The taste of mildly flavored bok choy in stir fries, steamed dishes and soups is simply awesome. A popular leafy green used in the Chinese cuisine, it is alternatively known as Chinese cabbage or pak choi. The scientific name for this cabbage type is Brassica rapa chinensis, and do not confuse it with napa cabbage. For those of you who are fond of this exotic vegetable, why not grow it yourself. Bok choy is suited for planting in garden beds as well as containers.
Tips on Growing Bok Choy
When it comes to starting a vegetable garden, not many of us are ready to take the challenge of growing exotic vegetables. It is just a common misconception that they grow only under controlled conditions of greenhouses. This holds true for a few cultivars and not for all exotic plants. The interesting part is, you can plant, nurture and see them growing in your garden. And if you have a passion for gardening, this will definitely interest you. Here's how to grow bok choy from seeds.
- Purchase organic bok choy seeds from your nearby horticulture center. The popular varieties of bok choy are, Shanghai bok choy, Canton dwarf, Green-stemmed and white-stemmed bok choy and bok choy sum. You can take advice from the horticulturist regarding hardy varieties for growing in your area.
- For planting as spring crops, begin with seed sowing indoors before the last frost. For these, you will need a seed starting kit that comes with the germination tray and soil mix. Sow seeds sparingly and cover with a thin layer of soil (¼ inch). Or, you can grow seedlings directly in the garden after frosting.
- Lightly mist the seeds regularly (two times in a day) and maintain temperature between 50-80°F. Most likely, they will germinate within 1 week. Allow the seedlings to grow in the tray until 2-3 green leaves develop. Generally, seedlings are ready for transplantation after 2 weeks of sowing.
- The ideal plantation site for bok choy is an area that receives full sun, but you can plant it in a partially shaded condition. The soil should be fertile, well-drained and pH should be near neutral to slightly alkaline (pH 6-7.5). If required, supplement organic matter to support healthy growth of bok choy.
- While transplanting bok choy seedlings, maintain a spacing of 6-12 inches between the young plants. This will provide sufficient rooms for the developing plants till maturity. For row planting, the preferable spacing is 18 inches or more between two adjacent rows.
- To grow bok choy, keeping the soil moist is a basic necessity. This leafy plant requires adequate moisture and regular irrigation for healthy growth. For fall crops, mulching the vegetable beds with cut straw is a simple approach to conserve moisture.
- Provided that the soil moisture level is kept moderate (not soggy), your bok choy plants will develop new leaves and grow luxuriantly. Usually, it is ready to harvest within 40-50 days. After the plants attain 4-5 inches of height, you can harvest baby bok choy for use in soups. Or else, collect the bottom leaves from different plants.
- While harvesting the bok choy head as a whole, never uproot it. Rather, you can cut the base of the plant with a sharp kitchen knife, leaving about 3 cm shoot in the soil. Water it regularly and within a few days, the remaining stem will sprout again and develop new foliage.
For growing it as a fall crop, you can sow the seeds directly in garden beds, keeping a distance of 1 inch between them. The fall crops are easy to maintain, and the plant problems are less likely to occur. This way, you can certainly include other exotic plants in your gardening project. What about growing Brussels sprouts and endives? The list of exotic vegetables for plantation are many, and I am sure you will enjoy growing them, and serving these nutritious veggies in your meal menu.