Celery and Artichokes are two crops often over-looked by home gardeners, and for a good reason, they are long-growing crops, not particularly easy, and they are not space savers ( although, as you can see in the photo above, I sneak in my celery seedlings into my onion bed!). Both Celery and Artichokes need deep, rich soil and lots of moisture, as commercialy, these are both cool-growing and irrigated crops. So plan on plenty of hose runs, and tri-weekly watering. Still, growing your own is better than supporting commercial growers who are doing God-knows-what to their crops, and then flying them to you. Growing these in your back yard makes far more sense, and, naturally, the results are healthier.
OK, I know - just mention celery to most home gardeners, and they respond "It's just something I don't grow since all I get is bitter, dark green leaves.". It's true that celery as a crop requires lots of fertilizer, rich soil and sunlight, and a copious ( i.e. crazy) amount of constant moisture, to even come near the thick, crispy stemmed type one finds at the market, but don't assume that you cannot grow it at home, it just takes a little planning, and care.
I grow celery because its one of the top 5 toxic vegetables ( commercially, it requires more chemicals than most any other vegetable) but at home, that is unnecessary, aside from a little liquid fertilizer ( or, a lot!), I feel that at least, my home grown celery offers a healthy alternative for a few months to the large, foreign-looking monsters one finds at the market. Here how I do it.
Celery takes a long time to grow well, seed must be started early, generally in late January or early February indoors. carefully transplanted, the seedlings are grown on in individual pots ( I use 3 inch plastic pots that I wash out each year, but choose something where roots can spread out and grow while young, for celery has roots like trees, and one wants a good root spread at a young age to avoid tangles and unnecessary disturbance when planting out. I set plants out into the garden in mid-May, and provide them a drink of fertilizer rich in phosphorus and potassium. Water-in well with a good drink of vitamins, and provide plenty of water every week, and before long, you too can be harvesting celery that actually has flavor. On that note, if you want to skip fertilizer all together, grow celery for the leaves alone, which are essential ingredients in home made stocks ( irreplaceable in chicken or vegetable stock) and a flavorful addition to tuna salad. One can pick leaves right through frost.
An update here on my artichoke project ( in case you are following along). Now planted out into the garden, my plants are positioned 2 feet apart ( a little close, but plant no closer - 36 inches is best). Like celery, artichokes need a consistent and adequate supply of both water and fertilizer. If you are stingy with either, then you just are not following good horticultural practice, and you will end up with few flowers, and small plants. I eat healthy, take vitamins, eat nutritionally-dense food, and, so do my plants. Just be sure to provide the "right" nutrients, and not unnecessary ones ( like crazy home-made Epsom-salt blends!).
It's might be helpful here to share how weather affects artichokes, for these are plants that prefer frequent fogs, cool temperatures and when combined with deep, rich soil and moisture, you will achieve the maximum yield. Be sure to plant enough plants ( I am only growing 6 due to room) but if I had the space, I would plant a long row with a couple of dozen plants 26 inches apart, for one wants a bowl full of artichokes to work with in the kitchen. Plan on flower buds being about a quarter of the size of the fancy California chokes, but they will have far more flavor and a remarkable texture. Each plant will produce one to four primary stems with a large bud, and then each stem, after initial harvest, should produce side buds which will be smaller.
The artichoke seedlings, which have been growing on - first in the greenhouse, and then for the past few weeks,- have been set out into the garden where they have been recieving 3 weeks of temperatures below 40º which is needed for proper vernalization. These are being grown as annual plants, as artichokes are not hardy here in New England. Even though I know that these will provide smaller buds than the giants grown on the coastal plains of northern California, they will be fresh and crispy, and - home grown, and nothing beats that. Plus, I can enjoy fresh artichokes in mid to late summer, when they are out-of-season in California.
|Another heavy feeder, artichoke seedlings are fed weekly with a balanced liquid feed and they are planted in a rich, compost created with our own duck manure. The leaves are really huge!|
I will share images throughout the season, and then recap the entire process filing it under VEGETABLES and STEP-BY-STEP for you all to follow next year! If you have any questions on other step-by-step projects, just send me a note or ask me on my Facebook page, and I will be happy to either answer it, or grow the crop to perfection and document it! Now....get out into the garden!