The introduction of F1 Hybrids has moved celery growing dramtically forward. Prior to there breeding the only real and reliable exhibition trench celery was ‘Ideal” and how good it proved to be as well, dominating the show scene for many years.
Starburst Trench Celery and other F1 Hybrids
There’s little doubt that when Dr Peter Dawson bred Starburst Trench Celery, the first of five F1 hybrids that I now have in my seed catalogue, it moved celery growing dramatically forward. Up to that point the only real and reliable exhibition trench celery was ‘Ideal” and how good it proved to be as well, dominating the show scene for many years. Nowadays though it’s far more likely that one of the five hybrids that have all been crossed with ‘Ideal” will be the more dominant variety on the show bench.
Evening Star and Red Star
Two growers in particular have shown an uncanny skill at producing stupendous heads of both Evening Star and Red Star to dominate the National competitive scene for the past two years. Chris Hewlett and his next door neighbour Bob Brown have really mastered the art of growing celery to the extent that Chris has them measuring up to 30 inched around. Having a chat with him recently, it is pretty obvious that both bob and himself put a lot of their success down to the 15 year old manure that they still buy in by the bag full. The manure is then emptied out into an old bath and water is then added with the whole thing resembling thick soup. This is then emptied into the bottom nine inch layer with top soil added on top and mixed in with the liquefied manure.
Another cultural tip that Chris gave me was to collar the celery as soon as it is planted out in the bed. Naturally, when they do plant out, they are large well grown plants in 7 inch pots and are capable of taking a 5 inch diameter collar straight away. Redstar seems to require pulling or stretching upwards more than Evening Star so there is a need to collar as early as possible. They use corrugated paper for this job right through to maturity and prior to the show, the collars are removed every other day. Chris reckons this is of paramount importance to ensure that no young slug or aphid gets a chance to establish themselves. It also gives them a chance to remove any side shoots that might develop and use up the nutrients in the bed unnecessarily.
To give them a kick start they do use a little Nitrogen to get the plants really motoring and this is done through the use of Chempak N°2 and this will be followed towards the tail end of the season by using Chempak N°8 which will help to harden off the plant. Another good little tip he passed on was the presence of Ants in the bed, at the time we were speaking which was around the middle of June, he had noticed Ants crawling around on the bed. Chris believes that their presence signifies that there is something in the bed or on the plants that they are after. That day Chris noticed that were some black fly or a type of aphid on the plant which he believes the Ants were after, an interesting theory.
I am quite happy with my celery at the moment, the variety that I am growing this year is Morning Star, the same as I grew for Chelsea and that was the best I have ever grown. It’s an extremely vigorous variety and grew to just over 4 feet in height and 13 inches around when dressed, not bad for the third week in May and grown to maturity in a 7 litre pot. (picture attached) The plants are currently on 15 inch collars and will soon be ready for their 18 inch ones. The collars that I have used for the past few years are made from Bubble polythene that’s been lined on both sides with a silvery reflective type material which stiffens up the polythene. (picture attached) It is perfect for collaring both leeks and onions as it’s non perishable and the same collar can be used for many years. The good thing about it is it’s reflectivity, it keeps the heart of the celery cool as the suns rays is reflected off the collar.
It’s vitally important that you continue to feed the celery on a weekly basis with Calcium Nitrate which I have proven works amazingly well to prevent the dreaded and despairing heart rot. The celery that I grew for Chelsea was started off in my warm greenhouse during mid January and was then moved to a cold greenhouse during the end of February. At that time of year the night temperatures are low and to compensate for this the plants were covered over with fleece and, without fail every Monday morning, they were watered with Calcium Nitrate. A heaped teaspoon to a gallon of water per five plants kept the celery totally free from heart rot. I do stress though that it’s imperative to carry out this function regularly once a week so that the cells of the young emerging foliage from the heart are hardened off.
Keep applying the slug pellets around each plant as well as regular applications of liquid slugit which is particularly effective on humid warm evenings when the slugs are more likely to be active.