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.
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.
Formerly nearly all varieties of which seeds were offered by seedsmen were planted. In recent years, however, all have been nearly eliminated except the Golden Self-blanching. The seed of this variety is very high in price and, in years of scarcity, seed supplied under this name is often found to be more or less untrue to type. Seed of low-germinating quality is often found to contain many plants that will make unwelcome vegetables, probably because the undesirable green and red strains that may occur in the Golden Self-blanching variety are more resistant to deterioration than the true type.
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 waterlogging 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.