What’s the best high pressure hose nozzle for vegetable gardens? It’s actually a “horses for courses”…
The answer to the question of when to harvest celery is pretty straightforward.
You can either be guided by the length of time it has been growing. That is, from seed to fully developed plant, or you can decide to harvest the celery by measuring the height of the stalks.
Another factor is where you live. If you live in a climate with long cold winters, celery needs to be planted as soon as the weather starts to warm.
In these climates, it is considered a summer crop. If you live in a hot and humid climate, and the winters are mild, consider planting celery in the fall and letting it grow as a winter crop.
The bottom line is, celery requires at least six hours of sunshine a day but it is not happy in really hot conditions.
So when you make plans to plant it, look for a part of your garden that gets shade during the hottest months of the year.
If you don’t have one and you are keen to grow it anyway, consider erecting a makeshift shade. For example, a pergola-type setup where you use hessian as the roof cover. This will keep out a good percentage of the hot sun’s rays.
Alternatively, if your falls and winters are mild, consider growing them during those seasons.
Confused? Well, many people are when it comes to celery.
Knowing when to harvest celery is easy. Growing it is a different matter. And just to confuse you further, growing celery in pots is yet another alternative to consider.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- When to harvest celery
- Preparing celery for harvest
- How to harvest celery
- Growing and caring for celery
- Storing and using celery
But first, a personal story…
When I Grew And Harvested My First Celery
My mom used celery a lot in her cooking. If you’ve read any of the articles on this site, you’ll know she and my dad were immigrant Italians who brought their gardening skills to Australia in the 1950s.
From soups to pasta sauce, celery and its leaves were always included.
I grew up on my parent’s vineyard and while grapes covered a large part of our property, my parent’s garden had pride of place near the house. It was massive.
I started my first garden at age six. Tomatoes and watermelons were my go-to produce. This expanded with more experience.
So let’s fast forward to the time I wanted to grow celery. I’ll never forget the day I asked my parents if I could add celery to my garden. My dad in his usual gruff manner said no, it’s too hard.
Mom was a little more diplomatic and explained celery is not an easy vegetable to grow. In her beautiful Italian accent, she described it as a little fussy. It likes the sun but not too hot. It likes shade but not too cold. And it needs regular fertilizer. It also needs a generous amount of watering.
We lived in a Mediterranean-type climate with very low rainfall. Only about six to eight inches a year. Sounded like a lot of maintenance right?
Well, she asked if I was prepared to do the work to look after it. I thought my response was priceless. “Sure, how could I go wrong with you and Dad guiding me!”
Fast forward to the end and I grew and harvested my first celery patch. It wasn’t a big patch but it was a good experience. Sorry, no moral to this story. Let’s look at when to harvest celery in more detail.
When To Harvest Celery
So, let’s get back to the question of when to harvest celery.
We briefly covered it above including the time it takes to reach maturity and the length of the celery stalks.
There are certain signs to look for. These include maturity. The preceding weather will also determine when to harvest your celery. If it’s been hot, you’ll harvest earlier, fourteen to eighteen weeks, If it’s been mild, you’ll wait longer, sometimes up to five months.
When To Harvest Celery? Look For Signs Of Maturity
When it’s time to harvest your celery, you’ll want to look for a few key signs of maturity.
First, make sure the lower stalks are at least six inches (fifteen cm) long. This ensures they are large enough to be edible.
Additionally, the base of the plant should be about two to three inches in diameter before you consider harvesting.
Optimal Temperature and Climate
Celery generally takes 85 to 150 days, depending on the climate you are in after transplant to reach maturity, and longer if grown from seed.
It should be harvested before the temperatures soar.
The ideal temperature for harvesting celery is around seventy to seventy-five Fahrenheit (21C-24C).
If you prefer darker celery, you can wait until the temperature reaches around seventy degrees Fahrenheit (21°C), but be aware that the stalks might be slightly tougher.
Celery thrives in a climate with full sun exposure, so ensure that it receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
But as we mentioned earlier, don’t expose it to extremely hot sunshine.
If this is not possible in your area or if you can’t plant in an area of the garden that gets shade then consider the suggestion of erecting a part-time pergola with a hessian roof or growing in pots.
The benefit of growing celery in pots is you can move them to wherever you want to around your property.
When preparing the soil for planting, loosen it to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, and mix in aged manure, compost, or a 5-10-10 fertilizer to provide the nutrient-rich environment that celery needs.
To harvest individual celery stalks, simply use a sharp knife and cut the outer stalks away from the plant.
The inner stalks will continue to grow. If you prefer to harvest the entire plant at once, cut it away from its roots, leaving about an inch of the plant above the soil.
This allows the plant to regenerate and grow more celery if there’s time before cold weather sets in.
Preparation Is Key Before You Harvest Celery
This is an important section. We’ll discuss the crucial steps you need to take, such as blanching celery and checking soil and water conditions.
Before you begin harvesting your celery, it’s essential to prepare the plant and ensure optimal conditions.
Don’t worry, this is not a lot of hard work but it’s something that’s recommended. My parents were absolutely “on the money” when they tried to discourage me from adding celery to my garden.
The good news is, once you’ve grown this popular vegetable once and learned the process, it becomes pretty easy.
So don’t fret too much.
If you’ve got this far, you are a serious celery grower. I’m glad.
Blanching celery is an optional but beneficial step that can help improve the overall flavor and tenderness of the stalks.
To blanch your celery, you’ll need to wrap the stalks in paper or tie them together about ten to fourteen days before harvest.
This process will limit sunlight exposure, allowing the celery to retain a lighter color and maintain a mild taste. Be gentle while wrapping your celery to avoid damaging the stalks. I’ve been guilty of wrapping it with a little too much gusto and harmed some of the stalks. So easy does it!
When To Harvest Celery? Check Soil And Water Conditions
Maintaining proper soil and water conditions is essential for a successful celery harvest. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Soil: Celery thrives in nutrient-rich soil. Make sure your soil has a depth of twelve to fifteen inches and has been mixed with manure that has a little age in it or use compost to provide essential nutrients.
pH: Your soil’s pH level should fall within the range of 5.5 to 7.0. Don’t get too hung up on this though. Use a soil test kit to check the pH and adjust it if necessary, as it can affect your celery’s ability to absorb nutrients. Just make sure the numbers don’t fall too far below or above the ones quoted.
Water: Celery requires consistent moisture for optimal growth. Keep the soil consistently moist, but avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot and other problems. Check the soil around your plants frequently to ensure it doesn’t dry out. Use mulch to help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature. Mulch is a fantastic resource, especially in hot climates for retaining moisture.
One more thing when watering, don’t blast the water onto your celery patch. Grab a used tin or similar object. Place the end of the hose in it and at the beginning of your celery row. Turn the water on at a slow to medium strength and let the water run down the row slowly and easily. When it starts to gather at the end, turn the water off.
By properly blanching your celery and monitoring the soil and water conditions, you can ensure a successful harvest with tender and flavorful stalks.
How To Harvest Celery
Knowing when to harvest celery is one thing. Knowing how to harvest it is another. But again, don’t worry, this is not hard to do.
In fact, I remember clearly as a kid harvesting my first celery. I wasn’t supposed to as my parents clearly didn’t want me handling a sharp or serrated knife at my age.
Thankfully, I didn’t harm myself but it goes without saying, be careful when you harvest your celery.
Using The Right Tools
To successfully harvest celery, you’ll need a few essential tools. A serrated knife is crucial due to its ability to cleanly cut through the fibrous stalks without damaging the plant.
Just make sure it’s sharp though as you don’t want to be hacking into the celery like a maniac.
A pair of gardening gloves will protect your hands from scratches or splinters. Once again, make sure your knife is sharp, clean, and rust-free for a smooth harvesting process.
Proper Techniques To Harvest Celery
My mom used to talk to her plants. I confess I do the same. When celery is close to or ready to be harvested, Mom used to say it was like it was calling out to her to come and get it.
When it comes to harvesting celery, timing is critical. We’ve established there are two stages to harvest celery. Stage one is from seed to maturity which is longer than option two, which is from transplant to maturity.
The smallest stalks should be at least 6 inches tall before you start harvesting. I like to let the longest stalks reach at least 15-18 inches. Any longer and you risk getting a tough batch of celery. I prefer them soft and tender.
Individual Celery Stalks
If you are growing a small amount of celery then you’ll more than likely cut out individual stalks. If you have a large patch, then it’s usually the whole plant.
That was my experience anyway.
To harvest individual celery stalks, use your serrated knife to cut the outer stalks.
The inner stalks will continue to grow, allowing multiple harvests throughout the season.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to harvest celery stalks:
1. Locate the outer stalks of the plant.
2. With your serrated knife, cut away the stalk from the crown at the bottom of the plant. Be careful not to damage the inner stalks.
3. Remove the leaves and properly dispose of them, as they can attract pests.
4. Rinse with water to remove any dirt, and enjoy your fresh celery stalks.
Whole Celery Plant
If you prefer to harvest the entire celery plant, follow these steps:
1. Ensure the base of the celery plant is about two to three inches in diameter.
2. Using your serrated knife, cut the stalks away cleanly at the base, cutting at the soil level.
3. Remove dirt from the entire head with a dry cloth, and store or process as desired.
Remember, harvesting celery should be done before hot temperatures set in to ensure the best flavor and texture.
This won’t be an issue for you if you live in a milder climate. For people in the southern United States or northern areas of Australia for example, shaded areas in the garden are almost a necessity with growing celery.
I should know as I’ve lived for extensive periods in both areas. Right now in the south as a write this, the weather is heating up fast.
I love the idea of making celery more of a fall and early winter experience because of the heat.
Finally in this section, just make sure you use the right tools and that your go-to removal tool is sharp enough to make removing the stalks an effortless experience.
Growing And Caring For Celery
As mentioned several times, celery can be a medium to high-maintenance plant. But if you take the time to give your celery what it needs, it will “reward you in spades”.
When choosing celery varieties for your garden, it’s essential to pick those that are suitable for your climate and specific gardening conditions.
Some popular types include ‘Tango’, ‘Ventura’, and ‘Golden Pascal’. Remember that celery prefers cooler temperatures but can be grown in most regions as long as you provide the right conditions. Gold Pascal is considered an ideal variety for those living in cooler and wetter areas.
Germination And Planting Tips
Before planting celery seeds, it’s a good idea to soak them in tepid water for a few hours to speed up germination and help prevent blight problems.
Sow celery seeds a quarter to half an inch deep and space them six to ten inches apart, with rows spaced about two feet apart.
Once again, remember that celery needs nutrient-rich soil and ample sunlight. I use a garden fork to loosen the soil up to fifteen inches in depth.
Make sure the ground is soft enough to do this. If not, water it overnight before attempting to loosen the soil.
Just place the fork in the ground, push it into the ground with your foot, then lift the fork out of the ground with the soil and simply turn it over.
Just keep repeating the process until you’ve covered the entire area you’re planting.
If you are planting celery seedlings, just know they are sensitive to changes in temperature.
Planting them indoors in pots about ten to twelve weeks before the last frost date in your region can help ensure they’re off to a good start.
Once outdoor temperatures consistently stay above fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit (twelve degrees Celsius), you can transplant them to your garden. The following video is a fantastic guide to growing celery.
Dealing With Pests And Diseases
Pests can play havoc with any vegetable in your garden. Celery plants are no different.
Celery plants are vulnerable to a range of pests, including aphids, slugs, and snails.
While you don’t want to use harsh chemicals on your edible plants, there are natural steps you can take to protect them:
– Monitor your plants regularly and remove any pests you spot by hand.
– Set traps, such as beer-filled shallow pans or containers, to catch slugs and snails.
– Make sure your garden is free of weeds, as these can harbor pests and take away valuable nutrients from your celery plants.
In addition to pest issues, celery can also be affected by diseases such as early blight and Fusarium wilt.
To prevent these problems, make sure you maintain good sanitation in your garden, practice crop rotation, and use disease-resistant varieties of celery when possible.
Storing And Using Harvested Celery
We’ve provided the answer to when to harvest celery. You’ve also got a guide on how to harvest celery, grow it, and maintain it.
So what do you do after you have harvested it? Well, you eat it of course. But what do you do when you have more than you can use?
Other than giving some to neighbors, friends, and family, you need to store it.
After you’ve successfully harvested it, it’s important to store your celery properly to preserve its freshness and explore creative ways to use it in your cooking.
My mother used to save the bags sliced bread came in. She had these bread bags stored everywhere. They were ideal for storing properly wrapped celery.
Remember to clean the celery properly before using it, as dirt and debris can accumulate at the base of the stalks.
Preserving The Celery’s Freshness
The following guide will help you store your celery properly.
To ensure that your harvested celery stays fresh and crisp, follow these steps:
Refrigerate immediately. Place the celery stalks in a plastic bag with the end open, and leave it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. This will help maintain high humidity, which is crucial for preserving the freshness of the celery.
Leave the leaves on. Celery leaves contain a lot of flavors and can be used in various dishes. By keeping the leaves attached to the stalks, your celery will last for about two to three days. If you decide to remove the leaves, store them separately in a well-ventilated container.
Store cut stalks in water. If your celery starts to lose its crispiness, you can restore it by refrigerating the cut stalks in a container of water. This will help to rehydrate the celery and maintain its crunchiness.
I’m tipping you’ll need to use each of the three methods for storing celery at some stage. Each one is effective for its particular need.
Conclusion: Creative Culinary Uses
Now that your celery is properly stored, you can start exploring different ways to use it in your food. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Sauces: I’m talking pasta sauces mainly. My mom taught me to add celery to every sauce she prepared. We’ve alluded to how tasty the leaves are. Use a generous amount in your sauce without overdoing it. Trust me, the flavor of the celery fused with the meat, herbs, and other ingredients will take the flavors to the next level.
Soups: Celery is a great addition to soups, providing both flavor and texture. You can add it to classics like chicken noodle soup or create a delicious creamy celery soup. Don’t forget to use the leaves, too, as they add extra flavor.
Salads: Celery’s crispiness makes it a popular ingredient in a variety of salads. You can add it to a classic Waldorf salad or create a refreshing celery and apple salad to enjoy as a light meal or a side dish.
Stir-fries and sautés: Celery can be cooked quickly in a hot pan with a little bit of oil, making it a perfect addition to stir-fries and sautés. It pairs well with other vegetables, meats, and seafood, and can be seasoned with your favorite spices and sauces.
One more thing, if you find yourself with too much celery or some parts that are not suitable for cooking, you can always add them to your compost pile. Celery is rich in nutrients, and composting it will help create nutrient-dense soil for your garden.