Vegetables

When Celery Has Hollow Stems

Celery: not the easiest vegetable to grow. Photo: http://www.wearefound.com

Question: I have a problem with my celery. It looks fine, but the stalks are hollow. Why?

Andree

Answer: This is a common problem with celery (Apium graveolens dulce), not the easiest vegetable to grow under most conditions.

It may help to understand that wild celery is a plant of marshes and stream edges, used to a rich, organic, very humid soil. As a cultivated plant, celery’s short roots aren’t very efficient at reaching minerals or moisture, so it prefers a soil that is always moist, light and very rich in minerals. And as you can imagine, celery loves compost, so add more annually! 

Heat and drought are its two worst enemies, leaving it with hollow stalks and a stringy texture. Drought-stressed celery may even start to go to seed, leading to a bitter taste.

Also, mechanical damage can make the situation worse. If possible, avoid hoeing at the base of celery plants. That injures the roots and can lead to further drought stress. 

Mulch to the Rescue

Mulch helps keep celery cool and moist. Photo: http://www.attainable-sustainable.com

Even home gardeners who don’t normally mulch their crops should make an exception for celery. Mulch it heavily with an organic mulch about 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) thick. That will help keep the soil cool and moist. Mulching also keeps down weed germination (therefore, you won’t need to hoe!) and helps make sure that grains of sand don’t work their way into the heart of the plant, often an annoyance with store-bought celery.

And, of course, water early and often. As soon as the soil feels the slightest bit dry to touch, you should be out watering your celery. 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “When Celery Has Hollow Stems

  1. I am impressed by those who can grow this successfully! It really is not at all easy!

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