The Easiest Way to Grow Celery!
Fun garden experiment alert! How many of you use celery all the time? We do! Year-round we use celery for stocks, broth, stews, stuffing, snacking, chicken salads, and more. It’s one of those vegetables I never really think about, but then realize it deserves waaay more credit! Today I’m going to share two ways to grow your own celery, and one of the ways is super, SUPER simple. Here we go!
The Super Simple Method
Grow your celery from a grocery store scrap! Save the bottom of your store-bought celery bunch because we are about to turn it into a full grown plant!
Since celery can take a long time to germinate and grow from seed, I find that saving and planting the bottom of your storebought celery bunch is very much worth it. When I say “save the bottom” I mean to chop the entire bottom inch from your celery bunch. If you see the picture below, you’ll notice the roots coming out from the core area on the bottom of the celery. It’s very important that this area is intact so that roots will grow!
Related article: Fall & Winter Gardening Guide for Southern California
Once you have your celery bottom scrap, you have two choices: start rooting your celery in water or plant your celery scrap directly into soil. I’ve personally done both ways and it really depends on weather, your time, and the amount of effort you want to put in.
What’s the difference between planting the scrap in soil versus rooting in water first? In the photo below, you can see two different celery scraps growing. The one on the left has been rooting in water on my kitchen counter and the one on the right was planted directly in soil. Since our weather has been in the 70s during the day but into the low 40s at night, the one growing outdoors has considerably less re-growth due to cold temperatures. Either way, both are ahead of the celery I started from seed.
Rooting your celery bottom in water first is best if it is cold outside. This allows the celery to form roots and get a head start on establishing before being planted out in the garden. You simply take a shallow glass dish, place the celery scrap in it, and fill with just enough water to cover the bottom area (where the roots will form). Leave this on a kitchen counter where some natural light comes in and check the water level daily. Eventually you will see little white roots start to grow!
Once your celery scrap has formed roots and no harsh frost is imminent, you can plant your celery directly in the garden. Check out my tips below for finding the right placement and growing conditions for celery in your garden.
Don’t want to take the time to root your celery scrap first? Just plant it! Yep, you can cut the bottom off your celery bunch and plant it immediately in the soil. Water well, and keep watered! It’s very important that you don’t let it dry out completely in these beginning stages.
Method 2: Grow Celery From Seed
I did want to reiterate the joy of growing from seed and make sure you know that I’ve written down the general process of how to start any plant from seed HERE. Celery seeds can take anywhere from 14-21 days to germinate which is kind of slow….it can take even longer if you start them outdoors in our California winter like I did. Haha.
The ideal time to start celery from seed in Southern California is in early Spring ( indoors in January/February) or Fall (think October) so you have some celery throughout Winter. Celery technically grows best here in Southern California during our cool season, but it is possible to grow it year-round if you keep it in a cooler part of your garden during out hottest months.
Why start celery from seed? As with most seed starting, you have access to more varieties and a pack of a hundred seeds can cost you anywhere from $3-$5. Plus, celery seeds don’t “expire” after one year, so you don’t have to re-purchase seeds for the next several years.
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The celery pictured below is called “red venture.” While the flavor wasn’t much different, it was still usable, delicious, and exciting to grow! I plan to play with blanching this variety a little more next season. You also won’t find this variety at the grocery store.
Growing tips & Conditions for Celery
Celery is happiest as a cool season crop in zone 10, but I can grow it year round if I place it in mostly shady cool areas in Summer.
Celery likes mostly shade in warm climates. If it’s Summer here, I’ll place my celery in full shade, and if it is the cool season I’ll grow it in partical shade. Celery can bolt and become bitter when it is too hot.
Keep it watered. Celery loves water, as you can probably tell when you crunch into it. It has a high water content!
Celery doesn’t like frost, but can sometimes be okay. Mature celery can handle lower temps, but once you get down close to 30 degrees, it can be a gamble. Luckily, we rarely get that cold here. Just be aware that you might want to protect your celery if we get a random frost.
Harvesting Your Homegrown Celery
You can harvest only what you need from your celery by cutting off the outer stalks as needed. Carefully use a knife and simply cut the outer stalks towards the bottom. This method of harvesting lets the celery continue to grow and is great for home gardens where you might only need a little it at a time.
You can also harvest the entire bunch of celery if you prefer. Just grab all the stalks in a fist and carefully pull out of the ground.
Why is my homegrown celery bitter? I’ve heard this question before and there are a few reasons your homegrown celery could taste bitter. First, hot weather and less than ideal growing conditions can alter the taste of your celery. Second, there is a process called “blanching” that most growers perform in order to bring out the sweetness of celery before harvesting. In this sense, “blanching” is not what you hear on cooking shows and does not involve cooking. Deep green celery stalks tend to be less sweet, you might even notice that the celery from the grocery store is very light in color. I haven’t had a chance to photograph/video how to blanch celery yet, so until I do, I’m going to recommend that you check out some vidoes on YouTube. Basically, anywhere from 1-3 weeks before you plan to harvest your celery, you wrap newspaper around the stalks and tie with twine. Let the leaves stick out the top so the plant can continue to photosynthesize. Non-blanched celery tends to have a MUCH stronger flavor but depending on what you prefer or what you use it for, you don’t have to blanch it. If your celery has been bitter in the past, try blanching!
My Favorite Varieties of Celery to Grow From Seed
A tried-and-true variety in my garden is ‘Tall Utah” (pictured above). I grew this variety in my very first garden, so I can personally say it is friendly to beginners.
“Red Venture” grew vigorously for me last year and the stems are a beautiful reddish purple.
“Chinese White” and “Chinese Pink” are new to my garden this year.
The best part about all this? You can text allll your friends and ask them to save their celery bottom scraps for you! I hope you feel inspired to add celery to your garden spaces this year. Don’t forget to check out my Fall & Winter Gardening Guide for a list of other vegetables you can grow with celery during our cool season here in SoCal, and subscribe to my blog to get all the monthly updates, reminders, and recipes!
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