You might be most familiar with bok choy in your favorite Asian dishes. Some people call it Pak Choy, Joi Choi, or Bok Choi, but the actual name of this Chinese cabbage is Brassica rapa subsp. Chinensis. Learning how to grow bok choy is a simple way to change up the veggies growing in your garden and take advantage of the cool weather during the growing season.
If you aren’t familiar with this plant, Pak Choi is a leafy veggie that grows on a central stalk similar to other plants in the cabbage family. It has either purple or dark green leaves on the outside with white stalks and veins toward the bottom.
Even though the bok choy leaves are beautiful, most gardeners are after their juicy sweet center. Growing bok choy is completed on an annual basis even though it is a biennial plant.
Benefits of Growing Bok Choy
Figuring out how to plant bok choy is also ideal if you’re looking for a cool-season crop. There is little difference between bok choy vs spinach in this regard. Like spinach, bok choy doesn’t like the hot weather and thrives in temperatures between 55°F and 70°F.
If you still aren’t convinced to start planting bok choy seeds, you’ll realize how easy and delicious they are after reading this article.
Even though this crispy vegetable is used primarily in Asian cuisine, learning how to grow bok choy allows you to incorporate it into various dishes.
The leaves are soft and tender, with a mild yet peppery spice similar to chard. These greens are also rich in folate, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Bok choy plants are native to China near the Yangtze River Delta. They have been grown as fall crops since the fifth century but were also used in Chinese medicine.
Bok choy was brought to Europe around the middle of the 18th century and then to America in the late 1800s. Today, people grow it worldwide, and there are many popular cultivars to choose from when learning how to plant bok choy.
It isn’t common to find many different types of bok choy at your local grocery store. Your best bet for working with other varieties is to head to a local nursery.
Some bok choy has crisper stems and others are paler with delicate leaves. Here are three of our favorite bok choy cultivars.
Joi Choi is a type of bok choy that stands upright on top of creamy white stalks. It is a hybrid variety that adapts to many different growing conditions.
It is also resistant to bolting to give you a longer time frame for harvesting bok choy. Each plant produced between ten and 14 stalks that reach up to ten inches tall. The leaves are dark green.
A gorgeous heirloom variety is the Tatsoi Rosette. The leaves are glossy, dark green, and teardrop-shaped. The stalks are tender and sweet, and people love to use the leaves in salads.
These types must have spacing six to eight inches apart to give the leaves plenty of room to spread. Because they are such fast growers, they do best in cool temperatures and USDA hardiness zones three through seven. With the right conditions, they grow in as little as 50 days.
One of the hardiest options to grow bok choy is White Stem bok choy. This cultivar is hardy in zones one through nine and matures in 70 days. White Stem has fan-shaped outer leaves. It is also a smart cultivar choice if you prefer to harvest early as baby bok choy.
How to Grow Bok Choy
Don’t assume that this veggie, like fast growing lettuce, is like other cabbage plants while you figure out how to grow bok choy. They have individual needs and planting times to follow for a successful harvest.
However, these plants are easy to care for once they’re in the ground and start to germinate. How long do bok choy take to grow? Keep reading to find out when you can expect to harvest these plants after all of your hard work.
How to Plant Bok Choy
Bok choy seeds are easy to propagate at home, but transplanting them is also simple if you prefer to save some time.
To propagate bok choy from the seed or grow cabbages for an early spring or summer crop, sow your seeds in seed starting mix four or five weeks before the last frost date. It’s important to know when to plant bok choy seeds so that the temperature is just right for germination.
Make sure each seed is a quarter-inch deep and spaced about one inch apart. The bok choy seeds start germination in four to eight days. The bok choy seedlings are ready to transplant when they reach two inches tall.
Some people enjoy growing their crops in containers because it allows complete control over the conditions around them. If you want to start growing bok choy in containers, select pots that are eight to ten inches deep.
When the young seedlings begin to grow, thin them to only three to five inches apart. Keep your bok choy containers in areas that receive full sun or partial shade. Only move them outdoors once the possibility of frost is completely gone.
To sow seeds directly into your garden, wait until after the last frost date for this vegetable to grow in shade. They require well-draining soil with lots of rich organic matter. Sow the seeds a quarter-inch deep and two inches apart.
Many people like to use bok choy as fall crops. For a fall harvest, sow seeds from mid to late summer, or about six weeks before the first predicted frost date. Keep the soil moist.
Transplanting is a great way to save time if you don’t want to propagate seeds yourself. Transplant young bok choy plants into your garden when the nighttime temperatures steadily remain above 50°F.
It’s wise to use floating row covers to protect your plants from a dip in temperatures or nearby pests. If the plants experience frost, they tend to assume it’s winter and bolt once the temperatures rise again.
Transplant the bok choy into rich soil and mix in some organic fertilizer to encourage growth. Do successive plantings once every two weeks if you like having a continuous harvest toward the end of the growing season.
Tending to Bok Choy
When you choose a spot in your garden beds, avoid the areas where you’ve grown other brassica family plants to prevent bacteria and diseases that remain in the soil. Crop rotation is crucial for the success of these types of crops.
Growing bok choy requires full sun or partial shade. Three to five hours of bright sunlight is enough to keep them happy. Do a soil test at the beginning of the season and check that the pH level is between 6.0 and 7.5.
Amend the soil with mulch or other organic matter to keep it nourished throughout the year. If your plants are growing too slowly or have pale leaves, feed them with high nitrogen fertilizer.
Water bok choy plants enough to keep the soil moist without oversaturating them. They might require more water in the fall.
Refrain from getting the leaves wet. Instead, water near the base of the plant. Keep the area free from weeds so they don’t have to compete for nutrients in the ground.
Companion Plants for Bok Choy
Gardeners use companion planting to protect their plants from pests, maximize space, and keep the entire garden healthy overall. Surround bok choy with veggies like beets, carrots, and bush beans.
Adding chamomile, mint, and garlic to your beds is said to give bok choy extra flavor. Thyme and celery keep away cabbage worms, while rosemary and cilantro fight aphids and flea beetles.
Bok Choy Pests and Diseases
Unfortunately, you may sometimes encounter bok choy problems. Aphids are the most common pests that people find in the garden and flower beds. These are sap-sucking insects that love to feed on brassicas. They stunt the growth and wilt leaves, but a big enough infestation kills the plants entirely.
If you only have a few, wash them off with a hose. For more significant numbers, spray the plants with a bit of neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Cabbage loopers are another pest that you might come across. The larvae of these insects are about two inches long and chew huge holes through the greenery. The easiest way to get rid of them is to introduce natural predators like spiders and ladybugs.
Flea beetles might lack in size, but they make up for it with the extreme damage they do. Flea beetles leave hundreds of tiny holes all over your green plants and stunt their growth. Use neem oil or diatomaceous earth to kill them.
Diseases are an even bigger cause for concern when gardening. The easiest way to prevent diseases in your beds is by tending to them daily. Do not overwater your plants.
Ensure there is plenty of air circulation around them. Always practice crop rotation. If you protect them from the start, you can avoid diseases like leaf spot, black rot, downy mildew, and turnip mosaic virus.
How to Harvest Bok Choy
Most bok choy plants are ready for harvest within five to eight weeks after they germinate. However, you might enjoy how tender the leaves are at only four to five weeks. Only harvest your plants during cool parts of the day to prevent them from losing moisture.
Cut the plants with clean shears right above the soil line in one snip. Once harvested, move them to a cool location right away to keep them from wilting. If you prefer to save a few seeds for next year, allow them to bolt. The seed pods fall off after they finish flowering.
Cooking with Bok Choy
Unless you plan to eat your bok choy the same day you harvest it, you have to find ways to store it. Do not wash your crops until you are ready to eat them.
Instead, keep the plants intact and store them in a resealable plastic bag. Poke a few holes in the bag and keep it in the crisper drawer inside your fridge. Use within four to five days for the best taste, or throw them out after three weeks.
We prefer to eat bok choy as soon as possible because it tastes incredibly fresh. Always wash your fruits and veggies right before cooking with them to remove dirt lingering on the outside. Soak bok choy in cold water for five minutes before cooking with it.
Rinse your bok choy under cold water and dry with a kitchen towel or paper towel. Half each bok choy plant lengthwise. In a small glass bowl, stir the soy sauce, vinegar, broth, two teaspoons of sesame oil, chili flakes, and honey.
Heat a wok or large skillet with one tablespoon of vegetable oil and another teaspoon of sesame oil. Carefully set the bok choy cut side down in the wok and cook until one side is lightly browned. Flip the bok choy over and do the same for that side.
Move the cooked bok choy to a plate. Add the final tablespoon of vegetable oil and stir in garlic, green onion, and ginger for 30 seconds. Add the soy sauce mix and start to simmer it until thick.
Add the bok choy back to the hot pan and toss it in the sauce for about one minute. Transfer the bok choy to a serving plate and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top.
Bok choy might not be the first vegetable you gravitate to when you start your yearly garden, but they are an excellent way to add some variety to your life and experience new flavors and textures.
With how easy they are to grow, you’ll decide to return these plants to your garden on a regular basis.
If learning how to grow bok choy has taken you out of your gardening comfort zone, share this guide on how to plant bok choy on Facebook and Pinterest.