April 24, 2012
I read about the idea of fresh celery all year, even during really cold winters, in some old books my dad used to teach me about gardening. I failed to incorporate this idea into my yearly garden plan until last year when the possibility of year round food production on my tiny micro-homestead started to look possible. I am pleased to announce that it worked…really well!
Here’s what I did. When I was transplanting my celery starts into the ground, I saved 6 for my experiment. I planted the starts 2 per container in 10” (nursery #2) pots. The pots had large drain holes in the bottom. I used a mix of really rich garden soil and compost. I buried the pots about half way up in the garden in full sun.
Throughout the season I watered and cared for the celery in the pots the same way I did for the stuff in the ground. The really rich soil supported robust growth (it’s hard to give celery soil that is too rich). The large drain holes allowed for good drainage but it also allowed the roots to grow out of the pot and down into the garden soil.
Harvest time came and I cut around the outside of the container to free the pots from the soil. I harvested some of the outer stalks and used them. What I had left was 6 reasonably sized celery plants in containers. I took these to my “root cellar” which is really just one of my really deep window wells that I can access from the basement.
As they sat in the “cellar” I watered them when they drooped, and harvested them when I wanted celery. Some really cool things happened, to boot. I was amazed, but they continued to grow! I imagine they tapped the reserves in their large roots to push out new growth. All the new growth was tender, delicious, and the whitest blanched celery I’d ever had. They really made the wait for spring a more tolerable experience.
The best part has happened in the last month. When the weather started to warm (it came really early this year) I removed the pots from the cellar and gradually exposed them to more light and weather. They grew! Even the plants that I had cut to a stump started to push forth a new whorl of green leaves. I dosed each container with a bunch of worm castings and they have continued their growth. I have been harvesting fresh celery for at least two weeks and I’ll continue until they show signs of going to seed.
Celery takes a while to start from seed, but fear not, there’s still time. It will take a fair amount of cold, so it’s functional season doesn’t stop at first frost. If you haven’t started some celery, do it now and plan to put some in containers for the treat that comes from fresh celery ‘in season’ and in winter.