Celery and Parsley
23rd Jan 2003
My first competitive show this year will be the Welsh Championships which are again being held within that fabulous building, The Orangery at Margam Park Port Talbot on the 24th and 25th of August, The Bank holiday Sunday and Monday.
I am therefore not in that much of a hurry to get my celery sown just yet, however if you have an early show from the middle July to mid August then a sowing now will give you some good heads for that time. If your shows are going to be after that date don't be tempted to sow now, you will only get problems later on, the plants will be well over the top and out of condition.
If you are to sow now then use a small shallow tray and broadcast sow the seed thinly on top of some Levington F2S seed compost. Flatten the seed into the compost and very lightly cover them over with some fine Vermiculite or some sieved F2S. Do not apply too much cover over seed as a little diffused light seems to help the seed to germinate. The most important thing, particularly at this time of year, is to make sure that the seed tray is placed in warm propagator to get a good quick germination. The next important thing to remember is that the seed tray must never be allowed to dry out.
Choice of Seed
There is now a much wider choice of celery seed to sow for the show bench than there has ever been since I have been showing. The four new Hybrid crosses that I have introduced have certainly helped towards that end and nearly all of the four are winning major shows with different growers having their own preference. There are really only six varieties of Show celery that I would recommend. The first is Ideal, a non hybrid and an excellent variety that has been winning for many years at the highest level. Secondly there is Turners White, another old non hybrid variety that is unbeatable where the schedule specifically asks for a white variety. The first of my Hybrids was Starburst F1 then came Evening Star F1 closely followed by Redstar F1 and finally Morning Star F1. There is therefore plenty to choose from and any one of them are capable of winning at the highest level.
As with most of my seed trays I never cover them over with glass or anything else, I just prefer to go with a sprayer, every day if necessary, to make sure that the top of the seed compost never dries out. Germination should take just over a fortnight at a temperature of around 70°F, at this point leave them in the propagator for a further five to 7 days to fully germinate before removing them and leaving them on the greenhouse staging. Naturally the greenhouse must be warm with a minimum night temperature of 55°F to avoid any chance of a check to their growth.
When the plants are starting to form their first rough or proper leaf, transplant them carefully into a seed tray or small cells such as multi cell 40s. Again use Levington F2S for this purpose as the added sand is always a help to allow good drainage. Once the plants find their feet in these cells they soon romp away, indeed there aren't many vegetable plants that can visibly be seen to be growing as fast as celery, particularly when in their final pots.
If you have not already done so, you must try and spend some time on preparing the celery beds. The celery in it's native habitat is a bog plant so it will rarely do well in really free draining sandy soil unless you can give it plenty of water on a regular basis. Thorough preparation with plenty of added rotting farm yard manure is therefore essential, failing this, add some of your old Gro bags or home made compost to increase the water retention in the beds.
My celery beds were moved on to raised concrete block beds two years ago and all the soil from these was thrown out during late November and the bottom of the beds well forked over. The manure was then laid on the bottom in 4 to 6 inch layers with a similar amount of soil being added on top. This was continued in layers until the bed was finally completed and left in a mound, which will be soon settled with the winter rains. A good scattering of lime was sprinkled over the beds during late December and a Top Spring dressing will be well worked in a fortnight or so prior to planting out.
Inside the greenhouse, as well as sowing celery, I also need to sow some parsley, the variety Faulds is certainly one of the best if you can get some seed, the fronds are very fine and tight and really do remarkably well if you want to dress or garnish any dishes with it.. As with celery, sow on the surface and again cover only lightly with some Vermiculite and either place in the propagator or even on the greenhouse benching provide the greenhouse is heated. We should all really grow some parsley as it is rich in minerals, primarily iron salts and to smaller degree, sulphur salts; it is also rich in vitamin C.
In folk lore parsley is said to belong especially to the devil and it was thought that Good Friday was to be the only day of the year on which it could be sown, then only if the moon is rising. I am led to believe there is also this saying in England - 'Only the wicked can grow parsley' well I would never have believed it!!