This article explains all you need to know about growing celery in South Africa.
1) Propagation: This is from the celery seed. Celery is usually grown in South Africa from seeds.
2) Planting Method: This can be done from direct sowing of the seed. However, most growers choose to make seedlings and plant these out. Due to the small size of celery seed, sowing evenly can be very difficult plus the seeds have to be down very shallowly at about 3mm to 4mm. You can plant using just a hand and you can use a mechanical planter as well.
3) Spacing: Space the plants 15cm -20cm apart in rows that are 30cm apart. Depending on the tractor and implement wheel spacing, paths have to be left for manual functions and vehicles for spraying and also for harvesting machinery. This falls between 100,000 and 150,000 celery plants per hectare based on the configuration.
4) Sowing Time: Sow celery indoors in seedling trays in July and at the end of August, direct sow seeds into the plant area. Exposing young celery seedlings to late frost could kill the young plants thus, avoiding that. Seedlings should be ready for planting out at 6 – 8 weeks from sowing on a normal basis.
5) Planting Time: An ideal time to plant celery seedlings in mid-September. At this time, the frost would have passed and the worst cold would be over. You still get enough time to harvest before the onset of intense summer heat.
6) Growth Period: Normally, it takes between 12 – 16 weeks from when the seedlings are planted out into the fields to attain harvest time. For direct sowing, it takes about 4 months before the crop can be due for harvesting.
7) Fertilization: Apply and incorporate superphosphates when the soil is initially prepared and plowed about 8 weeks before planting is done. In the final week before planting, apply a mixture of Nitrogen and Potassium to the plant rows and disk harrowed into the top 20cm of soil.
It can be in the form of 500kg – 750kg of 1:0:1. This gives the seedlings the nutrients required to settle and boost root development and growth during the first month of growth. Fertilizer should also be applied four weeks after planting, followed by another four weeks application and an application four weeks prior to harvesting.
8) Irrigation: This can be in the form of static sprinklers, microjet misters, or drip systems on the rows’ surfaces. In some cases, drippers are underground along the plant rows.
Apply 20mm of irrigation to bring the soil to field capacity. This should be done a day before planting and immediately after planting about 10mm to settle the celery seedlings.
If direct seeding is carried out, ensure that the topsoil is kept moist with more frequent, lower volume irrigation periods until germination of the seeds has taken place and has taken root.
Commence longer irrigation as the seedlings strengthen. Once the plants have settled, make it 25mm – 35mm of irrigation every week.
Growing celery in South Africa is not difficult. Follow the normal procedures and you will have your celery successfully grown.