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Growing Celery in Ontario

celery starts in the garden
Celery starts in the garden

Always eager to try something new, I decided to try growing our own celery this year. I thought it would be nice to see if we could have our own fresh celery to add to potato salads during the summer and to my Neapolitan Tomato Sauce at the end of the season.

Celery has a reputation as a hard to grow vegetable so I’ve tried to take this into consideration in the process.

The main issues I read about when it comes to celery are:

  • germination is difficult
  • celery requires cool weather for as long as possible yet doesn’t like to be planted out until risk of frost is past, and
  • it requires a lot of water. Letting the plants dry out apparently produces bitter, tough celery stalks

So to start I chose the variety ‘Tango’. ¬†According to Veseys, Tango “is a great improvement over older celery varieties, as it is more tolerant of less than ideal conditions. This hybrid produces dark green, thick stalks with lots of great celery flavour. Less likely to become stringy and tough than older varieties.” In addition it matures in approximately 90 days from transplant, a shorter time frame so one that may work better in our warmer summer climate.

I started my seeds indoors March 5, about 10 weeks before I expected to be able to plant them outdoors with some protection. I started 24 plants, expecting poor germination. I was quite surprised to find the first signs of growth by March 13, just a little over a week after planting and ultimately I ended up with 19 good starts. Way more than the 9-12 I wanted but that’s OK, I can always find homes for the extras among my fellow gardeners.

The starts grew quite well, although they did soak up a lot of water, as suggested. Within 9 weeks my starts were almost a foot high and thankfully the weather was warm enough to get them into the garden. Keeping in mind the high need for water, I planted my celery close to the entrance of the garden and close to our water spout. This will make supplemental watering much easier.

The next step will be to “blanch” the celery by covering the stalks. My plan is to use milk cartons. Since it seems you do this about two weeks before harvesting I’ll start checking my crop by cutting some outer branches in early August.

If anyone has experience with celery, I’d love some advice. Experimenting is good, but there is nothing like learning from someone else’s experience.

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