Growing Celery in Raised Beds
27th Jan 1999
One vegetable that performed well for most growers last year was celery, the dismal damp, even wet Summer seemed to be to it's liking and there was a lot less talk of heart rot around. Personally I could have done with a lot more sunshine relying on myself to make sure that the plant had enough moisture at the roots to maintain even steady growth.
My celery grew in two newly constructed raised beds last year and this proved to be a slight problem as the concrete blocks forming the beds weren't completed until late March. This meant that the soil composition wasn't quite what it should have been even though plenty of well rotted horse manure was worked into the top spit.
The bed took a while to get established after the plants went out during late May and what I staged as part of my vegetable display at Shrewsbury was very light to what I have normally staged in the past. Interestingly though last year, from a normal sowing that I do around the middle of February, I could have staged a few heads during the middle of November as none of them had heart rot and none had gone to seed. Indeed the ultimate size of the plants were tremendous with the bulk of this growth being achieved from August onwards as the root system seemed to find plenty of nourishment further down the bed formation.
I'm certainly pleased that I have created a raised bed method of growing the plants with the inspiration coming from the way that Bob Herbert from Mosborough grows his, and we all now how good his celery can be. This year I'm hoping that they will be a lot better as the beds have been prepared much earlier giving the soil plenty of time to settle down.
My first show after Chelsea is always the County show here on the Isle of Anglesey which is held on the Tuesday and Wednesday during the middle of August, in order to have really good heads for this event, the seed needs to be sown before the end of this month.
The main variety is a re selection of the Ideal strain that I was given by Bob Herbert, this seems to have a lot of weight about it and is the variety that's winning on the tables at the moment.
I am however trying to change this varieties grip on the show scene by having my own F1 hybrid variety bred for me. Of course breeding vegetables is quite an intricate affair and needs a lot more knowledge and know how that I can muster so I have teamed up with Dr Peter Dawson from the seed company Tozers who are well known in the breeding of various varieties of self blanching celery. I currently have a little seed from two new hybrids that have been crossed with Ideal as the main parent, the idea eventually is to introduce a little bit more colour into the stalks whilst at the same time trying to improve on the general quality all round.
Of course it is early days yet but there's nothing more exiting than being at the start of the creation of what could be a brand new selection in a few years time and I shall certainly look forward to hearing from some of the growers that I have given a pinch of seed to as a trial. If Dr Dawson is going to be able to breed a brand new variety that is good enough for general release, then it will be the first F1 hybrid trench celery that will have been crossed from the ideal strain.
I shall be sowing both the ideal selection and a pinch of the two new crosses this coming weekend and if you are going to have a go, do make sure that you have sufficient heat to germinate the seed. Mine will be sown in 3 parts Levington F2 mixed with 1 part fine Vermiculite which certainly helps towards giving a more vigorous root system and together with it's water retaining capabilities will prevent the young seedlings from becoming under stress during what is probably every plants most crucial development period, at the seedling stage.
The seed will be finely scattered on top of the lightly flattened compost and using a flat piece of plywood that I have had made to fit the various different seed trays that I use, the seed will be pressed into the top surface and the seed tray placed in my electric propagator. Last year I used George Armstrong's advice and never covered the seed at all; not with finely sieved compost or with a pane of glass and the ultimate germination rate was superb. All that needs doing is make sure that the seed on top of the compost never dries out, this is vital, and best achieved by spraying the compost daily with a fine mist spray from a hand sprayer. Germination will take between a fortnight and three weeks with the young seedlings ready for transplanting in a further three weeks to a month.
Did you know that celery seed is the smallest of all the vegetable seed, so small that it takes 70,000 seed to make an ounce and as small as lettuce seed are, you only need 20,000 thousand to make an ounce.