Updated: May 27
Growing celery in your zone 3 garden is something you may not have considered before. For whatever the reason, celery is not commonly found in most backyard vegetable gardens. This is likely due to the fact that celery seeds need to be started indoors 10 to 12 weeks prior to transplanting the seedlings outside. Celery is a water loving, heavy feeder, cool weather crop. With a little effort you can add this versatile vegetable to your vegetable garden portfolio.
Planting Celery Seeds Indoors
A key to growing celery successfully is starting celery seeds indoors early in the year. Plant your celery seeds 10 to 14 weeks before your last expected frost. I am near Calgary, Alberta and I like to seed my celery between February 14th and 21st. It is important to keep notes on seeds you start indoors and adjust starting dates each year to your growing conditions and ideal plant maturity by your last frost date. Print out my full seed starting guide for Alberta here.
Sprinkle celery seeds on top of the warm, moist soil of a shallow container. Last year I covered some of my celery seeds with 1/8 in. of soil and they did not germinate well. I did a second seeding and did not cover the seeds with any soil and had great germination results. From this experience I suggest leaving the seeds on the surface of the soil and gently pressing them into the soil for best germination. Always water seeds gently after planting. Leave your celery seeds in a place where they will be exposed to light during the day.
Celery seeds are slow to germinate and take anywhere from 10 to 21 days to sprout. Transplant celery seedlings into plugs when they are 1.5 to 2 inches tall. Transplant to just below the bottom of the first leaf. I find celery seedlings look spindly and weak for the first two months, and then suddenly will start filling out. Don't be worried if they don't look like much for the first while. This is normal.
Decrease water for celery seedlings in the week prior to planting them out in your garden.
Last year I grew Tango celery from West Coast Seeds and despite the fact that I didn't water it enough and it ended up being a bit spongy, was very pleased with the outcome. This year I have ordered Merengo and Tango celery seeds from William Dam.
Planting Celery Seedlings Outside
Be careful when hardening off celery seedlings as more than about 9 nights in a row with temperatures below 12⁰C (55⁰F) can cause bolting. Transplant celery outdoors after your last expected frost. (For most of us in Alberta this will mean planting celery outdoors around May 24th.) At this point your celery should be about 2.5 inches tall. Celery planting distance should be between 8 to 12 inches apart.
Best Conditions for Growing Celery
The ideal soil pH for growing celery is between 6.0 and 6.5. Celery is a heavy feeder and thrives in rich moist soil. Wild celery grows in swampy areas. Consider the wettest area of your garden for planting your celery in. Celery grows well in an area that receives afternoon shade. Too much heat and dry soil will cause celery stalks to go from thick and juicy to soft and spongy.
Planting Celery in Containers
Because celery has shallow roots, it can easily be grown in containers. When planting celery in containers, ensure there is sufficient spacing (8 to 12 inches between plants) and that you can maintain even moisture of the soil.
If your celery is not labeled "self blanching" you will want to hill around the base of your celery plant when it is around 6 to 8 inches tall to obtain a crisp, white base. Because celery is a heavy feeder, it is beneficial to use compost for hilling celery. Hill up the base of the plant 2 inches high and hill again 2 to 3 weeks later adding another 2 inches for a total of 4in.
Celery can be tied as it grows to keep the plant in a nice compact bunch.
Celery can be harvested 1 stalk at a time around 6 weeks after transplanting. Pull stalks off the outside of the plant as needed for your household.
Don't wait too long until celery plants are mature before harvesting the whole plant or they may become bitter and spongy. Trim off roots after harvesting and store in the fridge, or chop and freeze for winter soups and stock. I like to keep the leaves along with the stalks as the celery leaves are also great for soup and stock.
Celery Companion Plants
Companion plants for celery include beans, brassicas, chives, leeks, nasturtiums, spinach, and tomatoes. Avoid planting near carrots and parsnips.
Print out my free companion planting guide for zone easy reference.
Celery Crop Rotation
Consider planting celery in last years brassica, pea, or onion space for healthy crop rotation.
If you have found this article helpful and would like to see more gardening tips and tricks, subscribe to my blog (the bottom of the home page) and follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and/or YouTube!