Growing celery is a very common practice among home gardeners. The plant is one of the most used and versatile aromatic herbs in the kitchen. It is consumed as it is, in a simple salad, but it can also dress soups, soups, and so on.
The cultivation of celery takes place at different times of the year, but, more generally, it goes from spring to late autumn.
Let’s see what are the characteristics of the different varieties, which are distinguished, for the most part, in celery by leaves and ribs.
We also know what are the main cultural treatments to collect and enjoy healthy and luxuriant plants.
Botanical classification of celery
Celery ( Apium graveolens dulce ) is a herbaceous plant of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family. Plants such as fennel and carrot also belong to this same family. Both the leafy celery varieties and the ribbed celery varieties belong to the Apium graveolens dulce
species. Another species of celery is the Apium graveolens rapaceum , which is celeriac , to which we will dedicate a specific article.
In general, this is a plant of Mediterranean origin, with an ancient tradition. It was used, in fact, as a medicine and is even mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey.
Characteristics of celery
Growing celery requires a two-year cycle, although, in home gardens, it can be annual.
The plants have very deeply developed taproot roots and are usually swollen and fleshy.
The leaves are compound and pinnate, with very long petioles (stems or ribs). These, at times, are empty inside, but mostly they are full and fleshy.
All parts of the plant, and in particular the leaves, petioles, and seeds, are distinguished by a very pleasant aroma and intense and characteristic flavor.
The most used parts are leaves and ribs. Depending on the variety, and therefore on the basis of the pre-eminent development of one of these parts, we will distinguish the celery from leaves from those from ribs.
Leaf celery is also called cut or herb celery. They include very common varieties, such as sedanino.
They are plants that have a remarkable vigor and are very rustic. The leaves are rather small, green, similar to those of parsley, with little developed petioles.
These varieties have the ability to revegetate quickly after cutting, so they yield several yields.
The celery from the ribs
Ribbed celery is the most widespread and cultivated variety of this plant.
We can distinguish them in green ribbed celery and white ribbed celery.
Green ribbed celery
Green ribs celery is very vigorous and productive, with very developed and fleshy green ribs.
Its main varieties are:
- Full barrel, with broad leaves and vigorous ribs, with an intense aroma and good flavor. It is a variety that is easy to grow and is suitable for any use
- Pascal, with very developed and fleshy ribs and resistant to winter frost
- Piedmontese, with thickened coasts that become pink in the winter months. Very rustic and frost-resistant variety.
Celery with white ribs
Their ribs are lighter in color, very fleshy, but at the same time crunchy and tender.
The main varieties of this type of celery are:
- Precious goldenrod, known for its wide and very white ribs. Suitable for both spring and autumn cultivation
- Dorato Chemin, a rather early variety, with tender and crunchy ribs. Very rustic and more suitable for autumn cultivation
- Gigante di Castelnuovo Scrivia, very vigorous variety. It has voluminous tufts and wide fleshy ribs. It is also grown in winter.
How to grow celery
Celery is grown at various times of the year. In general, it suffers from excessive heat in the absence of water, and from intense frost in the absence of protection.
Therefore the best seasons for celery cultivation are spring and autumn.
Sowing and transplanting period
To grow celery starting from the seed, the seedbed technique is useful. Particular attention, in this case, must be paid to the germination of the seed, which is very slow and needs a constant temperature of 18-20 °. Sowing should only be done when the environmental conditions are suitable, which is not always possible. For this reason, it is preferred to use and transplant seedlings already formed in the nursery, grown at a controlled temperature.
The celery is transplanted into the open field from the end of February until the whole month of April, for the spring-summer harvest.
Instead, it is transplanted from August to October, for the autumn-winter harvest.
The ideal transplant distance for ribbed celery is 30 cm between plants. For celery leaves, on the other hand, a shorter distance, about 20 cm, can be maintained.
Soil and fertilization
Growing celery requires suitable soil. Being a very demanding crop from this point of view, the ideal is a loose, fertile, and well-worked soil. It is therefore good to fertilize it before transplanting, using organic fertilizers such as earthworm humus (which you can buy here ) or mature manure (which you can find here ).
Irrigation and mulching
The cultivation of celery has significant water needs, therefore, if it does not rain, it is necessary to intervene with irrigation. In this sense, the best system is undoubtedly the drip irrigation system.
If celery lacks water, the main risk is that it will harden and lose its natural crunchiness.
A precaution to limit irrigation interventions is to place celery in the most shaded areas of the garden. This is a position that the vegetable prefers to full sun, especially in spring and summer crops.
To limit irrigation and protect the plant from weeds, it is advisable to use natural mulch.
If mulch is not used, cultivating celery becomes more tiring, as the plant requires numerous weeding operations, i.e. manual weed cleaning. This operation becomes necessary since the latter takes away nourishment from the plant and limits its development.
The bleaching of the coasts
Bleaching is a very important operation for cultivating ribbed celery, a technique that we have already known when talking about smooth escarole.
Bleaching is used to obtain a quality, tender and crunchy product. It also guarantees a perfect golden-white on the inner coasts. Excellent results are obtained by tying the tops of the plant with an elastic or a light lace. Tossing the earth around the seedling also helps to whiten it.
This operation must be done in time, about 15-20 days before the expected harvest.
Biological defense against parasites
A celery crop can suffer from the attacks of some pests, which vary according to the season.
In spring, the greatest risk is aphids, which we recommend contrasting with garlic or nettle macerate as a preventive measure. When the infestation has already occurred, you can use soft potassium soap, a very effective product that you can find here.
If the crop continues in the summer months, the greatest risk is represented by the possible presence of whiteflies. This parasite monitors and fights above all using color traps, which you can find here
In autumn, however, the most frequent parasites of celery are snails and slugs, which are fond of leaves. For the biological control of these mollusks, we refer to the specific article.
Good organic cultivation!