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A Sidekick For Your BBQ Wings: Grow-Your-Own Celery

Green stalks of celery.

Each week, Charlie Nardozzi joins VPR Weekend Edition host Mary Engisch for a conversation about gardening, and to answer your questions about what you're seeing in the natural world.

In this episode, we discuss growing celery, and how it is easier than you might think!

You can, indeed, grow your own celery. This herb is part of the carrot family, and its light-green stems can be eaten raw or cooked. Many people tout the health benefits of the juice from this trendy veggie.

Undoubtedly the best thing about it, though, is it likes Vermont's seasonal temperatures.

Start the seeds indoors, now and under grow lights, for about three months. Decide between varieties like tall Utah or new hybrids like Tango, or a new Chinese pink-stemmed celery which boasts a sweeter taste.

When you're ready to plant them outside in May, give about a foot between plants and keep the soil moist: This will help them grow less stringy and tough.

Begin harvesting when they are eight to 10 inches tall, and eat the tender, inner stalk. Celery can stay in the garden until the end of September.

Celery has few pests. There is one, very noticable fan of celery, however, and that is a brightly-colored striped caterpillar. But it might be best to not do anything — these caterpillars are the larval form of the Eastern Swallowtail butterfly.

Here's what to do instead: Plant a few extra celery plants just for the caterpillars, then enjoy the butterflies once they are grown!

Q: Regarding chop-and-drop, which I tend to do anyway, i.e. I have a messy garden! I am always confused if I should clear the leaves, which are in my flower beds, as I worry about bulbs and perennials coming up through the matter and the soil. Or should I not worry? — Susan, Bennington

You should not worry! "Chop-and-drop" refers to just weeding and cutting down things in the fall and leaving organic matter on the soil that will serve as insulation and later, as food for the soil.

Think about the forest floor where bulbs like trilliums and trout lillies have to break through many, many layers of leaves that have dropped: They are doing just fine. Your perennials and bulbs in the garden will do just the same.

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums (and pictures!), and Charlie will answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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