Vegetables for Chelsea Flower Show - Celery
27th Apr 2005
Easter was early this year and it certainly brought with it some glorious weather which has, to some extent, stayed with us for most of the time. This means that my plants for the Chelsea Flower Show have certainly moved on by leaps and bounds. The large greenhouse at Bangor where a full range of vegetables are growing is obviously heated and artificially lit for 16 hour per day. You would think therefore that the growing conditions they are in couldn't possibly be improved upon. The fact is though that as soon as we have a few warm sunny days, the roof vents open up automatically and very often, depending on the temperature, to their full extent. The vents open right along the whole length of the greenhouse and at least two feet wide and when you walk into this growing environment, you can actually tell the difference. The plants even look better and they most certainly respond in a dramatic way to this constant exchange of air that is happening. We must therefore, in our own greenhouses at home, attempt to emulate the same growing conditions as I have in the larger houses. On nice sunny days, if you haven"t got any automatic vents, open up the windows wide to allow plenty of air to permeate through. And then in the evening, close them back up again until the weather really settles down at which point they can be left permanently open.
One plant that definitely does respond quickly to the warm sunny weather is celery, and as it's a bog plant in it's natural environment, plenty of water together with the warmth and adequate ventilation will see the plants gallop ahead. The variety that I am growing this year is Morning Star F1, one of my own breeding lines that has done really well for me at Chelsea over the past two years and looks like it's going to be excellent again this year. The plants are now in 2 litre pots which is close to a 6 inch pot and will be sufficient to sustain the plant until planting out time during the first week of May.
I have reduced the quantity of celery that I am growing down to fourteen heads which will be grown in one raised bed, 3 metres long and a metre wide. The beds were well manured late last Autumn and will now be given some fertiliser feed. 3 ounces to the square metre of Vitax Q4 will be given as well as 5 ounces of Nutrimate all well rotovated into the top nine inches or so of the bed. The surface area will then be raked level and the celery planted in two straight lines with the plants staggered in a domino fashion so as to make it easier to get at them for collaring. They won't be collared just yet, the clips and split canes that I have supporting the petioles or stalks will remain with the plants for the next couple of weeks until the plant is well and truly established. Once I know that they are growing away, I shall give them a little scattering of some dried blood, this is a quick acting high nitrogen feed to really get the plant moving along as quickly as possible. Thereafter any feed that the plant gets will be in the form of Calcium Nitrate.
I have used calcium Nitrate regularly now for the past few years and I have to say that I haven't had a touch of Heart rot since using it. Even in the greenhouses at Bangor where the celery plants are grown to maturity in plastic pots and often at high temperatures in April and May, I haven't had any heart rot. It worth stating again that celery heart rot is not a disease but a cultural problem that comes about in effect because of the way we grow it. The young shoots growing out of the heart of the plant are extremely tender and soft and as we collar the petioles in order to extend them they become vulnerable to rotting. The tips of the young plants are lacking in calcium which is why they can very quickly rot off, applying Calcium Nitrate at the rate of 5 ml, or a level teaspoon, to a gallon of water will prevent this happening. The material is quite hard and takes time to dissolve I therefore like to dissolve it first by adding boiling water to it and then topping up with cold water. Trickle the mixture down the collar through into the heart and the soft tissue as well as applying it around the soil close to the stalk. What I have found is that it's important to carry this out on a regular basis. I will therefore select one day of the week, usually Monday morning, and this task will then be carried out regularly every Monday morning right through the season.