Organic gardeners who think celery is difficult to grow in the natural vegetable garden can grow healthy plants by following a few rules.
When choosing seeds and plants for the organic vegetable garden, many gardeners overlook the possibility of growing celery.
After all, celery is cheap at the grocery store, and the flavor difference between homegrown celery and purchased celery is not remarkable.
However, conventionally grown celery is one of the dirty dozen plants that consumers should avoid to limit their exposure to pesticides.
Celery is also one of the few vegetables that thrive in alkaline soil, making it appealing to gardeners with these growing conditions.
Starting Celery Plants from Seed
Celery doesn’t fare well in hot weather, so gardeners should start celery seed in late winter or early spring indoors or in the greenhouse.
Unlike perennial vegetable garden favorites like tomatoes, there aren’t many celery varieties to choose from. ‘Tango’ and ‘Conquistador’ both yield tender celery stalks, but it is helpful to buy pelletized seed if available, as celery seed is very fine.
Celery demands excellent drainage, both as a seedling and as a plant. Organic gardeners can create a suitable celery seed starting medium from 2/3 compost and 1/3 sand.
The seeds take about two weeks to germinate, and the growing medium must remain moist during this period. Cover the seedbed with either another layer of sand or a layer of milled sphagnum moss to discourage the damping off disease common to moist seedbeds.
Gardeners who have struggled with damping off disease in the past can also place a fan near the seed trays to promote air circulation.
Care and Organic Fertilizer for Celery
About ten weeks after sowing, the young celery plants are ready to set out in the garden. If the soil acidity is much below the pH of 6.0, add limestone to bring the alkalinity to a range of 6.0 to 6.5.
Celery needs consistent moisture to encourage steady growth. However, oversaturated soil contributes to mildew and disease. A three inch layer of organic mulch retains moisture and suppresses weeds.
Celery plants need a constant supply of nutrients to grow, but too much nitrogen can cause crop failure. Fresh wood ashes supply the potash that celery requires, without excessive nitrogen. Gardeners can mix the ashes with the mulch, or work them into the soil.
Celery Pests and Diseases
Pull weeds that host viral diseases like celery mosaic. It’s important to keep celery beds free of weedy disease hosts even when the garden is fallow.
Finally, buy celery seed from a reputable buyer to avoid seed borne pathogens like late blight.