Growing celery from seed is a great way to avoid chemicals and pesticides. Unfortunately, celery can be difficult to grow. Don’t let past disappointments get you down. Under the right conditions, you will be growing celery from seed like it is a piece of cake.
Start Growing Celery from Seed in Your Home
Celery is a plant that takes a long time to grow. In most zones we recommend starting your celery seeds indoors. This allows you to get a jump on the growing season. It’s important to note that celery seeds can be slow to germinate when compared to other seed varieties. You can speed up the germination process by soaking seeds in water overnight. The ideal time to begin growing celery from seed is between 10 and 12 weeks prior to the last frost in your area.
The best way to start celery is either within a three inch pot or a large tray. Due to the small size of celery seeds, many people find it helpful to mix the seeds with a bit of sand. You can either directly sprinkle the seeds, or the seed and sand mixture over your potting soil. Celery seeds do best when planted at a shallow depth. A light sprinkling of potting soil on top of the seeds will be adequate to encourage their growth.
Growing celery from seed successfully requires that the soil be constantly moist. Using a potting soil with water retention properties can help cut back how frequently you’ll need to water. Since the seeds are so small and not planted very deep, watering easily moves the seeds. You can prevent seeds from wandering by watering very gently or by placing the pots in a tray of water to absorb the water from below. Once watered, use a transparent covering over the pots or tray. Place your seeds in a window so that they get lots of light. You can also use grow lights to provide them with the light they require.
Taking Care of Your Celery Seedlings
The small celery seeds will be slow to sprout. However, once they’ve sprouted then they will do best with only indirect light. Remove the covering and water as needed to provide them with consistently moist soil. After the seeds sprout and reach a height of about two inches you will want to transplant them into individual containers. It’s important to add new soil to the pots so the celery is getting a fresh dose of nutrients.
Once transplanted, you may notice a stunt in growth again. This is because your little celery plants are working hard to grow strong roots. Growing celery from seed is easiest when the soil is between the temperatures of 70 degrees and 75 degrees during the day. You don’t want to let the soil get below 60 degrees at night as this can stunt or kill your celery.
When your plants reach a height of about six inches you will want to begin the hardening process. You can either do this by placing them outside or by using a fan. They can only be placed outside in indirect sunlight when temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees. Celery is very sensitive to temperature and anything too hot or too cold will weaken or kill your plant. They should harden for at least ten days before they are transplanted to the garden.
Transplanting Your Celery to the Garden
In order to successfully transplant your celery into the garden they must be hardened. Night temperatures in your area need to be consistently 55 degrees or warmer. Anything cooler could cause your celery to go to seed prematurely. Many people choose to plant a few plants early and hope for the best. However, this can result in the loss of the plants if it gets too cold.
Before transplanting mix an organic fertilizer into the soil as directed. Be sure to make sure that the area is free of weeds and other plants. In order to help your celery take to the new soil more quickly, trim a few of the outer leaves off of each plant. This allows the roots to recover more quickly. Plant your celery in an area where it will get about 6 hours of morning sun. It’s best that your celery be shaded during the hottest times in the afternoons and evenings. Celery should be planted with about eight inches between each plant. You can add mulch to help keep down weeds and keep the soil moist and cool. Growing celery from seed takes a lot of water. It’s important to keep the soil evenly moist because celery will not tolerate drought.
Harvesting Your Celery
Growing celery from seed allows you to harvest your celery as needed. Celery grown in a garden will look differently than celery you see at the store. If you’d like, you can bind the stalks with soft strips of cloth to keep them clustered together. However, most home gardeners prefer to cut the celery as they need it rather than harvesting the whole heart.
When harvesting celery stalks, cut the stalk about 2 inches above the ground. You can begin harvesting stalks from the outside of the plant when they reach a height of about 8 inches. Darker stalks have more nutritional benefit than the lighter stalks. However, the darker stalks will also be tougher than the tenderer, lighter colored stalks. If your stalks seem woody then your plant isn’t getting enough water. You can also harvest the leaves to season soups and stews. You can continue to harvest stalks and leaves as needed. Be careful not to take too many leaves as they provided much needed shade to the stalks.
Celery will tolerate a mild frost, but it’s best to harvest the hearts prior to a frost. To harvest the whole celery heart, you can cut the bunch just below the soil line. You can also pull up the entire plant and trim off the roots.
If you’d like to know more about growing celery from seed or a number of other vegetables, please follow Future Generations on our blog and social media.