Growing hydroponic celery may sound complicated - but really, with the right products and know-how, it can be a piece of cake.
Because celery takes so long to mature, many gardeners will struggle to grow it traditionally outdoors. Thus, you may actually find yourself achieving more success when you bring these plants indoors & cultivate them without soil!
You’ll have more control over the climate conditions and you won’t have to worry about as many pests or diseases.
Of course, there are the yields to be taken into consideration, too - when you grow hydroponic celery, you’ll have more celery than you know what to do with!
With all this in mind, it comes as no surprise that so many growers are asking us how they can start their own soilless celery production. That's why we put together this guide.
We're going to cover everything you need to know about growing celery hydroponically - including why you should give it a shot, how long you can expect to wait before harvesting your first batch, etc.
Of course, we're also going to explain which system you should get started with, nutritional requirements, along with all the tips & tricks you need to bring this plant from seed to harvest.
Can Celery Be Grown Hydroponically?
Growing celery hydroponically is not only possible, but it poses several advantages over traditional gardening.
Celery offers numerous health benefits and yes - it can be grown easily with hydroponics. It is traditionally grown for its crisp, crunchy stalks, though technically all parts of the celery plant are edible.
It can be grown in a cut-and-come-again fashion, allowing you to get the most out of your plants. You can come and pluck a few stalks for dinner, and allow your plants to recover and keep growing!
Celery grows best in an ebb and flow hydroponics system, though that’s not to say that you can’t attempt to grow it in other environments if you have a different kind of setup. We'll touch on this in-depth later on.
Is Hydroponic Celery Difficult To Grow?
In general, celery has a reputation for being difficult to grow. However, it usually comes down to user error. The misconception originates in the fact that celery has a long growing season - it takes up to 140 days for it to reach maturity.
Therefore, you’ll actually benefit from growing celery in a hydroponics system because you can grow indoors - an early frost won’t be a concern.
Why Grow Hydroponic Celery?
Growing hydroponically has numerous benefits, many of which are true for celery in particular. For starters, you can grow plants up to 25% faster and use a fraction of the space that might be required for outdoor-grown plants.
This makes it a godsend for growers who must work in confined spaces, like an apartment. Plus, with hydroponics, you don’t have to worry about quite as many pests and diseases.
Soil-borne pests, for example, are virtually nonexistent. When you grow hydroponic celery, you’ll be able to dramatically increase your yields.
Since you’ll likely be using an indoor hydroponics set-up, you also don’t have to worry about an early frost threatening your crop - a benefit for celery specifically, since it has a long growing season.
Want to learn more about the benefits of hydroponics in general, along with everything else you need to know about? We highly recommend all beginners check out our hydroponics 101 guide.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Celery Hydroponically?
Celery takes about five weeks to germinate when seeds are planted directly in the ground. In a hydroponic system, that time is cut in half.
This is easily one of the biggest benefits of growing celery hydroponically vs growing it traditionally. You can usually harvest mature celery stalks about four months after you have planted seeds.
How To Grow Celery Hydroponically - Step By Step
Now, we've covered all the basic information you need to know before embarking on this journey. While you may have originally been daunted by the task at hand, you can rest assured that with us on your side, you won't fail!
We're going to cover step-by-step how to take your celery from seed to harvest in a hydroponic environment. We'll start with the entire foundation of this process - choosing a hydroponic system.
What Type Of System Is Best For Growing Celery Hydroponically?
Technically, you can use any system at all to grow celery hydroponically, but the best will be the classic ebb and flow system.
Also known as flood and drain, a grow tray will hold your plants in place and will be supported by a rolling bench or stand to keep these off the floor.
The reservoir is housed beneath the table and will hold the water and the nutrients. A water pump will periodically send the nutrient solution from the reservoir up into the grow tray, flooding the root zone of your plants for a set period of time.
Then, the nutrient solution will drain back out into the reservoir. This happens a number of times over the course of a day, so your plants get a great balance of concentrated nutrients at the roots, with plenty of aeration once the nutrients drain back out.
This system works best for growing celery because it provides the best level of support for tall, long celery stalks.
Here at Hydrobuilder, we carry a wide variety of ebb & flow systems. We carry bucket styles systems, great for those who don't want as many moving parts. Or, if you have the space for it and want a bigger, more efficient system - try one of our flood table kits!
Hydroponic Celery Propagation - Seeds vs Clones
There are two ways in which you can propagate celery - by seed or by growing from a bunch of celery you already purchased (clones).
Starting from seed can take a while but is ideal if you want to grow large quantities. It can take celery seeds a long time to germinate - up to two weeks, in some cases.
You’ll start your celery seeds in rooting plugs. Once roots appear from the bottom of the plugs, you can thin out the weaker sprouts and transplant those that are stronger.
If you're trying to clone celery plants, you’ll cut a bit of celery from the stalk about two inches from the bottom. Don’t remove any of the outer stalks.
Set the base, with the flat side down, on a plate of warm water. New growth should occur in about a week.
Once the roots have developed, you can transplant the celery into your hydroponics system. Seeds should be planted about ¼” deep in their individual plugs.
Plants should be about two to three inches apart when transplanted into the system. You can grow any variety of celery in a hydroponics system but some of the best to try out include:
- Tango Hybrid
- Giant Red
- Golden Pascal
- Golden Self-Blanching
- Nan Ling Cutting
- Tall Utah
- White Plume
Feeding Your Hydroponic Celery Nutrients
Celery needs regular feeding, particularly of supplemental nutrients like magnesium and calcium. These will help strengthen the stalks.
Humic acid is another mineral you might consider supplementing with, as it can increase the speed of nutrient uptake for your plants.
Otherwise, you can use any kind of hydroponics fertilizer to feed your plants. Pay attention to the pH level - neutral is best for celery, as one that is too high or alkaline can affect the nutrient uptake of your plants and quickly lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Celery prefers a pH of 6.5 and an EC level of 1.8 to 2.4. Set your timer to run your pump four times a day for no longer than 30 minutes per cycle.
Hydroponic solution should be fully changed out about once every two weeks to reduce the accumulation of nutrients, fungi, and bacteria in the system.
Caring For Your Hydroponic Celery
A cool season crop, celery grows best at temperatures lower than 70 degrees. You don't need a lot of light - six hours per day is plenty for your celery.
Don’t let your celery get warmer than 80 degrees or cooler than 58 degrees. Generally speaking, a standard fluorescent light about 4" from the top of your hydroponics system is perfect for growing hydroponic celery.
Because celery requires a lot of water, it’s the perfect candidate for hydroponic growing - you won’t have to worry about irrigation.
You may find that you need to tie developing celery stalks together to prevent them from sprawling as they grow.
Pests and diseases are virtually nonexistent in a hydroponics system. Although celery plants tend to be relatively hardy as it is, you do need to keep an eye out for things like flea beetles, slugs, and earwigs outdoors - these pests are unlikely indoors.
How To Harvest Your Hydroponic Celery
It may be up to four or five months from planting seeds to receive a celery harvest. The darker the stalks are, the more nutrients they contain but the tougher they will be.
You can cut whole plants or just cut individual stalks as required so that you can harvest over a longer period.
It is possible to harvest repeatedly until your plants go to flower. Once you harvest stalks, they can be kept in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or chopped and placed in the freezer.
Final Thoughts On Hydroponic Celery
Now, you know everything you really need to in order to get started with your own crop. Now, it's up to you to gather your supplies & system and give it a try yourself!
Hydrobuilder has everything you need to start your hydroponic celery garden today - not just the hydroponic system & nutrients, but grow lights, propagation supplies, general garden care essentials, and more.
Whether you're a hobbyist or a commercial cultivar, we are your one stop shop for all things growing. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our experts!