Celery should be started indoors up to 8 weeks before your last frost date.
This will be my first year starting celery indoors. Last year I tried direct sowing some seeds, but they took so long to germinate, I was guilty of not keeping their bed moist during that time. Because of this, I didn’t get a single stalk of celery in my garden. I’m hoping that if I start them from seed indoors, and baby them until they are big enough to transplant, I’ll have a better chance at harvesting my own homegrown celery this year.
I’m trying three different varieties to see which ones grow best here. I’m planting: Giant Pascal, Tendercrisp (heirloom), and Utah (heirloom).
Growing celery from seed is done basically the same way you grow most other plants from seed.
First, fill your containers with seed starting mix. Remember, don’t use potting soil for starting seeds, the bag must specifically say seed starting mix. Be sure whatever you use as a planting container has holes in the bottom for adequate drainage. Small yogurt cups with 3 nail sized holes in the bottom works well.
Wet the soil well, until it’s thoroughly moist. A note about watering seedlings… if you are on city water, you may need to use filtered water to water your plants. The harsh chemicals in treated city water often prevent seedlings from growing (which ought to concern you about what those chemicals are doing to you… but I digress).
Celery seeds are very small. They germinate best if you plant them just below the surface of the soil, or even simply pressed into the surface of the soil and kept moist. If you plant them too deeply, the seeds will use up all of their energy trying to reach the surface of the soil, and will die before emerging.
Put the seed trays in a warm, out of the sun place, and keep them moist until the seedlings begin popping up. I like to put my trays on top of my fridge.
Like I said, celery has a longer germination period than other crops. It can take up to 21 days for seedlings to begin sprouting. Mine started coming up at 11 days after planting. I just kept them watered with a spray bottle, and watched every day for signs of life.
Once the seedlings begin to show, immediately put them under a grow light, or into a sunny south facing window. We use a shop light with regular halogen bulbs as a grow light. Keep the light about 1-2 in. from the tops of the seedlings. If the light is too close, it will burn your plants. And if it is too far away, your plants will stretch themselves to try to reach the light, and will become “leggy” (long and spindly, falling over) and weak.
Keep your plants moist by spritzing them with a water bottle every time you see the surface of the soil drying out. If the soil gets completely dry, your plants will not survive. However, if they stay sopping wet your plants will damp off and die.
Here are my seedlings at 19 days old. The Giant Pascal seeds have not had good success. The seeds were three years old though, so that’s probably the reason for such poor germination.
I’ll keep updating with more on how to keep your celery seedlings growing until transplanting time as my own seedlings grow. Celery seedlings should be transplanted around your area’s last frost date. That’s mid-April for us (south-east coast region), so we have a few more weeks before setting these little guys out in the garden.
Do you have any special tips on growing celery from seed? Have you had luck growing your own?