Our extremely short summers and a celery plant’s need for a lengthy growing season are not a good match. Perhaps that is why it is impossible to find celery seedlings or even celery seeds in this area in any of the usual places where seeds or plants are sold. One store owner even told me that “nobody wants to grow celery anymore.” Perhaps not… but I do!
So about nine years ago I ordered a single packet of celery seeds from an heirloom seed company, and each spring… ten weeks before the last expected frost… I would plant celery seeds. The resulting seedlings would grow under lights until I could plant them outside, and the celery plants would grow as much as they could during our short growing season until the first frost cut them down.
About five years ago, we were cleaning up the garden for the fall, and it seemed such a shame to let the beautiful celery plants be killed by the frost when they still had so much growing to do. I decided to pot up seven of the best plants and see what they would do in the house.
That first year I had no expectations. I certainly did not think that I would be able to keep mature celery plants alive in small pots until spring. I had cut the celery stalks down to the soil before I put the roots in the pots, and to my surprise the celery plants not only continued to live… they continued to grow. To keep the plants at a manageable size, I cut the stalks back to the soil every couple of months, and in just days new growth would appear again. When spring and warm temperatures finally arrived, I cut back the celery stalks one final time and planted the roots back into the garden. I gave the plants a rest from cutting all through the summer and just let them grow. At the end of the summer these celery stalks were bigger and broader than any celery we had ever grown before. Just before the first frost, I cut the stalks back to the soil and put the roots into the pots again.
I have brought these same seven plants into the house every year since then. They live in their pots in a cool window until spring, and then I put them back out into the garden. These winter stalks are thin, of course, because the plants are cut back so often, but they provide a constant fresh source of stalks and leaves… and during the summer in the garden these mature plants grow stalks that are huge.
I have no idea how long I can continue to recycle these seven plants, but it will be interesting to find out. So far this winter I have had to cut the stalks back once, and the new growth is already six or seven inches tall.