(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in theDaily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 4 of the Wednesday, May 16, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT PLANTING CELERY
When I found out that Sitka gardeners grow celery I was amazed. I didn’t know it was possible, that only commercial farmers could do it. But celery is easy to grow if you have a few tips.
Plant celery seeds indoors mid-February. They take a long time to germinate and grow very slowly, so don’t get discouraged. Once they’ve sprouted it is likely that you will have problems with aphids. I don’t know where they come from.
Even though I sterilize my sunroom and use sterile potting soil, I still get aphids. The best natural way to get rid of them is to mix up a solution of one gallon of water and one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid to spray over the entire plant – especially the underside of the leaves where the aphids like to hang out. According to the Internet it isn’t necessary to rinse the soap off. You might have to spray two separate times to be sure they are all dead.
This past week a friend helped me spray my celery and she suggested that I start spraying them a couple of times when they are little as a preventive measure instead of waiting until the plants are large, hard to handle and covered with aphids. I think that’s a great idea.
As far as soil preparation is concerned, celery likes rich soil that is almost boggy, so do not let it dry out. Amend with nitrogen-rich material such as salmon and seaweed in the fall or herring roe and seaweed or commercial fertilizer in the spring. Adjust your pH balance by adding lime or seashell sand.
Transplant seedlings outside about mid-June. Make a “dish” shaped depression in the soil to act as a catch basin for water, dig a hole in the center, bury the start as deep as you can without covering its growing center, firm the soil around the base of the floppy plant to get it as upright as possible. Then spread an inch or two of seaweed over the surface of the soil to retain moisture and cover the entire row with row cover.
During the first weeks after transplanting, the outside stalks of the plants may start to yellow and die from transplant shock. Use a scissors to carefully clip away dying stalks close to the base of the fragile transplants. When outside stalks stop dying and the center of the plants begins vigorously growing straight upwards, you will know that your plant is happy.
Do not wait for your celery plants to get as large as the ones in the supermarket before harvesting. Your plants may never get that big. Wait until the plants are sturdy and the outside stalks are big enough to suit you and then, while supporting the plant with one hand, twist and pull a stalk from the base of the plant with the other hand while using a down-and-out type of motion.
Do NOT cut the stalks off of mature plants with a scissors leaving a stub behind to rot and never take more than one-third of the plant at one time and it will keep producing sweet delicious stalks well after our first frost. Don’t forget that the celery leaves are edible too and make a great addition to soups and stir-fries.
Next week’s column — How to cope with Sitka’s weather.
Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden
2103 Sawmill Creek Road
Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
747-6108 or 738-2241