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. After studies at the University of Toronto and Laval University where he obtained his B.A. in modern languages in 1978, he succeeded in combining his language skills with his passion for gardening in a novel career as a garden writer and lecturer. 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 is a regular contributor to and horticultural consultant for Fleurs, Plantes, Jardins garden magazine and has written for many other garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Rebecca’s Garden 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 50 other titles in English and French. He can be seen in Quebec on French-language television and was notably a regular collaborator for 7 years on the TV shows Fleurs et Jardins and Salut Bonjour Weekend. He is the President of the Garden Writers Association Foundation and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. An avid proponent of garden tourism, he has lead garden tours throughout Canada and to the gardens of over 30 countries over the last 30 years. He presently resides in Quebec City, Quebec.

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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