Question for Elaine


Question: My family and I love celery, but despite trying to grow it every year I always fail, at best only producing weak, poor heads that look nothing like I see in the supermarkets, or at the local show. Any top tips for success? I do try to give it plenty of water in the summer, but that isn’t always easy as my soil is quite free draining.

Elaine answer: Celery is one of the hardest crops to grow well, indeed it is nigh on impossible to produce heads as good as the commercial ones without a great deal of effort. First, it needs starting in the warm, early m spring or even late winter. I use wet sowing compost in a tray then thin early. The plants are soon moved up to small pots and kept wet and well fed until planted out in early summer after hardening off. I plant them in trenches and protected by tube cloches (cut from drinks bottles). The trenches were enriched with well-rotted manure and kept wetted constantly with water and liquid feed. Mine is also a light soil and a heavy clay would be preferable. You cannot over water or over-feed! Self blanching sorts do not really whiten and are better blanched, so I prefer older white sorts that need blanching anyway. I have grown celery in large pots and tubs for show specimens but this is even more work for just a few heads. I usually now sow celery seed densely and direct, to produce ‘leaf’ crops for the flavour and buy celery when I want them fresh.



Question: I am being referred for a hip replacement surgery in the near future. I will be therefore searching for guidance on low-care crops, growing through polythene membranes etc., and other notions to make the year forward more wieldy (both pre and post procedure) on my allotment. I ‘ve first and second early potatoes planned for one big terrible, and nothing else determined on. The small greenhouse will be priceless, naturally, and my comfy chair has already been in place.

Elaine answer: A year will seem long, but then be careful not to overdo it. Friends I know with hip operations have rebounded with incredible enthusiasm once it’s done. You are quite right to use membranes to grow through, saves a lot of work. I would invest in the woven black sort that is more expensive but gives decades of use. Cover the entire allotment with this. (In future years you can put it down again in mid-winter over green manures to give lovely clean soil to sow in spring.) This year you can grow through holes cut in it but I counsel against potatoes because of the digging up required. I suggest you grow courgettes, squashes and ridge cucumbers, and bush (left to ramble) tomatoes. I would plan no more than these, and then I’d leave the fabric down once all is harvested until you are ready to get going again. And get yourself a whole stack of gardening books so you really can take it easy while you heal.



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