Chinese cabbage or bok choy is a popular Asian vegetable with tender leaves and crisp white stems. The whole plant is edible, and it tastes great raw or cooked in a stir fry. And, growing and harvesting bok choy is easier than you may think, as long as you provide your veggies with proper care.
Bok choy plants (Brassica rapa subsp. Chinensis) are not a typical garden staple. However, these cool season, biennial veggies are just as simple to grow as any other vegetable, and you end up with a healthy organic crop in only 45 days. There are two main bok choy varieties to plant – Shanghai bok choy and standard white-stemmed.
Bok Choy is a cabbage type that goes by many names, including pak choi, pok choi, baby bok choy, and joi choi. It’s an ideal veggie to grow since you can eat the entire plant, whether you enjoy sauteing the white stalks in an Asian dish or using the green leaves in a salad.
Growing and Harvesting Bok Choy at Home
Bok choy plants are easy growers with a short growing season, but it’s vital to understand what these plants need to prevent bolting and know when to pick bok choy for the tastiest bok choy leaves and stems.
Learn how to plant and grow Brassica rapa subsp. Chinensis in the garden and when to harvest bok choy at the end of the growing season. It’s even possible to start growing bok choy from scraps. Discover what these veggies need to thrive and a delicious recipe for using your bok choy after harvest.
When to Pick Bok Choy
Bok choy is a fast-growing veggie that loves growing during cool weather, so there are two times of the year when it’s possible to plant it. Find out when to pick bok choy based on when you decide to grow your vegetable.
How long does it take for bok choy to grow, and when is bok choy ready to harvest? This veggie only takes 45 days to reach maturity, and the leafy greens are ready for harvesting fairly quickly after planting them. A good time to plant bok choy in zone 6 is in spring or fall. It grows in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 11, and there are a variety of hybrid and heirloom cultivars to pick from.
Bok choy does not tolerate hot weather, and it’s possible to plant it at the beginning of spring for early summer harvesting or late summer for a fall crop.
However, spring planting is more challenging since this vegetable is extremely prone to bolting, and the plants are more vulnerable to the cabbageworm, cabbage loopers, and other pests. If you plan on growing bok choy in the spring, it’s a good idea to start the seedlings indoors four weeks before the last frost date.
Growing and Harvesting Bok Choy
You’ve got the garden prepped for planting, and it’s finally bok choy growing time. The best way to plant this veggie is to start it from seeds, and there are two ways to initiate the planting process. Learn how to plant bok choy and ways to tell when it’s ready to harvest.
To start your seeds in the early spring, fill a seed tray with a seed starting soil mix and sow the seeds a quarter-inch to a half inch deep in the dirt. Set the tray in a sunny, warm location and keep the soil moist to encourage germination.
Once the danger of cold weather is gone, harden off the seedlings before transplanting and then plant them in a partial shade garden with six to twelve-inch spacing.
To direct sow the seeds during late summer, plant them a quarter-inch to a half-inch deep in rich garden soil. Unlike an early summer crop, you can plant fall crops in full sun. Consider planting them in small batches every two weeks for a steady supply of veggies. Like when you harvest cabbage and other leafy greens, begin harvesting bok choy whenever the outer leaves develop.
Caring for Bok Choy Plants in the Garden
While bok choy doesn’t need much help from you to grow, it does want a little attention now and then to flourish. Here is how to care for your plants as they mature to ensure you get the most out of your harvest.
Bok choy likes consistently moist soil that is not soggy since dry conditions cause bolting, and one inch of water each week is sufficient. Once your seedlings emerge, spread mulch over the bed to hold in moisture and stop weeds from taking over the garden.
These veggies are heavy feeders and prefer dirt rich in potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Add organic fertilizer and compost at the time of planting rather than during the growth period. To ensure blemish-free leaves, consider covering your crop with row covers to protect them from insect damage.
If you find that bugs are a problem for your bok choy or other leafy greens, plant to plant bok choy companions next year or use a simple DIY insecticidal spray. Bok choy pests include beetles, aphids, and a variety of caterpillars. Take care of them quickly to avoid an infestation and a smaller or nonexistent bok choy crop.
How and When to Harvest Bok Choy
Bok choy has a relatively short growing season, and before you know it, it’s time to start harvesting your crop. Explore when to harvest bok choy and how to pick the green leaves to encourage more growth or harvest the whole plant.
Bok Choy Harvest
Bok choy is usually ready to begin picking in about six weeks, but harvest time varies depending on the variety. Baby bok choy is mature when it’s less than ten inches, and standard types reach up to 24 inches tall.
To harvest bok choy using the cut-and-come-again technique similar to Swiss chard, remove the leaves from the plant’s outside to allow the inner leaves to continue growing. If the bok choy begins to bolt and form seed pods, harvest the entire plant immediately to prevent crop loss.
Make a Salad Bowl with Fresh Bok Choy
While many people cook bok choy, we prefer to eat the green leaves raw. This crunchy salad is super healthy and loaded with fresh vegetables and faster to prepare than a stir fry.
To make the dressing, combine the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame seeds, and a quarter cup of oil in a jar and set it aside to let the flavors blend.
To make the salad, heat two tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat in a large saucepan and then turn the heat down to low. Add the almonds and ramen noodles and saute for ten minutes while stirring frequently.
Mix the baby bok choy, scallions, and toasted noodles in a large bowl and drizzle the dressing over the top. Toss the bok choy salad to combine and serve immediately.
Bok choy is uncomplicated to grow and a great addition to the garden if you enjoy a leafy green salad or stir fry. Planting bok choy as a fall crop rather than a spring crop prevents your plants from bolting, while early spring planting leaves your crop vulnerable to aphids, flea beetles, and other pests.
Harvesting bok choy at the end of the growing season is fun and rewarding, so why not share our bok choy growing and harvesting guide with your circle of family and friends on Facebook and Pinterest?