Growing Bok Choy at Home? This Guide Will Help You
Bok choy used to be identical with Chinese food, but now, you can find it in many dishes around the world. Growing bok choy has become popular among home gardeners. This vegetable needs special requirements to grow well, but the result is satisfying. Learn how to grow bock choy at your home garden and get high-quality harvests.
1. Why Growing Bok Choy?
Despite its popularity, many people are still unsure about what is bok choy. North Americans call this vegetable “Chinese cabbage”, but this name covers two major variants of vegetables: the Pekinensis and Chinensis (bok choy belongs to the Chinensis variety).
The British and South Africans use names such as pak choi, Chinese chard, celery mustard, Chinese mustard, and spoon cabbage.
Bok choy is great as a garden vegetable. You can harvest it around 40 to 50 days after planting. It is also ideal for garden owners who live in areas with cold winter. While it needs several soil and watering requirements, the maintenance is easy. Bok choy is also a delicious vegetable and blends well in various dishes.
2. Requirements to Grow Bok Choy
Planting bok choy requires specific soil and water conditions to grow well. They are:
- Rich and nutritious soil
Bok choy loves soil that is rich in organic matters. The ideal pH for the soil is between 6.5 and 7.0. Depending on the condition, bok choy may grow on soil with acidity level below 6.5, but not lower than 6.0.
- Constant watering
Bok choy cannot handle dry soil. Make sure you water the soil even before planting, and water again regularly during the growth season. Never wait until the soil becomes dry or cracked before watering the vegetable.
- Partial shade
Bok choy loves sunlight, but partial shade is better to get the best harvests. If you live in areas with long daylight or hot summer, excessive light can make your vegetables go to premature bolting. Bok choy should get three to five hours of sun every day.
Bok choy seeds are available widely at garden supply stores. Make sure to read details such as size and harvest period before choosing your ideal variety.
3. Popular Bok Choy Varieties
There are several bok choy varieties that are popular outside Eastern Asia. Here are several of them to consider:
Ching-Chiang is a dwarf variety that allows quick harvest. This bok choy reaches maturity around 40 days after planting.
- Mei Qing Choi
This bok choy is also a dwarf variety, but it has gone through the additional hybrid process. The result is a fast-growing plant that you can harvest in 35 days after planting. The leaves and stalks are both green.
- Black Summer
Black Summer is an ideal bok choy plant for winter harvest. It matures 45 days after planting. Black Summer has flat, dark green leaves and white stalks that create a thick formation. Its full height is 10 to 12 inches (20 to 24 cm).
- Joi Choi
Joi Choi is a large plant that handles cold temperature the best. This variety is thick and “heavy”, with generous dark green leaves and white stalks. It matures in 50 days after planting and can reach 12 to 15 inches of height (24 to 30 cm).
- Red Pac
Red Pac has dark red leaves with green stalks. It has mini and regular varieties, which mature in 21 and 45 days after planting. Red Pac has a milder flavor than other bok choy varieties.
Some garden supply stores may not label their bok choy seeds according to varieties. Make sure to know the varieties of your seeds before buying them. This way, you can plant them according to your harvest plan.
4. How to Plant Bok Choy
Growing bok choy is easier if you start from seeds. Here is how to grow bok choy in a home garden:
- Choose the right planting time
You can plant bok choy a week before the last frost day. This way, the vegetable can thrive in cool weather and give you the first spring harvest. Wait until the evening temperature is slightly higher than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) before planting.
- Prepare the soil
Upturn in the soil and add compost layer to make it rich. If your soil has poor nutrients, add nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
- Plant the seeds
Dig small holes a ½ inch deep and plant your seeds. Each hole must be 1 inch apart. If you plant the bok choy in multiple rows, make sure each row is at least 18 inches apart.
- Thin the bok choy
When your plant reaches four inches of height, thin until you create 6 to 8 inches of space between them. Thinning makes the plant crunchier and tastier.
Once your plants mature, harvest them quickly before the hot weather hits. How to harvest bok choy is easy: just cut the leaves as many as you need. Bok choy will return into seeds during the hot season, and you can get another harvest around fall.
5. Tips to Maintain Bok Choy
Water your bok choy constantly, starting from the moment of seed planting. You should install a watering system to make sure that your vegetable beds do not dry. You must also fertilize the bok choy regularly, especially if your soil is poor. Use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer that can enrich your soil.
Mulching your vegetables is another way to keep the soil rich. Mulching keeps weed from growing and robbing the nutrients from your plant. Start mulching as soon as you plant the seeds. You can also reduce risks of pest attacks by mulching.
Bok choy is resilient against many diseases, but it has several common pests. Flea beetles, cabbage worms, slugs, aphids, and cabbage loopers love bok choy leaves. Check your growing plants to see the signs of these pests. Pick them up manually or use natural pesticide to solve the problem. Use row covers if necessary.
Bok choy is a fast-growing vegetable that has many uses. You need to prepare an ideal condition for successful planting. However, you can get two harvests in a year with easy maintenance. Bok choy also has several varieties (including the mini ones) that offer unique characteristics and benefits.
Forget visiting Chinese restaurants just to enjoy this vegetable. Grow Chinese bok choy in your own garden and enjoy this crunchy vegetable all year round.