Celery Propagation: The Woes of Sowing and Transplanting this Crop

by Beth Wagner

For the past few weeks, our class has been starting crops from seed for the City Fresh program at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Since the end of March, I’ve sowed well over 360 celery seeds, and although I’ve never been a big fan of celery, I was really excited to see so many little cotyledons popping out of the soil last week!
I am quickly finding out through numerous frustrated bloggers and words of warning from university extension articles that celery is one of the toughest vegetables to grow.  This long-season crop has slow germination rates and is particularly sensitive to temperature and moisture. According to Cornell’s Extension service, the best way to propagate celery is to start the seeds indoors – some blogging gardeners even recommend that the crop be sown indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost. By contrast, Johnny’s Selected Seeds is much more confident, suggesting that gardeners who grow cutting celery have the option of directly or indirectly sowing the seeds. Because celery seeds germinate best at 70-75°F and the crop requires constant moisture, we have decided to germinate the seeds in the mist house.
The rest of the blog sphere advises that once the seedlings are ready to be transplanted, one has to be particularly mindful that the temperatures are not too hot or too cold otherwise the crop will bolt or die. This is why all celery transplants will remain in the greenhouse, under controlled temperatures till they have reached 6-8 leaves and are ready to be hardened off. When the final transplants are ready in May, we will certainly be proud when City Fresh has received this high-maintenance crop!
More fun readings on celery:
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County. “GrowingCelery.” Home Grown Facts. Accessed April              3, 2012.
Meyer, Stephanie. “FreshStartSteph Recipe: Celery RootLatkes.” Minnesota Monthly. January 17, 2012.
“Parts of a Celery Plant.” GardenGuides.com. Accessed April 3, 2012.  
Rhoades, Heather. “Tips on How to Grow Celery.”  Gardening Know How. Accessed April 3, 2012.                 

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