This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
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.
Fig. 860. Blanching celery by wrapping it with paper.
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.
Fig. 861. The last earthing-up or banking of celery.
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 1/2inch 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.
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.
Fig. 862. Water-holding celery crate.
Fig. 863. Celery crate.
Fig. 864. Celery plant trimmed for market.
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.
Fig. 865. An old method of growing celery in trenches. It is yet sometimes stored for winter in such trenches.
Fig. 866. A good form of trench storage.
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 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 variety apii), leaf-spot (Phyllosticta apii), and rust (Puccinia bul-lala). 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 m 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.
R. L. Watts.