IT'S CRUNCH TIME!
Kitchen Garden|April 2021
Celery is an integral part of any salad, and cool, crisp sticks freshly picked from the garden are a delight. KG editor Steve Ott offers his advice for growing tasty heads
Steve Ott

This underrated veg is so versatile that it really is a must-have for any plot. The crunchy texture of fresh sticks offers a great contrast to the soft leaves of lettuce and other salads and is also great for dipping or loading with delicious soft cheeses. It is also an essential base ingredient for so many dishes (e.g. soffritto).

Personally, I like it best cooked. A lunch of warming celery soup is a real treat with some crusty bread after a morning on the allotment, and braising is a great way to use up any plants which may have become a tad too tough to eat raw.

It does have a reputation for being a little difficult to grow. This is largely due to the fact that it is a moisture-loving plant and as such it can be difficult to give it all the water it needs during the summer months. Getting the soil right is therefore key; alternatively, great crops can be grown in large pots or raised beds.

The old varieties of trenching celery needed to be blanched (light restricted to give longer, more tender edible stems) by part burying and then earthing up as the plants grew. However, the self-blanching types we concentrate on here need no such treatment and make producing tasty stalks so much easier.

SITE AND SOIL

Celery likes a sunny, sheltered spot and a deep, rich, moisture-retentive soil into which lots of garden compost or well-rotted manure has been added. This helps retain moisture while encouraging drainage. The pH (lime levels) should be in the range of 6.5-6.8 - about normal for many UK soils. If your plot grows good crops generally, you should be okay. However, add lime at the recommended amount of experience or a soil test (kits available from your garden centre or online) suggests this might be needed.

SOWING

Sow celery seeds from February to April, sowing in small batches in succession every three to four weeks to ensure a continuous supply from August to November and beyond.

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