Growing Celery in The Northern Territory
Celery is a cool season crop, so growing it in the tropical Top End region can be tricky but with enough commitment and determination it is by no means impossible.
Don’t plant celery when the weather is too warm or in a spot that gets too much sun. The key to success with celery is moderate weather, (this may require some human intervention.)
You might be tempted to plant celery in a shady spot because it’s a leafy green. Celery actually needs quite a lot of sun to produce big plants and long stems. It needs at least 5-7 hours of sun a day, but will enjoy some afternoon shade.
Dig in lots compost and well-rotted manure. Celery is a heavy feeder and likes rich, well-draining soil. Celery plants have exceptionally fine roots, so they need very light soil. If you have heavier soil in your garden, then you can plant them into pure compost in a raised bed.
Soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting
Simply sprinkle the seeds onto your soil, cover loosely, and water in. Celery is quite tricky to grow from seed, so unless you’re a very experienced gardener, rather plant seedlings. Celery seeds are really tiny, which makes them hard to sow evenly. Like carrots, they need to be thinned once they’re up. The easiest way to thin them is to use a small pair of scissors and simply cut away the unwanted seedlings. Cutting is a great way to remove any extra seedlings without disturbing the ones you plan to keep.
Plant celery in trenches and gradually full the trenches as the celery grows, this helps to blanch the stems and makes them tastier when eaten raw. Celery doesn’t like to be crowded, so make sure there is only one plant per hole. Sometimes even bought seedling may contain more than one plant per pot. If this is the case, either separate them and plant both or thin the weaker plant.
Celery can also be grown from discarded celery roots. Simply buy celery that still has its roots on, use the stalks, and re-root the roots; either in soil or water.
In the Top End, it's a good idea to grow your celery in pots, so that they can easily be moved into the shade in the garden, or indoors to keep them cool.
Once the stalks reach a good size, tie them loosely and then wrap them in newspaper. Allow the leaves to sick out the top. You can harvest them 2-3 weeks later. The newspaper will protect them from the sun and they should be pale when you harvest them.
Water regularly to keep the soil moist.
Celery is a very heavy feeder. Give your plants a good, nitrogen-rich feed every few weeks. Manure, compost tea or organic fertilizer are all good options. Remember to top up your feeding after heavy rains.
Mulch your celery plants with a thick layer of organic mulch. This will help to keep their roots cool and moist. Lucerne, sugarcane and pea-straw are all good options.
Celery can be harvested whole or you may remove one stalk at a time as needed. Simply pull the tops of the stalks down towards the soil to snap them off the plant or cut them at the base as you would for spinach.
Rotate crops and apply lots of compost. If this is a persistent problem in your garden, nematicides can be applied, but it’s best to try sort the problem out using organic methods first.
Spray with soap spray weekly until the problem is under control. It may be necessary to reapply more often if it’s a particularly rainy winter.
What to do about Root-Knot Nematodes?
What to do about Carrot Fly?