh).
Peter Kopcinski is a seedsman based in New Jersey.