Growing Crops: Celery and Celeriac

Celery and celeriac are not the same thing – but they are closely related. Celery is grown for its stalks and leafy greens, while celeriac is grown for its root ball (discarding the stalks and greens). If high-maintenance crops are what you’re looking for, then look no further! Celery and celeriac are the vegetable world’s version of the Drama Queen.

There are many varieties of celery to choose from, including A Coste Piene Rosate, Da Taglio, D’Elne, Dorato di Asti, French Dinant, Giant Pascal, Giant Red, Giant White, Golden Self-Blanching, Solid Pink, and Tall Utah. Not all of them are easily available, however. Tall Utah is a particularly good variety to grow, as it requires no mounding and can be grown in containers as well as in the ground:

There are different varieties of celeriac, including Bergers White Ball, Diamant, Giant Prague, Ibis, Kojak, Monarch, Prinz, and Snow White – most of which are difficult to find, as celeriac is not so commonly grown in the U.S. Check with your local nursery to see if they carry seeds or even starts. Or you can go online:

Best Climate to Grow: Both celery and celeriac are warm-season vegetables that grow well in 55-85 degree F daytime temps. They are frost tolerant when they are mature, but not right after transplanting – they will bolt if exposed to cold temperatures too soon.

Light Requirements: Full to filtered sunlight.

Soil Requirements: Super moist soil that is rich in humus, with a pH level that is neutral to slightly acidic. Amend as needed, since it will not do well in poor soil. Burying a layer of rotted manure about 1 foot deep over the Winter before planting in the Spring is recommended.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Feed your celery and celeriac with compost or a 5-10-10 organic fertilizer upon planting. Celeriac will do fine with one more feeding about mid-season, while celery will benefit from regular feedings every 2-4 weeks. For non-self-blanching celery, mounding the soil up around the stalks to just below the leaves as they grow will help keep them from becoming tough and stringy. They will be white to pale green at harvest, and very tender. Use drip irrigation and mulch to keep the soil moist at all times for both celeriac and celery.

When to Plant: Both celery and celeriac must be started indoors in either early or mid-Spring, depending on your climate. Harden off and transplant into your garden when there is no more danger of frost – late Spring or even early Summer. Late Fall harvests, after the first frosts, actually enhance the flavor of celery.

Planting Depth and Spacing: Celeriac seedlings need to be planted 12 inches apart in rows that are 18 inches apart, while celery seedlings will need to be grown 6-9 inches apart in rows that are 12 inches apart. If planting in blocks rather than rows, make sure each celeriac seedling has a 12 inch diameter space in which to grow, and the celery seedlings have 6-9 inch diameter spaces in which to grow. The closer the celery are planted together, they less mounding you will need to do to blanch them.

Container Requirements: Both can be grown in containers, though it is a rather inefficient use of container space. You will need a large container that is at least 12 inches deep. Drip irrigation specifically for containers and mulching is a must, as watering will need to be almost constant due to the inherently drier conditions of containers. Feeding will need to be more frequent, as well. So, an already high maintenance vegetable will become even more labor-intensive. Snow White celeriac, and Golden Self-Blanching or Tall Utah celery are recommended (as they require no mounding) if you are going to try to grow them in a container.

Harvesting and Storage: Celeriac is ready to harvest when the root ball is about 4 inches in diameter. With the help of your cultivating fork, dig up each root, and use a sharp knife to slice off the tops and put them in the compost pile. You can leave the roots in the ground for about a month following the first Fall frost, provided they are thickly mulched to protect them from freezing. They will also store well in a root cellar or any storage location that stays around 40 degree F over the Winter. Keep them separated from each other in large, shallow container full of slightly moist, clean sand. You can also shred and freeze celeriac to be used in soups and stews later.

Celery is ready to harvest whenever it is at the size you want. Using a sharp knife, you can either harvest a few stalks at a time (outer stalks, of course, being careful not to damage the inner stalks), or slice the entire plant off at the soil line. Self-blanching varieties (including Tall Utah) should be harvested before the first Fall frosts, as they are not mounded. The others can be harvested throughout Fall and even into Winter, provided they remain mounded and mulched to protect from freezing. You can store celery in the freezer but it will soften upon thawing and therefore only be useful in soups and stews, so dicing it prior to freezing will save you some labor later on.

Harvesting Seeds: You will no doubt end up with bolted plants, given how touchy both of these vegetables are. If not, however, allow a number of them to bolt and collect the seeds from the individual flower umbels as they dry. Use a fine mesh strainer to separate the chaff, and store the seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Celery seeds are useful both as a seasoning and for replanting next season.

Pests to Monitor: Aphids, Blister Beetles, Cabbage Loopers, Celery Leaftiers, Celeryworm, Earwigs, Leafminers, Slugs, Snails, Tomato Hornworms, and Wireworms. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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