Early Planting of Celery + Onions
22nd Jun 2000
Because we had a very warm and early May, my celery was planted directly into their beds during the second week of that month, probably the earliest that I have ever planted it out. The reason was that the following week would have been the week prior to Chelsea when my time would have been spent harvesting all my vegetables. The following week would have been spent at the show so my celery over the past five years or so hasn't been planted out until early June. By that time they were really pot bound and the plants were starting to suffer with the tips of the young emerging leaves browning off which is the start of the celery heart rot.
Celery is frost tender so some protection is usually necessary when planting as early as I did, but living here on Anglesey surrounded by the sea and in a South facing garden it is rare for me to have any hard frost during May. However covering the plants over for weeks should be the norm by using either fleece or enviromesh which should give the plants an even better start. An old gardening friend of my father told me many years ago, when I first started gardening in earnest, that there would be no danger from frost after the first full moon in May. This year that occurred on the 18th and I can"t recall ever having had any frost damage after that period.
The two beds for the celery were well prepared deeply during late Winter with all my old Gro bag material being dug in. One bed is narrower that the other and I can get two rows in it, one with seven plants and the other with 6 planted in domino fashion. The other bed has room for three rows, two with six and the middle row with five giving me a total of thirty plants which should be sufficient for my needs. I have three varieties planted, six of the Ideal and this mainly planted for breeding purpose, the remainder are seven of the Ideal crossed with Lathom and the remainder are two different sowings of Moonbeam crossed with Ideal. Both the latter are brand new hybrid crosses and really performed well last year and could be the ones to grow from now on.
They are now growing away strongly and I have just set up a watering system to make sure that they never suffer through lack of adequate moisture a round their roots. As soon as I returned from Chelsea they were visibly seen to be growing away so they had a liquid feed fairly high in Nitrogen, I prefer to use Chempak 2 for this purpose. I must stress that I only give them the one feed when the plants are young as the last thing I want to do later on is to make the plants too soft and tender and more easily vulnerable to heart rot. Later on in the season when they are well established and on their final collar they will have a couple of liquid feeds that have a higher proportion of Potash to harden the plant as well as bringing out the pink colour in the stalks.
They will now need some support by the way of collars and I must hasten to add that the collars I use are merely there to keep the stalks growing vertically rather than twisting and bending along the soil. This collar will be about nine inches in diameter and the same measurement in height and cut from a roll of builders damp course material to form a cylinder. The actual proper collaring will take place about six weeks before my first show and the material utilised for this job will be corrugated paper. Keep applying fresh slug pellets every 10 days or say or even more often if there has been some heavy rain, the liquid slug killer called Slugit from Murphys is excellent as well, you can trickle it in between the stalks on a warm humid evening keeping the celery perfectly clean and free from slug damage.
I had a phone call from Ken Davies Wrexham the other week and he was telling me of his dismay one evening to realise that his seeping hoses under his black and white polythene were not working adequately even though the water was on. The reason? The seeping hose he used was the same as mine, the green coloured misty one and the problem was that the black and white polythene was resting directly on top of the water pipes thereby blocking the holes and preventing any water from passing through.
In my case I have wooden battens running on top of the concrete block walls to which the polythene has been stapled, as the soil level was at least an inch below the level of the blocks I was fortunate that I never had this problem. If you have the seeping hoses under your polythene do make sure that the water is getting right through the system, lift the sheet here and there to feel the moisture content of your soil. If the polythene is preventing water from getting to the bed then some pieces of batten pushed on edge underneath the polythene should give enough room for the water to permeate on to the soil.
My onions initially this year are the strongest and biggest that I have ever had and this undoubtedly is to do with the warm climate and regular sunny days that we had throughout most of May. I can never remember such warm temperatures so early in the year in Anglesey, We had no rain at all during the first two weeks of May and the temperatures were in the upper seventies or lower eighties most of the time. This made think about the Spring five years ago when Mel Ednie broke the World record with his heaviest onion, I remember him telling me then that part of his success was undoubtedly the warm sunny start that the plants had. I wonder if we will see some record breaking specimens this year!.