|Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture|
Celery (Apium graveolens). A major garden vegetable, grown for its blanched leafstalks which are eaten raw and also used in cookery.
Biennial, sometimes annual, plants: lf .-stalks 6-15 in. long, bearing 3 pairs and a terminal lft. coarsely serrated and ternately lobed or divided. The fl.-stalks are 2-3 ft. high, branched and leafy; fls. white, inconspicuous and borne in compound umbels; seeds very small, flattened on the sides, broader than long. An acrid, pungent flavor characterizes the wild plants.
The genus Apium is variously understood. As mostly accepted, it comprises some 15 or 20 species of annual or perennial glabrous herbs with pinnate or pinnately compound lvs., and small greenish white fls. in compound umbels; calyx-teeth wanting; petals ovate or rounded. The species are distributed widely in temperate regions and in the mountains in the tropics. A. graveolens is the one important species to the horticulturist. Var. rapaceum is celeriac, a form or race in which the crown of the plant is thickened and turnip-like (see Celeriac). The wild celery plant is not stout, nor are the lf.-stalks thickened, as they are in the domesticated races. It grows 1-2 ft. high when in bloom, in marshy places near the sea, on the coasts of Eu., Afr., and Asia; and it has run wild from cult. in some parts of N. Amer.
Celery probably was not cultivated until after the Middle Ages, and the varieties now grown so extensively have been developed within the past thirty-five years. It is not many years since this vegetable was regarded as a luxury and sold at prices that could be paid only by the wealthy, but today it is one of the standard vegetables and is produced in enormous quantities for the city markets. The industry is often highly profitable on muck areas, and thousands of acres of this land are used for celery-culture in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Florida and California. Intensive market-gardeners of the North regard it as one of their most profitable crops, and results are especially satisfactory if the land can be irrigated. When good markets are available, celery is an excellent crop to follow early garden crops, such as peas, beans, beets, bunch onions, radishes and other vegetables that mature in ample time to allow the after-planting of celery to mature. Soils that have been previously cropped the same season should be manured liberally before celery is planted.
As previously stated, great commercial plantations are on muck soils, although the business is not confined to such lands. The mucks usually provide ideal conditions for the culture of celery. The plant thrives in soils abounding in vegetable matter, and as mucks contain 60 per cent or more of organic matter this requirement is fully met.
Properly prepared mucks are loose and friable, and this is a great advantage in transplanting and in performing all tillage operations. The land is easily plowed, harrowed, leveled, marked and cultivated, and the work of ridging the plants is accomplished with the greatest ease. The depth of the water-table in muck land varies greatly, but about 3 feet is considered most favorable; at this depth the plants never suffer from drought.
While it is universally conceded that muck soils provide the best conditions for the extensive cultivation of celery, the crop is grown with entire success on a great variety of soil types. In fact, the plants thrive in any friable soil which is adequately provided with moisture, plant-food and vegetable matter. Near all the northern cities of the United States may be found plantations of limited area that return excellent profits. This is particularly true in sections devoted to the most intensive types of market-gardening, when stable manure and commercial fertilizers are used almost lavishly. With this system of soil-management, the ground soon changes its physical properties and in some cases approaches the muck soils in mechanical composition. It is not uncommon to find small areas on various types of soil, cultivated intensely, which make a gross return of $1,000 or more to the acre. These results indicate the great possibilities of the home garden for the production of celery. There is no reason why every gardener, whatever his type of soil, should not be fully successful in growing a bountiful supply of the choicest celery for the home table.
The reclaiming of new muck lands is often an expensive undertaking. The land must be cleared of brush and sometimes timber. Drainage must be provided by means of tile or open ditches. The land is often acid, and lime should be employed to correct the acidity. For a year or two other crops than celery should be planted to get the land in the proper physical condition. The first plowing should be done in the fall so that the land will be exposed to frost during the winter. Corn is an excellent crop to plant the following spring. There should be repeated cultivation throughout the summer to destroy any other vegetation that may start.
Other types of soil should be prepared as in the usual way for the small garden crops. Fall plowing, after large quantities of manure have been added, is often desirable when an early crop is to be started the following spring. Smoothing harrows and plank drags should be used to make the soil fine and smooth preparatory to planting. All preparatory tillage operations should be conducted with a view to conserving soil-moisture, which is exceedingly important to celery throughout the period of growth.
As previously stated, it is important for land that is to be planted in celery to abound in vegetable matter. There must also be an abundance of available plant-food in order to secure a rapid and vigorous growth. When applying either manure or commercial fertilizer, the grower should bear in mind that this is a shallow rooted plant and the materials should not be placed at great depths.
All classes of growers, whether they are producing on a garden or field scale, and whatever their type of soil may be, recognize stable-manures as the best fertilizer that can be applied for this crop. Stable-manures are the most satisfactory because they furnish both organic matter and plant-food. It is often desirable to supplement stable-manures with commercial fertilizers, but the success of this crop will be far more certain if reliance is placed on barn-manures rather than chemical fertilizers.
An effort should be made to have the manures near the surface of the ground, and this can be accomplished by applying rotten or composted manure after plowing and working into the soil with a disc-harrow. If coarse fresh manure must be used and partially decayed manure is not available, it is preferable to apply it before plowing. Market-gardeners often apply thirty to forty tons to the acre, although smaller quantities give excellent results, especially if fertilizers are used in addition to the manure. Ten tons of manure on muck land is a decided advantage over no manure, even when fertilizers are used in large quantities.
Probably no commercial grower of celery should attempt to produce this crop without the use of at least some commercial fertilizer. When stable-manures are used lavishly, a little acid phosphate, nitrate of soda or potash will often give increased profits.
When stable-manure is not used at all, or perhaps in very small amounts, commercial fertilizers should be used with freedom. Two tons of a high-grade fertilizer to the acre is not an unusual application, and some of the most intensive growers use larger amounts. In the smaller areas, from which a gross return of $800 to $1,200 to the acre is expected, there should be no hesitancy in spending $100 to $125 an acre for manure and fertilizer. Celery requires much nitrogen and the mixed fertilizer applied before planting, or afterwards as a side-dressing, should contain not less that 4 per cent of this element. There should also be an abundance of potash and phosphoric acid. A fertilizer containing 4 per cent of nitrogen, 8 per cent phosphoric acid and 10 per cent potash should meet the requirements of this crop in all soils, when applied in sufficient quantity. Some growers have found it highly desirable to apply nitrate of soda or complete fertilizer as side-dressings after the crop is well started. These applications may vary from 100 to 200 pounds to the acre and should be made at intervals of about three weeks.
Starting the plants.
The greatest care should be exercised in procuring seed, for inferior seed may result in pithy or hollow stalks, a poor stand of plants in the seed-bed, seedlings of low vitality, or a large percentage of seed shoots. Only the most reliable dealers, those who have a reputation for furnishing first-class seed of the varieties desired, should be patronized. To make certain of securing good seed, some careful growers import their seed directly from foreign producers, which, however, is unnecessary if the proper precautions are taken in the selection of a responsible seedsman. Practically all of the seed of the self-blanching varieties is grown in France, while most of the seed of green varieties is produced in California. As there is never absolute certainty of securing entirely satisfactory seed, some growers follow the excellent practice of buying in large amounts, sufficient to last several years. Only a small quantity of the seed is planted the first year to determine its real merit, and if found satisfactory there is sufficient quantity on hand to last several years. If kept in sealed jars in a room where the temperature does not vary greatly, the germinating power will be retained at least six years. Celery seed is very small. An ounce contains about 7O,000 seeds, and with the very best conditions should produce at least half this number of plants. It is not safe, however, to count on a much greater number than 10,000 plants to the ounce, because many of the seeds usually fail to germinate and the plants at first are very small and easily perishable. The seeds are slow to germinate. They should be planted in fine soil which, if possible, should be kept constantly moist but never wet. Seed for the early crop is seldom sown before the first of March. If checked in growth at any time, there is great danger of the plants producing seed shoots which renders them unsalable. Plants started the first of March will, with proper care, be ready for market in August. Earlier sowing is possible and sometimes desirable, but adequate facilities must be provided to avoid crowding the plants, which invariably results in checking the growth. Some gardeners have found it to be profitable to start the plants the latter part of February, finally transplanting into frames, where the crop is matured.
Seed for the early crop may be sown in the beds of the artificially heated frame or greenhouse. Many growers use flats or shallow plant-boxes, which are placed in the hotbed or greenhouse. While broadcasting of the seed is often practised, it is better to sow in drills 2 inches apart. The furrows should be very shallow, as the seeds should not be covered with more than ⅛ inch of earth. Muck mixed with a small amount of sifted coal-ashes, sand and a little bone- meal, is most excellent for starting plants under glass. After sowing and lightly covering the seed, place a piece of burlap over the bed, and water it. Keep the bed covered with burlap or a piece of cloth until the plants begin to come up. Do not water more than necessary to keep the bed moist. When the plants appear they will need plenty of light, sunshine and fresh air. A temperature of 70° to 75° is most favorable to germination, but 10° lower should be maintained if possible after the plants are up. Higher temperatures, however, will do no harm if the proper attention is given to ventilation.
When the rough leaves appear, the seedlings should be transplanted into beds or preferably flats, spacing the plants 1½ inches apart each way. Stronger plants will be developed if they are set 2 inches apart. The flats may be about 2 inches deep and half filled with rotten manure, the remainder of the space being filled with good rich soil. The manure will furnish ideal conditions for the roots of the young seedlings and make it possible to transplant them to the open ground with blocks of earth and manure so that there will be practically no check in growth. If earliness is an important consideration, this method of treatment, is highly important. Young celery plants require considerable nursing, and it will not do to take them from warm greenhouses or hotbeds to coldframes before the season is well advanced. They will suffer even more than tomato plants from low temperature. One of the most successful of our American growers invariably plants from the greenhouse to the open ground, beginning about May 10 .
Spraying the seedlings several times with bordeaux mixture may be the means of avoiding loss from fungous diseases.
Seed for the late crop should be sown in the open ground or in protected beds as soon in the spring as the soil can be prepared. Delay in starting the plants is often responsible for a failure of the late crop. It is not so easy to control moisture in the outdoor seedbeds. If overhead irrigation lines are available, there will be no difficulty in this matter. The beds are often shaded with brush or lath screen. Small beds may be kept covered with moist burlap. When starting on a large scale, the rows may be a foot or more apart. Thinning is often necessary to secure stocky plants. The plants may be set where they are to mature any time after they have attained a height of about 3 inches. Ordinarily seedlings started out-of-doors are transplanted directly to the permanent bed or field without an intermediate shift, although this is an advantage in developing stronger plants with better roots. If the plants attain a height of 5 inches or more before they are set in the field, the tops should be cut back before transplanting.
Planting in the field.
As previously indicated, plants for the early crop should not be set in the open ground until about May 10 in the latitude of Philadelphia and New York. There is danger of injury from hard frosts if transplanted before this time, and such injury may result in a large percentage of the plants producing seed shoots, thus rendering them unsalable. Seedlings for the late crop may be transplanted in permanent quarters any time after June 20.
The time of planting in the field will depend largely on the varieties to be used. For example, Golden Self-blanching may be set out three or four weeks later than Giant Pascal and have time to mature fully before hard freezing weather is likely to occur. Many commercial growers do not transplant the late crop until nearly the first of August. In most parts of the North, it is better to transplant early in July. The date of transplanting, however, is not so important as to have the plants, as well as the ground, in proper condition before transplanting is started. Plants that are 3 to 5 inches high are much more likely to live and thrive than taller ones. The ground should be smooth, fine and moist. It is exceedingly important to have the rows perfectly straight and this can be accomplished by the use of a marker. A line may be used for this purpose, but transplanting may be accomplished much more rapidly by using a rope-and-peg marker.
There is the greatest variation in the planting distances for celery. Some of the most intensive growers plant 7 or 8 inches apart each way. Others prefer to space the rows about a foot apart and have the plants stand 4 inches apart in the row. When such close planting is followed, it is known as "the new celery-culture" (Fig. 859). The plants stand so close together when this method is used that they blanch themselves and it is unnecessary to use boards or other devices. "The new celery-culture" is better adapted to greenhouse and coldframe use, where the plants can be watered by sub-irrigation. When plants stand so close together, there is little circulation of air and heart-rot or other diseases are likely to occur in hot moist weather. The possibilities of a small area by use of this method are very large and the system appeals to growers who have only small tracts of land to cultivate.
A more common practice is to space the rows 18 inches to 2 feet apart and to set the plants 4 or 5 inches apart in the row. This method is now almost universally employed for Golden Self-blanching when boards are to be used for blanching the crop. When transplanted 4 by 24 inches apart, about 60,000 plants are required to set an acre. If horse implements are to be used in planting, it is better to allow at least 28 inches between rows.
Some growers prefer to plant Golden Self-blanching in double rows 6 inches apart, placing the plants 4 or 5 inches apart in the row. This plan is not universally popular because it is not favorable to the full development of every plant. Boards are also used for blanching when this system of planting is followed.
When soil is to be used for blanching, more space must be allowed between rows. Formerly the almost universal practice was to allow 5 feet between rows. With tall-growing varieties, such as Giant Pascal, this is not too much space to provide sufficient soil for blanching. When lower-growing varieties, such us Winter Queen, are used, the rows need not be more than 4 or 4½ feet apart to give sufficient space for blanching with earth. The larger varieties of the green type should not be planted quite so close together in the row as Golden Self-blanching; for the best development of the plants, it is better to space them 5 or 6 inches apart in the row.
Growers who plant both early and late varieties often alternate the rows. The early variety is removed first, of course, and then there is 4 feet or more of space between the rows of late varieties which are blanched with earth. Transplanting should proceed as rapidly as possible without undue exposure of the roots to the air. If the plant-beds are watered twenty-four hours in advance of transplanting, the plants may be removed with less injury.
Subsequent tillage practice in the North.
Celery is often inter-cropped with other vegetables. One of the most common plans is to plant five rows of onions about a foot apart as early in the spring as the ground can be prepared. The fifth rows are pulled for bunching, and celery is planted instead of the onions. This is a most excellent combination for muck soils where good markets can be found for both crops. Radishes are also excellent to precede celery. If desired, the small button-shaped varieties may be used, every fifth row to be planted in celery and later-maturing varieties of radishes in the four rows between.
Frequent tillage is necessary for the best results with celery. As it is a shallow-rooted plant, tools that run at considerable depth should be avoided. For horse tillage, there is nothing superior to the spike- tooth cultivator in general use. If the plants are small, great care should be exercised to avoid throwing dirt on top of the hearts. If the ground contains many weeds, more or less hand work will be required between the plants in the rows.
The mulching of soils with horse-manure has been a very popular and profitable practice in recent years. It has been shown in the laboratory as well as in field practice that a fine mulch of 3 or 4 inches of horse- manure conserves moisture more perfectly than the most thorough tillage. The mulching of celery in the field not only conserves moisture but it reduces the labor of tillage and also furnishes nourishment to the plants. The rains carry liquid food to the roots and a more rapid growth invariably follows. Considerable hand labor is required, of course, to place the manure between the rows, but this is probably no greater than the labor needed to till the crop when a mulch is not used. It is customary to use fresh horse-manure, which has been aerated in thin layers for a few days before making application. The ground is completely covered, although the manure is not allowed to touch the plants. The mulch may be applied immediately after planting or, as some prefer, the plants may be tilled for ten days or two weeks and the mulch then applied. Very few weeds will appear if 3 or 4 inches of horse-manure is used.
Irrigation makes the crop more certain, and it is also a means of securing larger and more vigorous growth and consequently better quality. Most of the intensive growers of the East are prepared to irrigate. Various methods are employed. Some who cultivate very small areas use the hose or other sprinkling device. The method that is now in most common use is the overhead system of irrigation, providing for parallel pipe lines about 50 feet apart (see Irrigation). These are turned at will by means of levers at the ends and the water is thrown out at any desired angle through small nipples placed about 4 feet apart on the lines. It is important to do the watering if possible in the evening or at night so that the foliage may be as dry as possible during the day. It is also important to make thorough applications, as it is not advisable to water more frequently than absolutely necessary.
All American markets demand celery with creamy white stalks. This light color is secured by causing the plants to grow with the stalks in the dark, or nearly so, which prevents the development of chlorophyl. When boards, earth, paper, tile or other means are used, most of the leaves are not covered, and growth is not hindered in the least. Green varieties are blanched almost exclusively by the use of earth. There should be no ridging until the weather is cool and, therefore, this operation is not usually undertaken until early in September at the North. At first the ridging should be only a few inches high, but later should extend to the full height of the stems. Finally, the rows are ridged so that only the tops protrude above the ridges, as shown in Fig. 861. Special tools are available for this operation and the work may be done very rapidly.
The early crop is blanched mostly by means of boards, although paper (Fig. 860) and other devices are sometimes used. Hemlock, pine and cypress lumber are used for this purpose in various parts of the country. The boards need not be more than 10 inches wide, although 12-inch boards are commonly used. They may be of any convenient length, say 14 to 16 feet long. To prevent warping and splitting, cleats about 3 inches wide and ½inch thick should be nailed at each end and in the middle of the boards. The boards are placed on edge, one on each side of the row and brought as close together as convenient at the upper edge and secured by means of wire hooks. Sometimes stakes are driven at the sides, although wire hooks are more convenient. The hooks should be 6 or 7 inches long and may be made of heavy fence wire. From ten days to two weeks is required for proper blanching with boards. As the crop is sold, the boards are shifted from place to place so that they may be used several times during the season. When not in use, the boards should be stored under cover or stacked in piles with strips between them. With good care, boards that are sound when purchased will last fifteen years.
Harvesting and marketing.
The harvesting of the celery crop when grown in coldframes usually occurs in the month of July. If the climate is not too severe, it is possible to have celery ready for market the latter part of June. The late crop, which is produced without the use of boards, is not usually ready for market until August. It is lifted with forks or perhaps cut with a sharp knife just beneath the surface and conveyed to the packinghouse where it is prepared for market. In some sections the roots are not trimmed at all, the plants being tied in bunches of a dozen and packed in a standard crate such as is shown in Fig. 862. These crates are 24 by 24 inches at the base, and contain six to sixteen dozen plants, depending on the size of the celery. The height of the crate may be varied to suit the height of the celery. Another form of celery crate is shown in Fig. 863. In some regions, the roots are trimmed into tapering cubes as shown in Fig. 864. A very convenient method of bunching is to place three plants side by side, tapering the roots as indicated, tying the tapering roots tightly and then securing the tops. Formerly twine was used almost entirely for bunching, while in recent years many growers have found it desirable to use either blue or red tape, which gives the celery a more attractive appearance on the market. Michigan growers and other producers of celery in the Great Lake district use small crates of very thin lumber. These vary in size and range about as follows: 6 by 12 by 24 inches; 6 by 16 by 24 inches; 2 by 20 by 24 inches; 6 by 26 by 24 inches and 6 by 30 by 24 inches. The number of bunches in the crates depends on the size of the celery and of the crate, but varies from four to twenty-four dozen. For local markets, the plants may be tied in bunches of the most popular size and packed in any crate of convenient form and size.
A large percentage of the late celery crop is placed in city cold-storage houses. It is packed with the roots on, and there is very little trimming. Golden Self-blanching keeps fairly well in cold storage, or at least the hearts are presentable when they come out of storage. This is the product that now meets the general demand of the large cities until celery begins to arrive from Florida. In the North, this crop is very commonly stored in trenches. The trenches are dug in well-drained ground and must be deep enough to accommodate the plants so that the tops will not extend more than about 2 or 3 inches above the trenches. The celery will keep better if the trenches are not too wide. Ordinarily they are dug 10 to 14 inches wide. The plants are lifted and stood as close together in the trench as possible. Some growers prefer to place a little earth over the roots, although this is not necessary. If the tops of the plants are dry when stored, and if the plants are not permitted to wilt by being in the sunshine, they should keep in perfect condition in the trenches. Boards are nailed together in the form of a trough and placed over the trenches as rapidly as they are filled. Early in the season, and especially if the weather is quite warm, it is an advantage to provide additional ventilation by placing stones or blocks under the edges of the trough. As the season advances and the weather becomes colder, these should be removed and when necessary, earth, or, better, manure, thrown over the boards to give additional protection. Four or 5 inches of manure will protect the crop thoroughly in most sections until Thanksgiving and perhaps Christmas, depending on the weather. Two kinds of trench storage are shown in Figs. 865, 866. The late crop is often stored in coldframes of sufficient depth to receive the plants. The frames are usually covered with boards lapped in roof fashion, and straw or marsh hay is placed over the boards when necessary to give additional protection.
Ordinary house cellars, which are well ventilated and not too warm, may be used for storing a limited quantity of celery. Various types of houses have been built for keeping the crop. Cement or brick structures are perhaps the most serviceable. It is important to provide ample ventilation in structures of this kind. In some regions, as around Boston, pits are constructed. The sides of these should be about 2 feet high and the roof may be constructed in an even-span form or simply a shed roof against some other building. Boards are also used for the roofs and covered with straw or hay to give protection during cold weather.
Celery-growing in the South.
The method of raising celery seedlings is not the same in the South, and especially in Florida, as it is in the North. Sowing is done in July, August, and September, at a time of the year when there is continued warm weather, and frequent beating rain. A place is chosen for the seed-bed near the celery field,—usually a plot at the edge. The size of the field to be planted will determine the extent of the seedbed. The width of the seed-bed varies from 18 to 36 inches. Rows are sown across it, making it possible to weed and keep the earth worked from both sides. Immediately after sowing, pieces of heavy burlap (usually old fertilizer sacks) are placed over the beds to conserve the moisture, cool the soil, and to protect the seeds against the beating of heavy rains. The seed-beds are sprinkled as often as is necessary to keep the surface moist.
After the seeds have germinated and the seed-leaves have pushed their way through the ground, the sacking is removed and a screening of cheese-cloth is placed over the bed. Some beds may be covered with cheese-cloth parallel to the surface of the soil. In other cases, a wire is run lengthways over the middle of the bed, and the cheese-cloth is placed over the wire and secured at the sides like a roof. The covering is about 8 to 12 inches above the bed, which gives room for the circulation of air. The beds are kept moist by repeated watering, applied directly through the cheese-cloth.
As soon as the plants are 2 or 3 inches high and are well greened, they will be strong enough to stand direct sunlight and will shade the ground sufficiently to keep it from drying out rapidly.
Planting and blanching.
Blanching is secured entirely by the boarding-up method. For this purpose, second- or third-grade cypress boards are used; these low-grade boards usually have defective parts or are filled with worm-holes so as to be obtainable rather cheaply. The expense of the lumber, notwithstanding, is so great that it becomes necessary to plant the celery in double rows. Two rows are planted 8 or 10 inches apart, and the plants set 6 or 8 inches apart in the row. By alternating the settings in the two rows, additional space is secured for the plants.
A space of 30 to 40 inches is allowed between the sets of double rows. As soon as the celery has reached the proper stage of growth, or the market has arrived at a condition in which it is thought wise to ship the celery, the boards are placed alongside the plants and held in place by stakes driven into the ground. Further to exclude the air and light, a small quantity of soil is plowed against the bases of the boards, although this is unnecessary when the soil is sufficiently mellow. The tops of the boards are placed firmly together so that only a part of the foliage extends above them. With the Golden Self-blanching variety, it is only a few days until the celery is sufficiently blanched and crisp to make a good vegetable.
In the preparation of the field, large quantities of fertilizer are used. Stable manure is not a favorite, unless it can be applied to the land early enough to become thoroughly rotted before the plants are set out. The quantity obtainable, however, is usually so small and the price so high in the South that commercial fertilizers have largely replaced it. The quantity of fertilizer applied may range up to $80 or even $125 worth per acre (of the formula given on page 704.)
In the most productive celery regions, sub-irrigation systems (as described under Irrigation) are established. The laterals are laid 15 to 25 feet apart, according to the contour of the land, and the notion of the grower. The irrigation system at the same time serves as a drainage system. This makes it especially convenient, since abundant artesian water is present in nearly all the celery-growing sections far south. The system has been found so convenient that a large amount of damage has been done by over-irrigation, not only in carrying off much soluble fertilizer, but also by water-logging the soil and thus driving the roots of the celery plants so near the surface as to be constantly liable to injury. In the hands of careful celery-growers, however, the system is the best that has been invented. P. H. Rolfs.
Celery-growing in California.
There are two principal celery-growing districts in California,—Orange County, which is situated in the swamp lands south of Los Angeles; and the northern district, which includes the peat or swamp lands along the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers between Sacramento and Stockton.
Several varieties of celery have been tested in this state, but the Golden Self-blanching is most popular and profitable.
In California the seed is sown in the open ground, but, owing to its extremely small size, it is difficult to get a good stand unless the ground is well pulverized. It is commonly estimated that enough plants may be grown on 1 acre of seed-bed to plant 20 acres in the field. To produce healthy, vigorous plants, heavy watering is the rule at first, but as soon as the plants have begun to grow the quantity of water is reduced, and it should never be allowed to stand on the surface of the bed. In order to accomplish this the land must be well drained. The seed is usually sown in March, April or May.
Irrigation and drainage.
Although not nearly so much water is required for the plants in the field as in the seed-bed, celery plants cannot stand drought at any stage of their growth; a well-controlled irrigation system is imperative, except where the water-table is close to the surface. Good drainage is as important as irrigation, for, if water is allowed to stand in the field even for a short time, the plants will suffer seriously. As most of the California celery land is low and the ordinary drainage is poor, an extended system of tile drainage has been laid in nearly all celery fields, especially in Orange County, to prevent losses from standing water.
When the plants are large enough to be transplanted, they are pulled from the seed-beds, placed in tin pans and hauled to the field, where they are planted 6 inches apart in the furrows 3½ feet apart. The depth of the furrows in which the plants are set is somewhat varied, depending on the soil-moisture, and the size of the plants. The average depth is from 3 to 5 inches.
After the plants have been set in the field for about three weeks or a month and have recovered from the transplanting, the field is "crowded." This operation consists in moving the earth away from the young plants so that they will have more air around them and to kill what weeds have grown so close to the plants that it is impossible to reach them with the cultivator.
As the earth between the rows of plants is left in a ridge after the plants have been "crowded," a large wooden roller, which extends across several rows, is now used to flatten down these ridges and to pack the soil more firmly. The roller is used only when the plants are small, otherwise they would be injured by being crushed. If the plants have grown so large that there is danger of injury by this rolling of the middles, the ridges are smoothed down by the cultivator.
When the plants are 12 to 15 inches tall, earth from between the rows is drawn up to them. This is termed "splitting." This should be done carefully, for, if the earth is put too close or too high up on the plants, they will become tender and weak, especially if the weather is hot. The object of "splitting" is gradually to encourage the plants to grow tall and straight instead of spreading out. This operation is repeated twice in the season, the first time when the plants are 14 to 16 inches tall and the second time just before banking. This last "splitting" also aids blanching.
Practically all the celery grown in California is banked with earth for blanching. Banking is done when the celery is reaching its maturity and is nearly ready for shipment. This is the last field operation before the crop is cut. When the celery is banked for the first time, the earth is not drawn very high on the plants, but each time the field is banked the soil is drawn higher so as firmly to hold the leaves together and in an upright position. If celery that has been banked for the last time is not harvested shortly, it will soon become "punky." The length of time that it can safely be left in the bank depends upon the character of the soil, the weather conditions, and upon the condition of the plants themselves. Celery on sandy soil will keep much longer in the bank than on heavy clay loam or peat soil. If the celery has not matured or if the weather is hot or moist, its keeping quality will be injured. Holding too long in the bank will result in a wilted and "punky" product.
Harvesting and shipping.
When the celery is ready to harvest, cut off the plants just below the crown, leaving a few roots attached. The plants are then lifted and shaken from soil and trimmed. Harvest of the crop starts in October and continues through March, but the bulk of the crop is harvested during November, December and January.
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Pests and diseases
The most important disease in California is the late blight (Septoria petroselini var. apii), which has done an immense amount of damage in the past but is now handled successfully by most of the growers with a spray with bordeaux mixture. CH
Celery does not have any serious insect enemies. Diseases are much more destructive and difficult to control. The most important diseases are the blights (Cercospora apii and Septoria petroselini var. apii), leaf-spot (Phyllosticta apii), and rust (Piccinia bullata). The application of bordeaux mixture in the seedbed will help to control some of these diseases. Many growers also find it necessary to make frequent applications of bordeaux mixture in the field in order to prevent serious losses. The complete control of diseases in the field may be the means of avoiding loss in storage. The earlier applications of bordeaux mixture are regarded as the most effective. Rotation is also desirable in preventing losses from disease.CH
The methods of cultivation and handling of celery depend so much on the variety that this part of the subject should be discussed at the outset. Celery may be classified into two general groups—green varieties, and the so-called self- blanching varieties. Formerly, the green kinds were grown almost exclusively, but commercial growers soon discovered that the self-blanching varieties possess certain cultural advantages that make them highly desirable from a business point of view. They are more easily blanched, and this is probably the most important consideration when the crop is to be grown for commercial purposes. This is particularly advantageous in the summer crop, and equally appreciated by those who plant large areas for the late market. When boards are used for blanching, more than twice as many plants may be set on an acre as when green varieties are employed and the crop bleached with earth. It is universally conceded, however, that the light-colored varieties are somewhat inferior in quality to the green sorts. For this reason it is a mistake to rely wholly on self-blanching varieties jn the home garden. Many home gardeners plant the light-colored kinds for summer use only, and green varieties for fall and winter use.
In some regions, a plant with a much-branched base is desired; but in general a less spreading or a lighter plant is grown. These differences are mostly matters of the way in which the plants are grown, as to room in seed-bed and field.
- White Plume is one of the best known of the self-blanching varieties. It is vigorous in growth and attains a greater height than Golden self-blanching and, for this reason, does not meet with as great favor among commercial growers. The quality is also inferior to Golden Self-blanching.CH
- Golden Self-blanching is by far the most popular of American varieties. It is a favorite with amateurs and constitutes probably 90 per cent of all the celery grown in the United States. The plants attain a height of 14 to 20 inches, and are compact and stocky. The stems are short, thick, easily blanched to a creamy white, and the foliage is abundant.CH
- Rose-ribbed Golden Self-blanching has a tinge of rose-color on the ribbing of the stems, which makes the variety attractive for the home garden. It is not grown largely for commercial purposes.CH
- Giant Pascal is an old green-stem variety that is not surpassed in quality. In rich moist soils the plants attain a height of 30 inches or more. It is a favorite of home gardeners who take pride in producing tall, tender stalks of the highest quality.CH
- Winter Queen is a more popular green variety among commercial growers than Giant Pascal. It does not attain such a great height and grows more compactly, so that less space is required between rows, and the crop is more convenient to store.CH
- French Success is a very stocky compact winter variety that possesses excellent keeping qualities.CH
- Boston Market is famous for its excellent quality. It is grown extensively about Boston in the home gardens and for commercial purposes. It is low, compact, crisp, tender and of the best flavor.CH
Many other varieties are planted to some extent, but the most important have been mentioned.CH
- Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture, by L. H. Bailey, MacMillan Co., 1963