Celery & Celeriac

Celery – Apium graveolens; Celeriac – Apium graveolens var. rapaceum; Leaf celery – Apium graveolens var. secalinum

Both celery and celeriac are in the same Apiaceae, or parsley and carrot family, and have the same species name.

Celery & Celeriac

Introduction

Both celery and celeriac are in the same Apiaceae, or parsley and carrot family, and have the same species name. Their cultural needs are similar, but for a very different outcome.

  • Celery is a tight stalk, 40–60 cm/16–24 in high, bred for its stems from wild celery which is taller and thinner, its stems more fibrous. Wild celery is valued for leaves and seeds.
  • Celeriac has been selectively bred from celery to achieve its swollen root. Sometimes it’s called root or turnip-rooted celery, but there is no relationship to turnip.
  • Leaf or Chinese celery has thinner stems and a strong taste and smell. Its leaves, and sometimes stems, are used in soups and stews.

A head or plant of celery comprises many edible stalks and leaves.

The harvested root of celeriac is a bulbous hypocotyl, a swollen portion of root just above the main root system. This is similar to carrots and beetroot but not potatoes, which are tubers.

1st November, with autumn lettuce and celeriac – the latter has a little Septoria disease, but not too much, see ‘Diseases’ below
With a selection of celery on 6th August – Victoria and Hadrian, from a March sowing
Harvesting celeriac, with wood blewit mushrooms attached; we ate these mushrooms, which had grown from woody bits in my compost

Harvest period

  • Days from seed to first harvest: celery 100–130, celeriac 180–250.

Why grow them

Celery

Widely acknowledged for its health benefits, celery is even juiced to extract more of the goodness. I understand the reasoning but feel that this is a waste of valuable fibres! Chopped, homegrown celery stalks add wonderful flavour and texture, to salads in particular.

  • Homegrown celery is high in cellulose or fibre, and needs a lot of chewing. The fibres are softened by cooking, and you can also use the leaves when making stock.
  • Bought celery has usually been grown with synthetic fertilisers and maximum amounts of water to increase growth. The look is impressive and the texture is tender, but the flavour is less strong.

I value my celery a lot and miss it in winter and spring. But that is the joy of eating seasonally, how one values food far more when it’s naturally available. Plus it offers the nutrition we need at that time of year, and the microbes too.

Victoria celery in late June, from sowing in mid-March, and very little slug damage
Granada celery on 28th November – this was a second sowing of 2nd June, transplanted between carrot plants where there were gaps from poor emergence

Charles’ Celery Salad

I like this for breakfast, when celery is in season. In winter you could use a cup of celeriac instead, chopped very small or grated, and add lambs lettuce for green.

  • 4–6 stalks of celery, chopped small
  • 1 apple, chopped very small
  • Handful of walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • A little chopped onion, to taste
  • A little balsamic vinegar and salt, plus oil if you wish

Celeriac

The dense roots are full of goodness and store well through winter, even into the hungry gap. They taste great in salads, grated or chopped small.

There’s a lot of flavour in a small amount of homegrown celeriac. Keep a large one in the kitchen, because even after cutting bits off they are good to use for over two weeks.

  • You can also eat celeriac leaves, but they are extremely fibrous, except for the newest ones in the middle. Best use is to make stock or perhaps soup.
4th July – you can see celeriac interplanted in this bed by the peas, which now have mildew
11th July – a week later, the pea plants have been cleared; you can see many plantings that were already in there, including the celeriac
By 18th October you can see significant growth of the celeriac and leeks; in November, these celeriac plants returned 3.5 kg/7.7 lb from five roots

Pattern of growth

These plants are biennial, so they will not flower in the first year and just continue growing. Celery stalks, however, from the first sowing in early spring, become more fibrous by late summer.  In autumn, celery is more tender from the second sowing in late spring.

If a celery root system or celeriac root is left in the ground through winter and survives frost plus the damp, it will make flowering stalks through spring.

Celery seed is a valuable spice and this would be harvestable in late summer, one or two months after flowering finishes.

Celery was planted on 16th May, after a crop of spinach; by the start of August we have harvested many, and some remaining stems are less tender and have a number of side shoots
A second sowing by 17th August – Hadrian at the near end and Victoria at the far end, sown on 22nd May and transplanted on 2nd July; the space behind is from after having cleared wild rocket
20th July – the year’s final planting of celery is in the polytunnel, replacing some French bean plants; these celery were sown on 7th June

Suitable for containers/shade?

They can be grown in shade.

Celery is the most worthwhile for containers since it needs less space than celeriac. Always beware of slugs, perhaps hiding under pots.

Types of celery

Celery used to be grown for eating in winter and early spring, and was called trench celery. This was from varieties that took a full season to grow large and were transplanted in a trench or furrow. Then, in autumn or early winter, they were mounded up with soil, to blanch the stems and make them sweeter.

This process involves a lot of work in the growing, harvesting and cleaning of the stems. Nowadays one almost never sees trench celery, although you occasionally see reference to it in seed catalogues or gardening articles.

I do not recommend blanching celery with soil, for these reasons:

  • There is a lot of soil movement which damages soil life.
  • The presence of soil around celery stalks often results in slugs eating them, and I suspect poisons were used to prevent this, although it’s not always made clear.
  • It’s a lot of work!
Blanched celery at an RHS show in October – this can be created by tying cardboard around the stem to maintain darkness

The opposite of trench celery is self-blanching celery, although this term is now less used. We don’t need to differentiate it from the rarely grown trench celery. Close spacings mean that the shade of celery leaves do a fair amount of blanching to the stalks, making them less bitter.

Why the perceived need to blanch? It’s a good question and I believe this comes partly from the English aristocracy, who sought a degree of perfection in their vegetables and were even competitive about it. In my view, they did a lot of unnecessary work – or rather their gardeners did!

  • They wanted sweetness and special flavours, while perhaps ignoring the rounded flavours and nutritional quality of unblanched vegetables .
  • They had a large labour force with spare time in winter months.
  • They did not know that some bitterness is good for our health.

Varieties

Celery

I struggled to grow juicy celery until I discovered the F1 variety Victoria. It is streets ahead of the ones I had grown before, such as Tall Utah and Golden Self Blanching, whose stems, nowadays, are mostly smaller and less juicy.

  • Victoria grows more vigorously than other F1 varieties. Hadrian is ready a little earlier and is slightly smaller.
  • Granada F1 has resistance to Septoria, and I recommend it for the second sowing in late spring or even early summer – see the photo below.
  • Loretta F1 grows a smaller celery, with a more yellow colour.

There are several varieties which grow pink stalks. Not really pink though, more just a pink tinge at the base of each stem.

Victoria celery in mid-September, 11 weeks after planting; it followed chard
Tall Green Utah celery in August, from a March sowing – however, despite the name, it was vertically challenged!
The effects of Septoria, a disease that turns the leaves and stem brown; Granada at the bottom and Victoria at the top, from the same sowing date, weighing 320 g/11.1 oz and 80 g/2.8 oz respectively, after being trimmed

Celeriac

I find Prinz always grows a reliably large harvest, and Monarch too.

Giant Prague, by contrast, has given me higher proportions of leaf to root. For this reason, be careful of heritage varieties.

In a taste test by Raymond Blanc and his chefs, they found little difference in flavour between several different varieties.

A very strong planting of Giant Prague celeriac in December, at 40 cm/16 in spacing, the leaves still healthy
In contrast, an unimpressive December harvest of a heritage celeriac variety, whose name has disappeared from my records!

Video

Celeriac, May to October 2019 – so small to so big

Sow and propagate

  • Seeds germinate in 10–14 days, and have full cotyledons by about 20 days.

Emergence is slow and the cotyledons are tiny. Later growth becomes more rapid, especially from about three weeks after transplanting.

At this size, you’re good to go with pricking out celery seedlings
1st April – these celeriac seedlings have been pricked out at the two-leaf stage
Spring propagation in mid-May – celery and celeriac at the back, alongside sweetcorn, lettuce, and soy beans in the middle

Sowing conditions

  • These seeds require light to germinate – this is important.

Simply scatter seeds on top of pre-moistened compost, with no compost on top of them. Seeds are small – be careful not to sow too many. Place a piece of glass over the tray, or put it in a bag of clear polythene, anywhere with warmth and some daylight. The warmth requirement is around 20–25 °C/68–77 °F, which you could achieve on the windowsill of any room that has some heating in early spring.

  • Germination does not happen if nights are much below 8 °C/46 °F, even when days are warm. Hence the benefit of house warmth, compared to a greenhouse where nights are much colder, even though sunny days are warm.

Sowing timeMid-March in warmth is a reliable first sowing date. It’s the only one for celeriac, which needs the whole season to grow large. Buying plants in May is an option if you miss the March sowing, or don’t have a protected space for propagation. Celeriac sown after mid-April/mid-spring will grow nicely, but the harvest will be smaller.Celery matures by early to midsummer, and can be sown again in May for later harvests.

  • Two celery sowings give younger and more juicy stems at harvest because, although an early sowing will stand right through until autumn, its stems become more fibrous.
  • New growth in late summer and through autumn, from the celery sowings of early spring, happens mostly as side shoots – see below.

In warm climates such as Zone 10, a third celery sowing is possible during summer, for harvests into winter, as long as frosts are only slight.

By the end of May, a second sowing of celery is almost ready to prick out, and beside it are some kale plants
Mid-May – celeriac plants, in 4 cm/1.5 in diameter modules, are ready to be transplanted; notice some smaller plants on the left from under watering
20th July – the impact of two different composts on a 13th June celery sowing, pricked out at the same time four weeks earlier; Moorland Gold on the left and Dalefoot’s spring compost batch on the right

Sowing method

  • Before sowing, water the compost to capacity.
  • Scatter seeds on top and be careful not to sow too thickly.
  • Use a cover of glass or polythene over the sown tray.
  • Remove the cover once the first tiny leaves are all there.

Why sow in a tray and not in modules?

  1. Seeds are tiny and almost impossible to sow individually or in twos. It’s much easier to scatter them on the surface of compost in a small tray.
  2. Germination to the two-leaf stage takes 14–20 days, during which time one seed tray needs far less of your precious warm and protected space than would modules, and for the same number of seedlings.
  3. After 20 days or so, it’s quick to prick seedlings into modules. The result is no empty module cells or uneven growth from patchy germination.

The cell size is best small, around 3 cm/1.2 in wide and 4 cm/1 in deep, because, as with carrots, growth at first is slow. A 60-cell module tray is ideal, and in spring you could, for example, grow 30 celery at one end and 30 celeriac at the other.Seedlings benefit from the warmth of a greenhouse through April. They are not killed by frost if there is a cold night, but fleece over the trays will benefit them if that happens.Pot on?Potting on is not necessary, unless you are waiting for space to be available. You would do it at about six weeks from sowing, and into 7 cm/3 in pots.

10th May – these eight-week-old celeriac plants are ready to go into the ground
Wider spacings for the planting of celeriac in mid-May; on the right are garlic from an October planting
31st May – the celery has settled into this bed of 1 m/39 in width, after being transplanted two weeks earlier

Video

Celeriac – how to grow in 50 seconds

Transplant, interplant

Transplant size

An excellent average size is 7 cm/3 in tall, while smaller is possible. Better than plants being too large and with a tightly grown root system, which results in a growth check after transplanting.

Mid-May – newly planted celery, with some celeriac plants at the back; this bed had been spinach, and we had just spread homemade compost
Four weeks after being transplanted, the celery and celeriac are growing nicely; to the left are courgette plants, 40 days since transplanting
Early July, now seven weeks since transplanting the celery and celeriac; the celery is ready for a few stems to be cut

Transplant time and method

May, or late spring, is the month for transplanting both celeriac and your first sowing of celery. Neither are killed by frost, and you can transplant them earlier. However there is no rush: plants suffer some damage to leaves in frosts of around -2 °C/28 °F, while growth is stronger once soil is consistently warm, from late spring.

Subsequently, from late June to early July is good for setting out transplants from the second sowing of celery. They might follow, for example, early potatoes, spring onions, salads and peas. There is no ground preparation needed, apart from raking level and clearing any debris and weeds on the surface, assuming you had spread compost in winter or early spring.

  • Use a wooden dibber to create holes a little deeper and wider than the module rootball. Push the transplant in firmly – the lowest part of stems may be below surface level. Don’t fill the hole because watering will do that eventually.
16th May – with some new Prinz celeriac plants from Delfland Nurseries
19th May – the top three beds of my Three-Strip Trial, with new celery in the middle bed of the three
The same beds six weeks later, and so far little water has been given to the celeriac plants

Spacing

  • Celery can be as close as 22 cm/9 in each way, to have taller stems with fewer side shoots.
  • Celeriac needs more space, up to 37 cm/15 in for large harvests, or 30–35 cm/2–14 in for medium-sized roots.

Interplanting

Between celeriac, you can interplant multisown spring onions, as in the photos below. They come to harvest within five to six weeks, just as the celeriac needs full space.

11th May – watering transplants of celeriac and spring onions
New plantings of celeriac and spring onion in mid-May – the celeriac was sown a month earlier than the spring onion
25th June, five weeks after planting the spring onions with celeriac plants – you can see strong growth

Videos

How to grow celery, step by step

Celeriac – how to grow in 50 seconds

Transplant size

An excellent average size is 7 cm/3 in tall, while smaller is possible. Better than plants being too large and with a tightly grown root system, which results in a growth check after transplanting.

Mid-May – newly planted celery, with some celeriac plants at the back; this bed had been spinach, and we had just spread homemade compost
Four weeks after being transplanted, the celery and celeriac are growing nicely; to the left are courgette plants, 40 days since transplanting
Early July, now seven weeks since transplanting the celery and celeriac; the celery is ready for a few stems to be cut

Transplant time and method

May, or late spring, is the month for transplanting both celeriac and your first sowing of celery. Neither are killed by frost, and you can transplant them earlier. However there is no rush: plants suffer some damage to leaves in frosts of around -2 °C/28 °F, while growth is stronger once soil is consistently warm, from late spring.

Subsequently, from late June to early July is good for setting out transplants from the second sowing of celery. They might follow, for example, early potatoes, spring onions, salads and peas. There is no ground preparation needed, apart from raking level and clearing any debris and weeds on the surface, assuming you had spread compost in winter or early spring.

  • Use a wooden dibber to create holes a little deeper and wider than the module rootball. Push the transplant in firmly – the lowest part of stems may be below surface level. Don’t fill the hole because watering will do that eventually.
16th May – with some new Prinz celeriac plants from Delfland Nurseries
19th May – the top three beds of my Three-Strip Trial, with new celery in the middle bed of the three
The same beds six weeks later, and so far little water has been given to the celeriac plants

Spacing

  • Celery can be as close as 22 cm/9 in each way, to have taller stems with fewer side shoots.
  • Celeriac needs more space, up to 37 cm/15 in for large harvests, or 30–35 cm/2–14 in for medium-sized roots.

Interplanting

Between celeriac, you can interplant multisown spring onions, as in the photos below. They come to harvest within five to six weeks, just as the celeriac needs full space.

11th May – watering transplants of celeriac and spring onions
New plantings of celeriac and spring onion in mid-May – the celeriac was sown a month earlier than the spring onion
25th June, five weeks after planting the spring onions with celeriac plants – you can see strong growth

Videos

How to grow celery, step by step

Celeriac – how to grow in 50 seconds

Water

Growing care is mainly watering. After watering at planting time, give water again every two days if the weather is warm and dry. Then you may not need to water for a few weeks.

Celery

Start the main watering about a month after transplanting, and do it two or three times a week.

  • Check soil moisture before watering – it may be drier than you expected if the celery is growing strongly.

Celery keeps sucking water out. It amazes me how much water the plants need, in order to grow quickly and with juicy stalks.

Water heavily in the ten days before harvest, unless rain is plentiful.

Celeriac

It needs much less water than celery, say just weekly in hot weather or on light soils.

  • In an average temperate summer on heavy soil, you may hardly need to water celeriac.
Showing a very dry celery root system, from insufficient water in late August
Celeriac leaves turning grey and brown from a hot sun and dry soil
Mid-September – a bad outbreak of Septoria on overwatered celeriac

Extra mulch to retain moisture?

For celery, in particular, slugs are a hazard. Compost mulch does not encourage them, so it’s best to use that only.

For celeriac, there is also a possibility of damage by woodlice, who breed fast in mulches with undecomposed wood and also in any decaying wood of old bed sides.

Leaf removal

Side shooting celery

About three months from sowing, and as a head of celery nears maturity, you start to see small new shoots appearing at the base of plants. If left to grow, they become mini celery plants themselves.

In 2020 I trialled removing side shoots of celery, six weeks after transplanting, and found it worthwhile. The main head was more clear of slug damage and a little larger.

  • Wrap fingers around these new stems at the base, and push down to remove them, even with a little root.
  • The result is fewer slugs, thanks to more open space around plants and fewer decaying leaves.
  • Harvesting is quicker, with less trimming needed and larger heads.

In contrast, you could leave two side shoots from the main stalk, which you eventually cut carefully at harvest time. They will give a later and small harvest, after a month or so.

11th October – Octavius F1, a Mr Fothergill’s variety, sown on 13th June
The same day, after removing some side shoots from the stem
Five weeks after harvesting the main stem – you can see side shoots have regrown

Leaf removal from celeriac

From late summer, you can twist off the lowest leaves from roots of celeriac when you see them turning yellow and brown. This makes the roots look much nicer. However, unlike with brassicas, I am not convinced that it helps growth or reduces pests.

Possibly this practice originated in aristocratic gardens, where there was a desire to have fine-looking vegetables.

  • When I have compared celeriac growth between one bed where the plants are trimmed and the other with plants left alone, I see, if anything, that the untidy roots grow larger.
  • Possibly the unpruned plants are less susceptible to Septoria disease.
Four months after transplanting the celeriac, on 17th September, the plants are swelling fast; we’ve tidied up the leaves and given them some water
Three weeks later, in early October, and the Prinz celeriac now has Septoria on the outer leaves, most of which we have removed
9th November – there are few leaves still left on the frozen celeriac, at -2 °C/28 °F; the best harvests were from now until early December, after which the last, unharvested roots started to decay with Septoria

Harvest times and methods

How to judge readiness

Harvest celery for tender stalks within four months of sowing, although they will stand for longer. The first pick can be of smaller heads after just three months. You can also twist, or cut off to eat, any larger side shoots from the outside of plants.

  • Each sowing of celery can give six to eight weeks of harvest.
  • Keep watering the remaining plants right up to harvest time.

Celeriac should be large enough to pull from October/mid-autumn and onwards. I recommend you harvest by Christmas, for less damage caused by disease, rodents and slugs.

Mid-August – a close view of the Prinz celeriac
Growth of the celeriac by 13th October; you can also see the last cabbages and leeks growing strongly, and new salads have just been transplanted for winter harvests
27th November, and many of the celeriac have already been harvested – this planting gave 51.5 kg/113.5 lb by December; on the right you can see freshly transplanted broad beans

How to pick

Use a strong and sharp knife to cut through the celery stem, just above soil level – each one is a lot of food. If not cleared, the root and stem base will grow baby celery which may or may not be worth it for the time and space needed.

Celeriac has many tenacious roots growing downwards from its hypocotyl. Use a sharp trowel, or even a spade, to slice through these, almost horizontally and just under the celeriac.

Small roots are fine to leave in the soil, while many others need trimming off the celeriac – see the photos for an idea of their number.

Cut off all leaves, without cutting into the root. After cutting to remove the main bulk of leaves, use the blunt back of a knife to rub off residual bases of leaf stalks.

Freshly harvested celeriac in December, before trimming – I pulled these roots whilst shaking, to leave most of the soil and compost in the bed less disturbed
The same celeriac in early December, after trimming and washing – you can see roots from the dig bed at the top, and no dig at the bottom
Some tops of these Prinz celeriac are a little too tightly cut for long-term storage – the one at the top right is ideal, although the one in the middle will need to be enjoyed sooner

Storing

Celery heads can be stood upright in a large cup or glass, with up to 2.5 cm/1 in of water. They draw on the water to keep their stems crisp. Cut off some celery to use as needed, for up to a week after harvest.

When storing celeriac, don’t trim the base too tight. Having some moist compost and soil between the many small roots helps to keep the tuber plump.

These washed celeriac show how a mass of roots grow underneath the hypocotyl
Celeriac is fine for long-term storage, so long as the roots are not too closely trimmed – see how you can leave the soil on

Celeriac survives some freezing, say to –5 °C/23 °F, but in autumn and early winter is more likely to suffer Septoria disease.

  • Simply store in a box. You can eat celeriac any time until early spring – cut off all leaves and small roots.

Saving seed

Do this as for carrots: you need time, space, and skill.

Potential problems

Which pests are likely, and when

  • Slugs like celery, so, as with carrots, grow in clear open space, with minimal habitat for molluscs.
  • Woodlice and slugs can tunnel into celeriac, so beds without wooden sides give best results.
  • Rats and mice eat celeriac, which is a reason to harvest before winter and to store in a rodent-free place.
These celeriac were eaten through the fleece, I suspect possibly by badgers or rats

Protections needed

Keep any nearby slug habitats to a minimum.

Use only compost as mulch, practice no dig, and have no decaying wooden sides to beds.

Other difficulties

A big problem can occur in autumn’s damp weather: ‘late blight’, or Septoria apiicola. It starts with a few brown spots on leaves, followed by rotting of large leaf areas.

  • Eventually plants stop growing, while the Septoria stains celery stalks and causes celeriac roots to turn soft and mushy.  
  • I find it’s as hard to control as late blight on tomatoes, and removal of infected leaves makes little difference.
  • In damp weather, from late summer, water less and only at soil level, and avoid watering in the evening. You want leaves to have a chance to dry from any splashing after you have mainly watered the roots.
A bad outbreak of Septoria on celery in mid-October – most stalks were brown
You often see first damage by Septoria apiicola, also called celeriac blight, on leaf ends – this is 27th September
The same celeriac plants five weeks later – they definitely need harvesting now!
Early January – this celeriac is suffering under netting; it has been damaged by Septoria, eaten by rats, and is rotting
Some celeriac rotting from Septoria in mid-February – this was a trial

And finally

Clear

To clear beds after a celery harvest, use a trowel to cut the largest roots just under the base, and clear the main base to compost. This leaves the main root system in soil, as food for soil life.

For celeriac, it’s mainly a question of raking level and then spreading the end-of-season mulch of compost, around 2.5 cm/1 in.

Follow with

Summer celery can be followed with spinach, chard, salads and pak choi.

Celery & Celeriac

Celery – Apium graveolens; Celeriac – Apium graveolens var. rapaceum; Leaf celery – Apium graveolens var. secalinum

Both celery and celeriac are in the same Apiaceae, or parsley and carrot family, and have the same species name.

Celery & Celeriac

Introduction

Both celery and celeriac are in the same Apiaceae, or parsley and carrot family, and have the same species name. Their cultural needs are similar, but for a very different outcome.

  • Celery is a tight stalk, 40–60 cm/16–24 in high, bred for its stems from wild celery which is taller and thinner, its stems more fibrous. Wild celery is valued for leaves and seeds.
  • Celeriac has been selectively bred from celery to achieve its swollen root. Sometimes it’s called root or turnip-rooted celery, but there is no relationship to turnip.
  • Leaf or Chinese celery has thinner stems and a strong taste and smell. Its leaves, and sometimes stems, are used in soups and stews.

A head or plant of celery comprises many edible stalks and leaves.

The harvested root of celeriac is a bulbous hypocotyl, a swollen portion of root just above the main root system. This is similar to carrots and beetroot but not potatoes, which are tubers.

1st November, with autumn lettuce and celeriac – the latter has a little Septoria disease, but not too much, see ‘Diseases’ below
With a selection of celery on 6th August – Victoria and Hadrian, from a March sowing
Harvesting celeriac, with wood blewit mushrooms attached; we ate these mushrooms, which had grown from woody bits in my compost

Harvest period

  • Days from seed to first harvest: celery 100–130, celeriac 180–250.

Why grow them

Celery

Widely acknowledged for its health benefits, celery is even juiced to extract more of the goodness. I understand the reasoning but feel that this is a waste of valuable fibres! Chopped, homegrown celery stalks add wonderful flavour and texture, to salads in particular.

  • Homegrown celery is high in cellulose or fibre, and needs a lot of chewing. The fibres are softened by cooking, and you can also use the leaves when making stock.
  • Bought celery has usually been grown with synthetic fertilisers and maximum amounts of water to increase growth. The look is impressive and the texture is tender, but the flavour is less strong.

I value my celery a lot and miss it in winter and spring. But that is the joy of eating seasonally, how one values food far more when it’s naturally available. Plus it offers the nutrition we need at that time of year, and the microbes too.

Victoria celery in late June, from sowing in mid-March, and very little slug damage
Granada celery on 28th November – this was a second sowing of 2nd June, transplanted between carrot plants where there were gaps from poor emergence

Charles’ Celery Salad

I like this for breakfast, when celery is in season. In winter you could use a cup of celeriac instead, chopped very small or grated, and add lambs lettuce for green.

  • 4–6 stalks of celery, chopped small
  • 1 apple, chopped very small
  • Handful of walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • A little chopped onion, to taste
  • A little balsamic vinegar and salt, plus oil if you wish

Celeriac

The dense roots are full of goodness and store well through winter, even into the hungry gap. They taste great in salads, grated or chopped small.

There’s a lot of flavour in a small amount of homegrown celeriac. Keep a large one in the kitchen, because even after cutting bits off they are good to use for over two weeks.

  • You can also eat celeriac leaves, but they are extremely fibrous, except for the newest ones in the middle. Best use is to make stock or perhaps soup.
4th July – you can see celeriac interplanted in this bed by the peas, which now have mildew
11th July – a week later, the pea plants have been cleared; you can see many plantings that were already in there, including the celeriac
By 18th October you can see significant growth of the celeriac and leeks; in November, these celeriac plants returned 3.5 kg/7.7 lb from five roots

Pattern of growth

These plants are biennial, so they will not flower in the first year and just continue growing. Celery stalks, however, from the first sowing in early spring, become more fibrous by late summer.  In autumn, celery is more tender from the second sowing in late spring.

If a celery root system or celeriac root is left in the ground through winter and survives frost plus the damp, it will make flowering stalks through spring.

Celery seed is a valuable spice and this would be harvestable in late summer, one or two months after flowering finishes.

Celery was planted on 16th May, after a crop of spinach; by the start of August we have harvested many, and some remaining stems are less tender and have a number of side shoots
A second sowing by 17th August – Hadrian at the near end and Victoria at the far end, sown on 22nd May and transplanted on 2nd July; the space behind is from after having cleared wild rocket
20th July – the year’s final planting of celery is in the polytunnel, replacing some French bean plants; these celery were sown on 7th June

Suitable for containers/shade?

They can be grown in shade.

Celery is the most worthwhile for containers since it needs less space than celeriac. Always beware of slugs, perhaps hiding under pots.

Types of celery

Celery used to be grown for eating in winter and early spring, and was called trench celery. This was from varieties that took a full season to grow large and were transplanted in a trench or furrow. Then, in autumn or early winter, they were mounded up with soil, to blanch the stems and make them sweeter.

This process involves a lot of work in the growing, harvesting and cleaning of the stems. Nowadays one almost never sees trench celery, although you occasionally see reference to it in seed catalogues or gardening articles.

I do not recommend blanching celery with soil, for these reasons:

  • There is a lot of soil movement which damages soil life.
  • The presence of soil around celery stalks often results in slugs eating them, and I suspect poisons were used to prevent this, although it’s not always made clear.
  • It’s a lot of work!
Blanched celery at an RHS show in October – this can be created by tying cardboard around the stem to maintain darkness

The opposite of trench celery is self-blanching celery, although this term is now less used. We don’t need to differentiate it from the rarely grown trench celery. Close spacings mean that the shade of celery leaves do a fair amount of blanching to the stalks, making them less bitter.

Why the perceived need to blanch? It’s a good question and I believe this comes partly from the English aristocracy, who sought a degree of perfection in their vegetables and were even competitive about it. In my view, they did a lot of unnecessary work – or rather their gardeners did!

  • They wanted sweetness and special flavours, while perhaps ignoring the rounded flavours and nutritional quality of unblanched vegetables .
  • They had a large labour force with spare time in winter months.
  • They did not know that some bitterness is good for our health.

Varieties

Celery

I struggled to grow juicy celery until I discovered the F1 variety Victoria. It is streets ahead of the ones I had grown before, such as Tall Utah and Golden Self Blanching, whose stems, nowadays, are mostly smaller and less juicy.

  • Victoria grows more vigorously than other F1 varieties. Hadrian is ready a little earlier and is slightly smaller.
  • Granada F1 has resistance to Septoria, and I recommend it for the second sowing in late spring or even early summer – see the photo below.
  • Loretta F1 grows a smaller celery, with a more yellow colour.

There are several varieties which grow pink stalks. Not really pink though, more just a pink tinge at the base of each stem.

Victoria celery in mid-September, 11 weeks after planting; it followed chard
Tall Green Utah celery in August, from a March sowing – however, despite the name, it was vertically challenged!
The effects of Septoria, a disease that turns the leaves and stem brown; Granada at the bottom and Victoria at the top, from the same sowing date, weighing 320 g/11.1 oz and 80 g/2.8 oz respectively, after being trimmed

Celeriac

I find Prinz always grows a reliably large harvest, and Monarch too.

Giant Prague, by contrast, has given me higher proportions of leaf to root. For this reason, be careful of heritage varieties.

In a taste test by Raymond Blanc and his chefs, they found little difference in flavour between several different varieties.

A very strong planting of Giant Prague celeriac in December, at 40 cm/16 in spacing, the leaves still healthy
In contrast, an unimpressive December harvest of a heritage celeriac variety, whose name has disappeared from my records!

Video

Celeriac, May to October 2019 – so small to so big

Sow and propagate

  • Seeds germinate in 10–14 days, and have full cotyledons by about 20 days.

Emergence is slow and the cotyledons are tiny. Later growth becomes more rapid, especially from about three weeks after transplanting.

At this size, you’re good to go with pricking out celery seedlings
1st April – these celeriac seedlings have been pricked out at the two-leaf stage
Spring propagation in mid-May – celery and celeriac at the back, alongside sweetcorn, lettuce, and soy beans in the middle

Sowing conditions

  • These seeds require light to germinate – this is important.

Simply scatter seeds on top of pre-moistened compost, with no compost on top of them. Seeds are small – be careful not to sow too many. Place a piece of glass over the tray, or put it in a bag of clear polythene, anywhere with warmth and some daylight. The warmth requirement is around 20–25 °C/68–77 °F, which you could achieve on the windowsill of any room that has some heating in early spring.

  • Germination does not happen if nights are much below 8 °C/46 °F, even when days are warm. Hence the benefit of house warmth, compared to a greenhouse where nights are much colder, even though sunny days are warm.

Sowing timeMid-March in warmth is a reliable first sowing date. It’s the only one for celeriac, which needs the whole season to grow large. Buying plants in May is an option if you miss the March sowing, or don’t have a protected space for propagation. Celeriac sown after mid-April/mid-spring will grow nicely, but the harvest will be smaller.Celery matures by early to midsummer, and can be sown again in May for later harvests.

  • Two celery sowings give younger and more juicy stems at harvest because, although an early sowing will stand right through until autumn, its stems become more fibrous.
  • New growth in late summer and through autumn, from the celery sowings of early spring, happens mostly as side shoots – see below.

In warm climates such as Zone 10, a third celery sowing is possible during summer, for harvests into winter, as long as frosts are only slight.

By the end of May, a second sowing of celery is almost ready to prick out, and beside it are some kale plants
Mid-May – celeriac plants, in 4 cm/1.5 in diameter modules, are ready to be transplanted; notice some smaller plants on the left from under watering
20th July – the impact of two different composts on a 13th June celery sowing, pricked out at the same time four weeks earlier; Moorland Gold on the left and Dalefoot’s spring compost batch on the right

Sowing method

  • Before sowing, water the compost to capacity.
  • Scatter seeds on top and be careful not to sow too thickly.
  • Use a cover of glass or polythene over the sown tray.
  • Remove the cover once the first tiny leaves are all there.

Why sow in a tray and not in modules?

  1. Seeds are tiny and almost impossible to sow individually or in twos. It’s much easier to scatter them on the surface of compost in a small tray.
  2. Germination to the two-leaf stage takes 14–20 days, during which time one seed tray needs far less of your precious warm and protected space than would modules, and for the same number of seedlings.
  3. After 20 days or so, it’s quick to prick seedlings into modules. The result is no empty module cells or uneven growth from patchy germination.

The cell size is best small, around 3 cm/1.2 in wide and 4 cm/1 in deep, because, as with carrots, growth at first is slow. A 60-cell module tray is ideal, and in spring you could, for example, grow 30 celery at one end and 30 celeriac at the other.Seedlings benefit from the warmth of a greenhouse through April. They are not killed by frost if there is a cold night, but fleece over the trays will benefit them if that happens.Pot on?Potting on is not necessary, unless you are waiting for space to be available. You would do it at about six weeks from sowing, and into 7 cm/3 in pots.

10th May – these eight-week-old celeriac plants are ready to go into the ground
Wider spacings for the planting of celeriac in mid-May; on the right are garlic from an October planting
31st May – the celery has settled into this bed of 1 m/39 in width, after being transplanted two weeks earlier

Video

Celeriac – how to grow in 50 seconds

Transplant, interplant

Transplant size

An excellent average size is 7 cm/3 in tall, while smaller is possible. Better than plants being too large and with a tightly grown root system, which results in a growth check after transplanting.

Mid-May – newly planted celery, with some celeriac plants at the back; this bed had been spinach, and we had just spread homemade compost
Four weeks after being transplanted, the celery and celeriac are growing nicely; to the left are courgette plants, 40 days since transplanting
Early July, now seven weeks since transplanting the celery and celeriac; the celery is ready for a few stems to be cut

Transplant time and method

May, or late spring, is the month for transplanting both celeriac and your first sowing of celery. Neither are killed by frost, and you can transplant them earlier. However there is no rush: plants suffer some damage to leaves in frosts of around -2 °C/28 °F, while growth is stronger once soil is consistently warm, from late spring.

Subsequently, from late June to early July is good for setting out transplants from the second sowing of celery. They might follow, for example, early potatoes, spring onions, salads and peas. There is no ground preparation needed, apart from raking level and clearing any debris and weeds on the surface, assuming you had spread compost in winter or early spring.

  • Use a wooden dibber to create holes a little deeper and wider than the module rootball. Push the transplant in firmly – the lowest part of stems may be below surface level. Don’t fill the hole because watering will do that eventually.
16th May – with some new Prinz celeriac plants from Delfland Nurseries
19th May – the top three beds of my Three-Strip Trial, with new celery in the middle bed of the three
The same beds six weeks later, and so far little water has been given to the celeriac plants

Spacing

  • Celery can be as close as 22 cm/9 in each way, to have taller stems with fewer side shoots.
  • Celeriac needs more space, up to 37 cm/15 in for large harvests, or 30–35 cm/2–14 in for medium-sized roots.

Interplanting

Between celeriac, you can interplant multisown spring onions, as in the photos below. They come to harvest within five to six weeks, just as the celeriac needs full space.

11th May – watering transplants of celeriac and spring onions
New plantings of celeriac and spring onion in mid-May – the celeriac was sown a month earlier than the spring onion
25th June, five weeks after planting the spring onions with celeriac plants – you can see strong growth

Videos

How to grow celery, step by step

Celeriac – how to grow in 50 seconds

Transplant size

An excellent average size is 7 cm/3 in tall, while smaller is possible. Better than plants being too large and with a tightly grown root system, which results in a growth check after transplanting.

Mid-May – newly planted celery, with some celeriac plants at the back; this bed had been spinach, and we had just spread homemade compost
Four weeks after being transplanted, the celery and celeriac are growing nicely; to the left are courgette plants, 40 days since transplanting
Early July, now seven weeks since transplanting the celery and celeriac; the celery is ready for a few stems to be cut

Transplant time and method

May, or late spring, is the month for transplanting both celeriac and your first sowing of celery. Neither are killed by frost, and you can transplant them earlier. However there is no rush: plants suffer some damage to leaves in frosts of around -2 °C/28 °F, while growth is stronger once soil is consistently warm, from late spring.

Subsequently, from late June to early July is good for setting out transplants from the second sowing of celery. They might follow, for example, early potatoes, spring onions, salads and peas. There is no ground preparation needed, apart from raking level and clearing any debris and weeds on the surface, assuming you had spread compost in winter or early spring.

  • Use a wooden dibber to create holes a little deeper and wider than the module rootball. Push the transplant in firmly – the lowest part of stems may be below surface level. Don’t fill the hole because watering will do that eventually.
16th May – with some new Prinz celeriac plants from Delfland Nurseries
19th May – the top three beds of my Three-Strip Trial, with new celery in the middle bed of the three
The same beds six weeks later, and so far little water has been given to the celeriac plants

Spacing

  • Celery can be as close as 22 cm/9 in each way, to have taller stems with fewer side shoots.
  • Celeriac needs more space, up to 37 cm/15 in for large harvests, or 30–35 cm/2–14 in for medium-sized roots.

Interplanting

Between celeriac, you can interplant multisown spring onions, as in the photos below. They come to harvest within five to six weeks, just as the celeriac needs full space.

11th May – watering transplants of celeriac and spring onions
New plantings of celeriac and spring onion in mid-May – the celeriac was sown a month earlier than the spring onion
25th June, five weeks after planting the spring onions with celeriac plants – you can see strong growth

Videos

How to grow celery, step by step

Celeriac – how to grow in 50 seconds

Leaf removal

Side shooting celery

About three months from sowing, and as a head of celery nears maturity, you start to see small new shoots appearing at the base of plants. If left to grow, they become mini celery plants themselves.

In 2020 I trialled removing side shoots of celery, six weeks after transplanting, and found it worthwhile. The main head was more clear of slug damage and a little larger.

  • Wrap fingers around these new stems at the base, and push down to remove them, even with a little root.
  • The result is fewer slugs, thanks to more open space around plants and fewer decaying leaves.
  • Harvesting is quicker, with less trimming needed and larger heads.

In contrast, you could leave two side shoots from the main stalk, which you eventually cut carefully at harvest time. They will give a later and small harvest, after a month or so.

11th October – Octavius F1, a Mr Fothergill’s variety, sown on 13th June
The same day, after removing some side shoots from the stem
Five weeks after harvesting the main stem – you can see side shoots have regrown

Leaf removal from celeriac

From late summer, you can twist off the lowest leaves from roots of celeriac when you see them turning yellow and brown. This makes the roots look much nicer. However, unlike with brassicas, I am not convinced that it helps growth or reduces pests.

Possibly this practice originated in aristocratic gardens, where there was a desire to have fine-looking vegetables.

  • When I have compared celeriac growth between one bed where the plants are trimmed and the other with plants left alone, I see, if anything, that the untidy roots grow larger.
  • Possibly the unpruned plants are less susceptible to Septoria disease.
Four months after transplanting the celeriac, on 17th September, the plants are swelling fast; we’ve tidied up the leaves and given them some water
Three weeks later, in early October, and the Prinz celeriac now has Septoria on the outer leaves, most of which we have removed
9th November – there are few leaves still left on the frozen celeriac, at -2 °C/28 °F; the best harvests were from now until early December, after which the last, unharvested roots started to decay with Septoria

Harvest times and methods

How to judge readiness

Harvest celery for tender stalks within four months of sowing, although they will stand for longer. The first pick can be of smaller heads after just three months. You can also twist, or cut off to eat, any larger side shoots from the outside of plants.

  • Each sowing of celery can give six to eight weeks of harvest.
  • Keep watering the remaining plants right up to harvest time.

Celeriac should be large enough to pull from October/mid-autumn and onwards. I recommend you harvest by Christmas, for less damage caused by disease, rodents and slugs.

Mid-August – a close view of the Prinz celeriac
Growth of the celeriac by 13th October; you can also see the last cabbages and leeks growing strongly, and new salads have just been transplanted for winter harvests
27th November, and many of the celeriac have already been harvested – this planting gave 51.5 kg/113.5 lb by December; on the right you can see freshly transplanted broad beans

How to pick

Use a strong and sharp knife to cut through the celery stem, just above soil level – each one is a lot of food. If not cleared, the root and stem base will grow baby celery which may or may not be worth it for the time and space needed.

Celeriac has many tenacious roots growing downwards from its hypocotyl. Use a sharp trowel, or even a spade, to slice through these, almost horizontally and just under the celeriac.

Small roots are fine to leave in the soil, while many others need trimming off the celeriac – see the photos for an idea of their number.

Cut off all leaves, without cutting into the root. After cutting to remove the main bulk of leaves, use the blunt back of a knife to rub off residual bases of leaf stalks.

Freshly harvested celeriac in December, before trimming – I pulled these roots whilst shaking, to leave most of the soil and compost in the bed less disturbed
The same celeriac in early December, after trimming and washing – you can see roots from the dig bed at the top, and no dig at the bottom
Some tops of these Prinz celeriac are a little too tightly cut for long-term storage – the one at the top right is ideal, although the one in the middle will need to be enjoyed sooner

Storing

Celery heads can be stood upright in a large cup or glass, with up to 2.5 cm/1 in of water. They draw on the water to keep their stems crisp. Cut off some celery to use as needed, for up to a week after harvest.

When storing celeriac, don’t trim the base too tight. Having some moist compost and soil between the many small roots helps to keep the tuber plump.

These washed celeriac show how a mass of roots grow underneath the hypocotyl
Celeriac is fine for long-term storage, so long as the roots are not too closely trimmed – see how you can leave the soil on

Celeriac survives some freezing, say to –5 °C/23 °F, but in autumn and early winter is more likely to suffer Septoria disease.

  • Simply store in a box. You can eat celeriac any time until early spring – cut off all leaves and small roots.

Saving seed

Do this as for carrots: you need time, space, and skill.

Potential problems

Which pests are likely, and when

  • Slugs like celery, so, as with carrots, grow in clear open space, with minimal habitat for molluscs.
  • Woodlice and slugs can tunnel into celeriac, so beds without wooden sides give best results.
  • Rats and mice eat celeriac, which is a reason to harvest before winter and to store in a rodent-free place.
These celeriac were eaten through the fleece, I suspect possibly by badgers or rats

Protections needed

Keep any nearby slug habitats to a minimum.

Use only compost as mulch, practice no dig, and have no decaying wooden sides to beds.

Other difficulties

A big problem can occur in autumn’s damp weather: ‘late blight’, or Septoria apiicola. It starts with a few brown spots on leaves, followed by rotting of large leaf areas.

  • Eventually plants stop growing, while the Septoria stains celery stalks and causes celeriac roots to turn soft and mushy.  
  • I find it’s as hard to control as late blight on tomatoes, and removal of infected leaves makes little difference.
  • In damp weather, from late summer, water less and only at soil level, and avoid watering in the evening. You want leaves to have a chance to dry from any splashing after you have mainly watered the roots.
A bad outbreak of Septoria on celery in mid-October – most stalks were brown
You often see first damage by Septoria apiicola, also called celeriac blight, on leaf ends – this is 27th September
The same celeriac plants five weeks later – they definitely need harvesting now!
Early January – this celeriac is suffering under netting; it has been damaged by Septoria, eaten by rats, and is rotting
Some celeriac rotting from Septoria in mid-February – this was a trial

And finally

Clear

To clear beds after a celery harvest, use a trowel to cut the largest roots just under the base, and clear the main base to compost. This leaves the main root system in soil, as food for soil life.

For celeriac, it’s mainly a question of raking level and then spreading the end-of-season mulch of compost, around 2.5 cm/1 in.

Follow with

Summer celery can be followed with spinach, chard, salads and pak choi.

sow & propagate
  • Seeds germinate in 10–14 days, and have full cotyledons by about 20 days.

Emergence is slow and the cotyledons are tiny. Later growth becomes more rapid, especially from about three weeks after transplanting.

Sowing conditions

  • These seeds require light to germinate – this is important.

Simply scatter seeds on top of pre-moistened compost, with no compost on top of them. Seeds are small – be careful not to sow too many. Place a piece of glass over the tray, or put it in a bag of clear polythene, anywhere with warmth and some daylight.

The warmth requirement is around 20–25 °C/68–77 °F, which you could achieve on the windowsill of any room that has some heating in early spring.

  • Germination does not happen if nights are much below 8 °C/46 °F, even when days are warm. Hence the benefit of house warmth, compared to a greenhouse where nights are much colder, even though sunny days are warm.

Sowing time

Mid-March in warmth is a reliable first sowing date. It’s the only one for celeriac, which needs the whole season to grow large. Buying plants in May is an option if you miss the March sowing, or don’t have a protected space for propagation. Celeriac sown after mid-April/mid-spring will grow nicely, but the harvest will be smaller.

Celery matures by early to midsummer, and can be sown again in May for later harvests.

  • Two celery sowings give younger and more juicy stems at harvest because, although an early sowing will stand right through until autumn, its stems become more fibrous.
  • New growth in late summer and through autumn, from the celery sowings of early spring, happens mostly as side shoots – see below.

In warm climates such as Zone 10, a third celery sowing is possible during summer, for harvests into winter, as long as frosts are only slight.

Sowing method

  • Before sowing, water the compost to capacity.
  • Scatter seeds on top and be careful not to sow too thickly.
  • Use a cover of glass or polythene over the sown tray.
  • Remove the cover once the first tiny leaves are all there.

Why sow in a tray and not in modules?

  1. Seeds are tiny and almost impossible to sow individually or in twos. It’s much easier to scatter them on the surface of compost in a small tray.
  2. Germination to the two-leaf stage takes 14–20 days, during which time one seed tray needs far less of your precious warm and protected space than would modules, and for the same number of seedlings.
  3. After 20 days or so, it’s quick to prick seedlings into modules. The result is no empty module cells or uneven growth from patchy germination.

The cell size is best small, around 3 cm/1.2 in wide and 4 cm/1 in deep, because, as with carrots, growth at first is slow. A 60-cell module tray is ideal, and in spring you could, for example, grow 30 celery at one end and 30 celeriac at the other.

Seedlings benefit from the warmth of a greenhouse through April. They are not killed by frost if there is a cold night, but fleece over the trays will benefit them if that happens.

Pot on?

Potting on is not necessary, unless you are waiting for space to be available. You would do it at about six weeks from sowing, and into 7 cm/3 in pots.

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Transplant - Size, Time Of Year, Spacing, Support
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Transplant size

An excellent average size is 7 cm/3 in tall, while smaller is possible. Better than plants being too large and with a tightly grown root system, which results in a growth check after transplanting.


Transplant time and method

May, or late spring, is the month for transplanting both celeriac and your first sowing of celery. Neither are killed by frost, and you can transplant them earlier. However there is no rush: plants suffer some damage to leaves in frosts of around -2 °C/28 °F, while growth is stronger once soil is consistently warm, from late spring.

Subsequently, from late June to early July is good for setting out transplants from the second sowing of celery. They might follow, for example, early potatoes, spring onions, salads and peas. There is no ground preparation needed, apart from raking level and clearing any debris and weeds on the surface, assuming you had spread compost in winter or early spring.

  • Use a wooden dibber to create holes a little deeper and wider than the module rootball. Push the transplant in firmly – the lowest part of stems may be below surface level. Don’t fill the hole because watering will do that eventually.

Spacing

  • Celery can be as close as 22 cm/9 in each way, to have taller stems with fewer side shoots.
  • Celeriac needs more space, up to 37 cm/15 in for large harvests, or 30–35 cm/2–14 in for medium-sized roots.

Interplanting

Between celeriac, you can interplant multisown spring onions, as in the photos below. They come to harvest within five to six weeks, just as the celeriac needs full space.

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Water

Growing care is mainly watering. After watering at planting time, give water again every two days if the weather is warm and dry. Then you may not need to water for a few weeks.

Celery

Start the main watering about a month after transplanting, and do it two or three times a week.

  • Check soil moisture before watering – it may be drier than you expected if the celery is growing strongly.

Celery keeps sucking water out. It amazes me how much water the plants need, in order to grow quickly and with juicy stalks.

Water heavily in the ten days before harvest, unless rain is plentiful.

Celeriac

It needs much less water than celery, say just weekly in hot weather or on light soils.

  • In an average temperate summer on heavy soil, you may hardly need to water celeriac.

Extra mulch to retain moisture?

For celery, in particular, slugs are a hazard. Compost mulch does not encourage them, so it’s best to use that only.

For celeriac, there is also a possibility of damage by woodlice, who breed fast in mulches with undecomposed wood and also in any decaying wood of old bed sides.

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feed
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Container Growing
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Prune & Train Plants/Thin Fruit
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Harvest Times & Method

How to judge readiness

Harvest celery for tender stalks within four months of sowing, although they will stand for longer. The first pick can be of smaller heads after just three months. You can also twist, or cut off to eat, any larger side shoots from the outside of plants.

  • Each sowing of celery can give six to eight weeks of harvest.
  • Keep watering the remaining plants right up to harvest time.

Celeriac should be large enough to pull from October/mid-autumn and onwards. I recommend you harvest by Christmas, for less damage caused by disease, rodents and slugs.

How to pick

Use a strong and sharp knife to cut through the celery stem, just above soil level – each one is a lot of food. If not cleared, the root and stem base will grow baby celery which may or may not be worth it for the time and space needed.

Celeriac has many tenacious roots growing downwards from its hypocotyl. Use a sharp trowel, or even a spade, to slice through these, almost horizontally and just under the celeriac.

Small roots are fine to leave in the soil, while many others need trimming off the celeriac – see the photos for an idea of their number.

Cut off all leaves, without cutting into the root. After cutting to remove the main bulk of leaves, use the blunt back of a knife to rub off residual bases of leaf stalks.

Storing

Celery heads can be stood upright in a large cup or glass, with up to 2.5 cm/1 in of water. They draw on the water to keep their stems crisp. Cut off some celery to use as needed, for up to a week after harvest.

When storing celeriac, don’t trim the base too tight. Having some moist compost and soil between the many small roots helps to keep the tuber plump.

Celeriac survives some freezing, say to –5 °C/23 °F, but in autumn and early winter is more likely to suffer Septoria disease.

  • Simply store in a box. You can eat celeriac any time until early spring – cut off all leaves and small roots.

Saving seed

Do this as for carrots: you need time, space, and skill

No items found.
This is some text inside of a div block.
Potential Problems

Which pests are likely, and when

  • Slugs like celery, so, as with carrots, grow in clear open space, with minimal habitat for molluscs.
  • Woodlice and slugs can tunnel into celeriac, so beds without wooden sides give best results.
  • Rats and mice eat celeriac, which is a reason to harvest before winter and to store in a rodent-free place.

Protections needed

Keep any nearby slug habitats to a minimum.

Use only compost as mulch, practice no dig, and have no decaying wooden sides to beds.

Other difficulties

A big problem can occur in autumn’s damp weather: ‘late blight’, or Septoria apiicola. It starts with a few brown spots on leaves, followed by rotting of large leaf areas.

  • Eventually plants stop growing, while the Septoria stains celery stalks and causes celeriac roots to turn soft and mushy.  
  • I find it’s as hard to control as late blight on tomatoes, and removal of infected leaves makes little difference.
  • In damp weather, from late summer, water less and only at soil level, and avoid watering in the evening. You want leaves to have a chance to dry from any splashing after you have mainly watered the roots.

No items found.
This is some text inside of a div block.

Clear

To clear beds after a celery harvest, use a trowel to cut the largest roots just under the base, and clear the main base to compost. This leaves the main root system in soil, as food for soil life.

For celeriac, it’s mainly a question of raking level and then spreading the end-of-season mulch of compost, around 2.5 cm/1 in.

Follow with

Summer celery can be followed with spinach, chard, salads and pak choi.