Wednesday, 6 April 2016

GIY Ireland Celery

Published: Apr 05, 2016    By: Shona Dubois
Though growing celery has been made a lot easier with the arrival of self-blanching varieties, it’s still a tricky enough prospect to grow well.  But stick with it and it will reward you mightily.  Celery is incredibly good for you and is a staple “stock-pot” veg.  It tastes great raw and freezes well.  Traditionally, growing celery was labour intensive because trenches had to be prepared to grow them in and then the celery had to be regularly earthed up to blanch or whiten the stems.  Most GIYers now grow self-blanching (green) celery which does not require earthing up or trenching.  Happy days.

Celery is very slow to get started, taking 8 weeks between sowing and planting out.  It’s also semi-tender so you want to aim to be planting out in May.  Sow seeds in a 10cm pot from March on and keep it on a windowsill inside – it will take about 2 weeks to germinate.  Do not cover the seeds in soil – they need light to germinate.  Prick out in to module trays (one seedling per module) with fresh compost about a week later.  Plant out when the seedlings have four to six true leaves, but harden off before planting out.  Successional sowing is a good idea with celery since they don’t stand so well in the ground once ready – sow some seeds every month in March, April and May.

Dig the bed in the winter and add plenty of well rotted manure or compost.  Add organic fertiliser (e.g chicken manure pellets) before planting. Blanching celery makes the stems go white and more tender.  Even “self-blanching” varieties benefit from blanching.  Self-blanching celery is typically planted 25cm apart in blocks rather than in rows, so the plants shade each other from light (thereby improving the blanching process).  Water celery well in dry weather – it’s a thirsty plant and if the soil dries out the stems won’t swell.  If leaves go yellow, apply an organic feed (e.g. nettle or comfrey tea or a top dressing of poultry manure pellets).

Celery will be ready in approx 40 weeks – usually August-Oct.  Lift as required but finish harvesting when frosts arrive.  Use a fork to gently lift the plant, roots and all.  A head of celery will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Recommended Varieties
Victoria, Tall Utah, Daybreak

Slugs like it.  Also prone to celery leaf miner (tiny maggots that cause leaf blisters) and leaf spot (brown spots on leaf that look like blight).

GIY Tips

• Celery freezes well.  Cut and blanch for 3 mins in boiling water.  Cool, pack in freezer bags.
• Homemade collars can be made from strips of black plastic wrapped around the plant to improve the blanching of the stems.

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