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How to Grow Bok Choy in the Garden

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Want to add a new vegetable to your fall garden line up? I have just the thing to for any gardener to try this year!

Bok choy (pak choi), a type of Chinese cabbage! While some varieties of bok choy are grown for their leaves, others are grown for the stalk and core. Whatever variety you choose, learn how to grow bok choy for a delicious addition to the fall and winter vegetable garden.

Bok Choy growing in the garden

What is Bok Choy?

Bok choy is a vegetable that can be grown in the garden during winter months. It has large white stems and dark green leaves, similar to celery but with smaller stalks. These types of Chinese cabbage don’t form tight heads like our domestic varieties, but are rather harvest small to be used whole or harvested for their leaves.

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Bok choy comes from Asia and falls under cabbage family of vegetables though its leaves look more like spinach than traditional cabbages found in fall gardens around the United States.

Some popular ways to use bok choy would be in soups, sautéed with other vegetables, in stir fry, or even raw as an addition to salads. See the bottom of this post for delicious recipes that include bok choy.

When to Grow Bok Choy

Plan to grow bok choy or pak choi in the fall and winter, when temperatures are cool. Gardeners can plant bok choy from seed starting in mid summer through late fall months when the soil is still warm enough for germination.

Gardeners can also use transplants that are available at garden centers in late summer months. Be sure to check the plant for healthy leaves and stems, and honestly, you can also lift them out of the pot and check the roots!

As with most vegetables, there are multiple varieties of bok choy to choose from. Here are some of the more popular for the home vegetable garden:

  • Baby Pak Choi is harvested whole and will be best when smaller and more tender
  • China green has frilly leaves and is more tolerant of heat
  • White Stem Pak Choi
  • Shanghai bok choy has a compact shape with thick mid ribs.

How to Grow Bok Choy or Pak Choi

If wanting to grow bok choy from seed, keep in mind it will take at least 25 to 30 days before you harvest your first baby bok choy. For transplants, you’ll be looking at a much shorter time before harvest, so plan your planting with intention.

  • Soil for Bok Choy- For ideal growth, plant bok choy in a loose, rich soil with some compost mixed in. Bok choy likes a pH of around six to seven and does best when it is not too warm or humid
  • Planting depth– plant seeds 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch deep and several inches apart. Seedlings can be thinned as growth begins. (Bok choy and Pak Choi seedlings can be thrown into salads, so there’s no waste!)
  • Space bok choy plants about eight inches apart from one another so there’s room to grow. If you are growing a baby variety, then you can fit more into each row or square, depending on your planting method.
  • Water your bok choy well after planting it so the seeds have time to germinate successfully before summer heat sets in. For transplants, water well after planting to help establish the roots. Give bok choy or pak choi plants about an inch of water per week, being careful not to over water them.
  • Feed bok choy with a good quality organic fertilizer once the plants have grown into larger clumps of leaves. You can use a natural compost or manure to help promote healthy growth as well if your soil needs it. (Always be sure to test soil to make sure you’re planting in soil that is appropriate for certain vegetables.)
  • Maintenance– Keep boy choy and pak choi healthy by checking for pests and other diseases on the stems and leaves. Your eyes on your plants is really the best pesticide you can use, so be on the lookout!

How to Harvest Bok Choy:

bok choy is ready to harvest 30 to 40 days after it’s planted, depending on the variety you’re growing. You’ll know when bok choy or pak choi are ready to be picked by the size of their leaves – if they’re large and healthy, you can start harvesting!

For harvesting leaves , bok choy is picked by cutting off the outer leaves one at a time about an inch above the soil. Use a good quality paring knife or garden pruners to trim off leaves.

For harvesting bok choy’s stems, bok choy plants are cut right above where their stalks begin to swell out from the plant base. In this case, you’ll be able to harvest bok choi as you need it without cutting back the entire plant.

Did you know it’s even possible to regrow bok choy from scraps, much like celery or romaine? It’s true! Check out this article from Gardener’s Path for details on how to regrow bok choy.

Common Pests for Bok Choy and Pak Choi

Wondering if your bok choy will attract pests? Well, like most cabbages, there are a few pests that prefer these tasty vegetables. Cabbage worms, white flies, and aphids are some of the most common pests that affect bok choy. Keep your eyes peeled for tell tale signs of pests, such as holes in leaves and eggs or bugs on the undersides of leaves.

For help with garden pests without pesticides, try these helps:

FAQ’s about Growing Bok Choy

  • Can bok choy be grown in containers? Yes! It’s very easy to simply use the instructions above to plant bok choy in a planter or container.
  • How long does it take for bok choy to grow? Anywhere from 30 to 45 days will produce a small or full sized bok choy plant.
  • Does bok choy need full sun? Like many garden vegetables, bok choy will ideally get at least six hours of sun per day.

Easy Recipes for Bok Choy and Pak Choi

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