A tantalising vegetable is Apium graveolens. It excites the palate of the dyspeptic, and ravages his internal mechanism.
Raw Celery is not for all the world, yet for those who can digest it the nut-flavoured sticks have a charm all their own. The rest must make shift with it as a cooked vegetable, and most delicious and wholesome it is. Nor must the Turnip-rooted Celery, Celeriac, be forgotten. It may be used either raw or cooked, and is very easily grown.
In the remarks that I have made on soil preparation and manuring,
I have already dealt somewhat fully with Celery, and, except for a few remarks on sowing and earthing, I may epitomise its treatment.
Many people sow their Celery too late, and then have to force it along with dung, and spend a great deal of time in watering, to get it right. The first sowing should be made about the middle of February, and with a little bottom heat (not indispensable, however, with new seed; I have had Celery ready to plant in June from a cold-frame sowing in February) there is no doubt about having plants ready in time. I strongly denounce thick sowing, for it necessitates early pricking off, and no Celery plant should ever be touched until it has pushed at least two rough leaves.
Soon after the seed is sown the trenches may be made. Of course, most people leave this operation until five minutes before they want to put the plants out, and then do it in a desperate hurry; perhaps, in their tardiness, missing a lovely shower, which would have sent the plants spinning along in glorious style. If the ground is vacant there is no objection whatever to preparing the trenches early, and there are many things in favour of it. With plenty of time, the job is done in a more workmanlike way than when it is rushed. The soil is sweetened by exposure, and becomes more fertile.
The general way of making a Celery trench is to throw out 1 foot of top soil, and put the Celery in the sub-soil. This is wrong. It is true that fine Celery is grown when the plan is practised, but only at the cost of working in a great deal of dung, which means time, labour, and expense. The trench should be made l 1/2 feet deep, 9 inches of the top soil being thrown out on one side of the trench, and 9 inches of the bottom soil on the other. When planting time comes the top soil should be put back for planting in, because it is the best, and the sub-soil, which is inferior, should be sprinkled with superphosphate, and left to improve; it will eventually come in for earthing.
By this simple plan, excellent Celery can be grown with a little bone flour and nitrate of soda (see "Manures"), and it will be much sweeter than the larger, coarser stuff from the dung pit - an abomination which no person of refined taste, and with a knowledge of the horrors of typhoid, would tolerate.
As a swamp plant, Celery is very liable to throw up suckers, but these should be picked out before they develop, or they may spoil the sticks.
It almost goes without saying that in dry spells good soakings of water or liquid manure (sewage or artificial according to taste) will be very helpful.
A few words as to tying and earthing. There is no gain in earthing Celery early, but there is in tying. Some people earth Celery in August or September because they see other people doing it, and quite regardless of the condition of the plants. If, however, the plants are backward they should not be earthed, unless there is danger of frost, because earthing checks growth. Celery that is barely a foot high in September will often make good sticks if a couple of ties are made, one nearly at the base of the plants, the other just under the leaves. Raphia is the best tying material, and it should be drawn tight enough to bring the stems together, without packing. In October, or whenever frost threatens, the plants should be earthed.
While soil is a great protector of Celery, and plays an important part in keeping out frost, its primary purpose in the case of early Celery is, of course, blanching. Now, Celery can be thoroughly blanched in much less time than most people think. A period of a month to six weeks usually suffices. Therefore, earthing need not be hurried, but may be done with due allowance and deliberation.
It is common to unloose ties when earthing, on the ground that if it is neglected the hearts of the plants will rot. I have not seen any such dreadful result follow a casual forgetfulness in the matter, but the principle is good, and may be acted on. Care should be taken, however, to keep earth out of the hearts. Earthing should never be done when the soil is very dry or very wet. When it is moist and crumbly it is right. Putting dry earth to the base of the plants, and then sprinkling a few drops of water on the top, is not uncommon, and frequently leads to "bolting" (running to seed). At the first earthing the soil should be placed round the plants up to a point just beneath the leaves. This will probably fill the trench. The soil should be made fairly firm, but not absolutely solid, or future growth will be small. When the growth has extended another 6 inches or so a second earthing may be given, which will take the mound above the surface. Later, a good baulk may be built up for protection's sake; and in hard weather some clean, dry litter should be scattered over the tops of the plants, or frost may set up decay, which will develop downwards.
The single-trench system is the most popular, and is the best for fine produce. There is no serious objection, however, to having any number of rows up to half a dozen in one trench where large quantities are wanted, and where space is limited. Tying and earthing are not so conveniently performed in a six-row as in a one-row trench, but they can be done, all the same.
It goes without saying that our seedsmen have provided us with plenty of sorts. Amongst early whites, the Sandringham Dwarf White, successor to that excellent old-timer, Turner's Incomparable Dwarf White, is still one of the best. Carters' Solid Ivory is also excellent. Amongst early reds, Major Clarke's is as good as any.
Later and larger sorts of fine quality are Leicester Red, Standard Bearer (red), Suttons' Sulham Prize (pink), and Wright's Giant White.
Celeriac may be raised in the same way as Celery. It is not necessary to give it a trench, but a slight earthing is an advantage when it approaches maturity. It likes a fertile soil, and liquid manure.
Fig. 55. A Method Of Protecting Celery.
The top figure shows forked sticks inserted at every yard length; the bottom one shows straw mats fixed in a sloping position against them.