Common Name: Celery
Botanical Name: Apium Graveolens
Indian Name: Ajmod (Hindi)
Vegetable Type: Cruciferous
Varieties: Tall Utah, Afina, Ventura, Tango Green
Celery is a crunchy, watery vegetable that is extremely healthy for the human body, due to high vitamin content, and its seeds are used in homeopathic medicine to treat a wide array of diseases. However, as they say, there is no gain without pain, and this plant is quite difficult to grow and propagate. It takes a lot of time and effort, and proper care and maintenance to pull off a successful celery harvest. The seed must be planted and germinated indoors before moving the crop outside. Once harvested though, it will definitely be quite an achievement. Before we look at how to get there, let’s see some of the basic features of the plant.
Height: around 1m (3.3ft.) tall
Width: 3-6cm (1-3in.) (foliage width)
Flowering Season: Winter, around December
Flowers: Creamy-white colour, around 2-3mm in size
Foliage: Clumped foliage around the base, and upright leaves above the stalk
Sunlight: Medium to bright light when indoors, and partial sun/shade when outdoors.
Water: Regular watering required, needs continuous moisture to survive
Seeds should be started indoors, 10-12 weeks before the end of winter, with several seeds planted in one cell. Make sure soil is moist and warm. After 2-3 weeks, the seeds will germinate, following which the plant can be moved outside. Thin the seeds to one seed per cell, and ensure the temperature for the plants is never too cold, as the plant will start bolting with continuous cold weather.
After transferring the newly germinated seeds outdoors, give them slightly less water, so as to avoid bolting of the plant. Set them 15-30cm apart and in rows 45-90cm apart. Following a period of 10 days, make sure to continue water at the regular level.
Care: The outdoor temperature must be at least 10 degrees Celsius along with moist soil. Adding lots of mulch, and organic nutrients to the plant is necessary, as celery requires lots of ‘food’ to keep itself going. Many gardeners also tend to ‘blanch’ their celery, which is a process that makes the plant more tender, but also decreases the vitamin content. This is done, by building a mound around the base of each plant, or covering the lower stalk with a moist cardboard or cloth, so that the green part will turn white.
Pests: Aphids, whiteflies, cutworms, are the most common pests which affect the celery plant. These can be avoided with plant covers and collars in the initial growing stages.
Harvest: Usually, these plants are ready for harvest around 3-4 months after the initial planting of the seed. The celery plant is usually used for its stalk, while its leaves are also used in salads. These need to be harvested during the warm season, as the plant will start to flower soon after, by which time it will be too late to harvest.
Propagation: This plant is propagated by seeds, which can be saved for up to five years before they lose their potency.
Celery can tolerate a light frost, but anything more and the plant will bolt. As you can see, it is quite a feat to grow celery successfully, but once you have, then no plant will seem as difficult to grow again. The benefits of celery are also endless, as they provide a crispy succulent addition in salads, along with extremely high fibre and nutrient levels. So bring out the expert gardener in you and take up the celery challenge!