Preparing the Celery Beds
7th Feb 2002
Now that the days are visibly lengthening we shall soon have ample time to spend in the garden during the evenings, and I certainly have plenty of work to be getting on with. One job that I never got round to doing was the preparation of the celery beds, so they will have some priority this coming week. I have two distinct beds for growing these which are approximately 10 ft long and 4 ft wide and about two feet above the ground. They were built a few years ago from concrete blocks and for the first few years I grew short carrots in them.
Both beds however are close to my Leylandi hedge so they are in a partial shade during the early morning but get full sunlight from mid morning onwards. This seems to favour the celery much better than the carrots hence the change of plans a couple of years ago.
Preparing the Beds
All the sand from both beds was taken out and utilised elsewhere in drums etc. whilst some fresh loam was imported to create the celery beds. My intention this next week is to dig out the top spit and place it at the back of the trench and then dig in some well rotted manure as well as some well rotted leaf mould into the bottom spit. I shall then dig the next top layer on top of the organic matter whilst at the same time mixing it roughly together.
As I am carrying out this work relatively late in the season it's important that the organic matter is well rotted so the that the process of decomposition can start quickly. However the current soil is in very good heart and the real benefits from the material being dug in now will really show itself next year. However, as celery is a bog plant in it"s natural environment, it likes it's feet to be moist so the organic matter will also act as a sponge and hopeful retain some moisture during the dry Summer months ahead.
Nothing else will be done to the beds until early March when they will given their base Spring dressing and then thoroughly rotovated to a fine crumbly structure
Of course it"s no use having a celery bed with no celery to plant in it so we must plan ahead and make sure that we have plants ready for planting out which will serve whatever show we intend to exhibit them at. Timing is quite important with Celery as it can be at it's peak for only a relatively small space of time. If it goes over the top then you will certainly fail to stage it as the probability is that one of three things could affect it.
It may well start to throw up a seed head or bolt, as we loosely call it, and believe me any judge worth his salt will soon find the emerging seed head when judging. The second problem is heart rot, this is generally the one that really throws your chances through the window. It can strike quickly when the plant is maturing and regular 2 percent doses of Calcium nitrate, trickled down into the heart during the growing season, will almost certainly hold it back. The heart rot of course occurs inside the plant but the third problem occurs on the outer stalks and again a good judge will run his finger down the groove at the back of each stalk to look for it. The outer stalks are maturing and the thin tissue in the groove is stretched and bubbled and these bubbles will rot away when the plant has over matured.
To get celery plants we need to sow the seed, and timing of the seed sowing is important. If you are to show your celery towards the end of July to early August then you need to sow the variety Ideal now to get it to bulk up in time without going over the top. If though you want to sow any of my five new Ideal crosses then I suggest you sow these later, at least a fortnight. These new crosses are all making a big impact on the show benches but we still need to understand their growth patterns, when to sow them, when to start pulling and collaring them etc. as their vigour is tremendous. If you sow a batch of Ideal and a batch of say Starburst (one of the new Ideal crosses) once they have both germinated and growing away, you can actually see the vigour in the F1 hybrid as it quickly outgrows the Ideal. (pic attached)
As for myself, it's certainly to going to mean two sowings this year as the Welsh Championships are held on the August Bank holiday Sunday - Monday at Margam Park and the National is this year five weeks later at the Malvern show. I shall therefore sow my first batch of celery seeds towards the end of February and the other at the end of March. The choice of which one out of the five is going to be difficult as different growers have fared exceptionally with both. Before sowing them I shall let you know which two or even three that I have decided to sow.