They say good things are worth the wait.
If you’ve only ever had celery from the grocery store, you might be thinking: Celery… a good thing?! I’m not waiting on that!
Homegrown celery is worth flexing your patience muscle a bit. It’s not difficult to grow, but it does take a looonnnggg time to grow, sometimes as long as 180 days.
We don’t have such a long growing season in Central Texas, so we have to get a head start indoors and then use garden covers to extend our ideal conditions for growing celery. Don’t worry—we’ve got tips to help you time your celery just right so you can harvest your own crunchy stalks.
In the end, you’ll have garden celery that’s greener, more aromatic, and so much tastier. Worth the wait, we promise!
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THE BEST CELERY VARIETIES TO GROW
There are several different types of celery you can grow based on your preferences. Here are some of my favorites:
- Utah Celery will be similar to the type you can find at the store, but much tastier!
- Tango Celery is a speedy grower that needs just 85 days in cool weather to reach maturity.
- Amsterdam Seasoning Celery is a really fun twist. It grows more like a large parsely plant, and you’ll harvest it for the leaves, not the thick stalks. The leaves will have a really rich celery flavor though that’s great as an herb on soups, stews, casseroles, and more.
WHEN TO GROW CELERY IN CENTRAL TEXAS
Celery is a cool-season crop. Thanks to our overall mild winters here in the Austin area, we can grow celery from the fall through the early spring. Once high temperatures hit, celery plants will bolt, or go to seed.
I typically start celery by seed indoors (more on that in a bit) in early fall (September or October). It’s still a little warm, if not blazing hot, outside by then, so the idea is to give these cool-loving garden veggies a little head start inside so that they can be transferred outside at the right time, when the daytime temperatures are around 75 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. For us, that’s usually in November. Have frost cloth on hand in case you need to cover them during a freeze.
You could also start celery indoors around December or January to put out in the garden by late winter (February) for a last shot to grow this crop during cooler weather.
You can always buy celery starts from the store if you don’t care to start your own by seed indoors. You can plant small plants from your local nursery anytime from about November to February.
Is celery an annual plant?
Celery is technically a biennial (which means it can live up to two years). But because our local weather tends to be on the hotter side, it’s very difficult to keep celery plants alive in home gardens during the summer. For that reason, we grow celery as an annual and remove the plants when the temps are no longer right. The arrival of cooler temperatures means we start all over.
Celery does re-seed itself easily if you let some of the plants form flowers. You might get little celery seedlings popping up next year!
WHERE TO GROW CELERY
Celery is in the same plant family as carrots, and it does actually have a little taproot of its own. Plants in this family are very sensitive to how much space they have around their taproot, and they really don’t like for it to be disturbed.
With that in mind, the best place to grow your own celery and other root vegetables is in a raised bed filled with loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Most of the roots of your celery plant will stay near the top 6″ or so of the soil, but some roots can dig down as deep as 2′! I’ve seen a mature celery plant pulled up before with an impressively large root system.
The clay soil found in many of our Central Texas backyards is too dense to keep celery roots happy. If you don’t have a raised bed set up yet, you can grow celery in large containers. Look for something at least 10″ tall and 12″ wide that has at least one good drainage hole to release excess water. Mix some compost in with your potting soil.
Pick a sunny spot for your celery plants. They’ll grow best when they receive at least 6 hours of sun each day.
HOW TO GROW CELERY FROM SEED
Celery seeds can take anywhere from 15 to 30 days just to sprout. That’s why most celery seed packets will recommend starting them indoors about 10 to 12 weeks before you plan to plant them outside (for reference, most veggies are started about 6 weeks before they’re transplanted).
The long germination time and then the long time required for celery to reach maturity make celery a great candidate for indoor seed starting using a seed germination tray and grow light. Check out our seed starting guide for the best method to find success starting your own veggies indoors.
Celery seeds are really tiny. They like to feel a little light to help them germinate, so you’ll plant them only about 1/4″ deep. That means just barely covering them with soil.
I recommend growing celery seedlings in their own tray since they’ll take so much longer than most of your other cool-season veggies. Use the humidity dome that came with your tray or a dishtowel to hold in moisture while the seeds are germinating.
You can move celery seedlings out to the garden once they’re about 2″ to 4″ tall.
HOW TO PLANT CELERY SEEDLINGS
Before planting, spread a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of fresh compost over the planting area. This will give your baby plants a nice little nutritional boost to welcome them to the garden.
Space your celery transplants about 9″ apart. You can fit 2 to 4 plants per square foot of garden space. Make sure to dig a hole as deep and twice as wide as the rootball of the celery so that the roots have some loose soil around them. Try to minimize root disturbance when you’re pulling each little seedling from the tray and transferring them to the garden.
Give your plants a nice watering in.
HOW TO TEND CELERY PLANTS
Make sure to cover young plants with a row cover or frost cloth during winter freezes.
Celery prefers moist soil. If we’re not getting enough good rainfall, you’ll need to supplement with hand watering about twice a week.
Water by hand in the early morning. We recommend using a long watering wand so that you can get right to the base of the plants. Water deeply to encourage the roots to reach down, not stay shallow, to find water. Also, avoid splashing water on the leaves.
Another watering method is to install drip irrigation prior to planting, with a timer at your spigot to give your plants a deep drink at regular intervals. Garden in Minutes is a great DIY kit for installing drip irrigation in your garden.
Celery doesn’t need much extra fertilization to grow. You can simply side dress with compost every couple of weeks. That just means to push some fresh compost around the base of the plants.
With the arrival of warmer temperatures in the spring, your celery plants’ time in the vegetable garden is coming to an end. You can buy yourself a little more time by covering your plants with shade cloth to trick them into thinking it’s still cool.
HOW TO HARVEST CELERY STALKS
You can harvest celery as a cut-and-come-again plant the same way you would with lettuce. Once the outer stalks are about 6″ tall, begin taking a few from the outside of each plant. Let more stalks grow from the middle of the plant for your next harvest. This is how you get an endless supply of celery during the growing season!
If you want really thick stalks, wait until the plant has reached its full size (which will take about 85 to 120 days depending on the variety) and harvest the whole plant at once. Use a clean, sharp knife to cut the plant at its base.
The best time to harvest is in the morning when the water content in the plant will be highest.
If you notice a flower stalk forming, cut it off. Celery plants are perfectly safe to eat once they begin bolting, but they can begin to taste bitter. They’ll start putting all their energy toward making seeds instead of forming tasty leaves and stalks. You can allow the plants to send up flower spikes and go to seed near the end of the season when the weather is warming up.
Dunk your harvested celery stalks in some ice water and then drain before storing them in the fridge.
We hope this guide helps you experience perhaps your first ever delicious celery stalk. You’ll also find new appreciation for the leaves, which are so good when they’re fresh. The really fun thing about growing your own veggies is that you get to enjoy more parts of the plant!
Let us know what questions you have about growing this cool weather vegetable here in Austin, TX. We love helping you set up your own kitchen gardens and become confident gardeners. If you’re ready to set up your garden for the next growing season, now is the perfect time. Click here to start growing with us!