Bok Choy, bok choi, its Chinese name pak choi, or whatever you choose to call it, one thing remains constant for this vegetable; its sweet flavor. Bok choy is a popular Chinese plant found in most Chinese recipes. Its flavored leaves and crunchy stalks have made even non-Chinese folks love it.
This fast-growing Asian plant has found its way across continents because of its extensive uses. You thought the bok choy was only used for Chinese dishes? Nah… It is used in salads and stir-fries, and can also be eaten raw.
Now you see why a lot of people love this vegetable. This has led to more people seeking to buy this cold-weather plant – which leads us to one major challenge; it is not readily available everywhere outside Asia. What do you do when you can’t find this veggie in your local garden store? Do you give up and forget its incredible taste? That is why I’ve put down this piece.
Here, I’ll show you how you do everything from growing to harvesting bok choy right in your backyard.
Bok Choy Varieties
There are two primary varieties of the bok choy vegetable; the standard white stalk type and Shanghai bok choy, which has a green stalk. These two variations are the basis on which the other varieties lie. Here are a few of them.
- Black Summer
The black summer variety produces darker leaves and should be planted in autumn so they can be ready for harvest by winter. It has a green stalk and takes 45 days to mature.
- Joi Choy
Joi Choy is a bolt resistant variety that has made it popular among bok choy gardeners. It takes 50 days to mature, and it produces a hardy plant that is more resistant to adverse weather conditions. The best time to plant this vegetable is the spring or fall for it to produce its white stalk and green leaves.
- Win-Win Choy
This is also a bolt resistant variety that produces a large vegetable head. The win-win type takes 52 days to mature into a white stalk and green leaf vegetable.
- Red Pac
As the name implies, this is a red leaf bok choy variety with a green stalk. Red pac is a rear variety that takes 45 days to grow into a full head. Its stylish red leaves will make a great addition to your whimsical garden.
Uses of Bok Choy
One of the mean reasons this cold season vegetable is popular is because of its numerous benefits and nutritional value. Look at why it is so popular
- Used in salad
- Rich in vitamin C
- Rich in vitamin E
- Contains beta-carotene
- Used in stir-fries
- Contains strong antioxidant properties
- Used in soups
Growing Conditions for Bok Choy Plant
Which growing conditions will give you a bountiful harvest? The bok choy is a delicate vegetable that relies on specific needs for it to produce healthy plants. What are these conditions?
- Bok choy is a cold climate plant. They are more comfortable in cold climates. Hot weather will cause them to bolt (produce seeds too quickly). Even frigid weather of below 50°F will cause the vegetable to bolt when it is young.
- It needs full sun. The bok choy veggie needs full sun to grow properly. It can, however, grow under partial shade when in a warmer region.
- Bok choy needs soil rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. As a heavy feeder, the ground needs to be replenished from time to time, so it doesn’t run out of necessary nutrients.
- Bok choy needs well-drained soil.
- Bok choy grows better in the spacing of 9 per square for baby plants and 4 per yard when you’re looking to harvest full heads. When planting in rows, a spacing of 24 inches between rows and 8 inches apart is ideal.
When to Plant Bok Choy?
The best time to plant the bok choy vegetable is during spring, very close to the predicted last frost date of your area. This is because the plant can bolt easily in the summer and during frost season for young plants. It grows well in autumn and spring. When it comes to growing bok choy indoors, most of these restrictions do not hold. You can plant almost anytime as long as you can manage the weather conditions. If you’re sowing indoors for transplanting then, you should sow two weeks before the predicted last frost date.
How Long to Grow?
It takes about 30 days to grow into a baby bok choy and between 45 to 55 days to grow into a mature plant depending on the variety.
Time to get yourself and the area ready for planting. Preparation involves everything you need to do to make the planting process easier.
- Choose an area that’ll get a good amount of sunlight per day
- Clear the area. You need to clear grasses and debris from the planting area.
- Work in compost or fertilizer a few weeks before planting.
- Loosen the soil by tilling and making ridges.
- Buy your seeds from garden stores and store them properly.
How to Grow Bok Choy? (Growing Tips)
You’re done preparing; it now time to do the actual planting.
For Outdoor Planting
Sow the seed ½ an inch into the ground in autumn or early spring to avoid the hot summer months. Water lightly but frequently as it needs enough water to germinate. Sow them 2 inches apart and thin them once they start sprouting in 8day’s time.
You can also decide to plant baby bok choy directly to the soil instead of planting seeds. Buy them from your garden stores and plant in your garden after the last frost date. Do you know you can make use of raised garden beds filled with soil to grow your bok choy? Well, now, you do.
For Indoors Planting
Because of its delicate weather conditions, a lot of people prefer first to grow the bok choy indoors and allow it to grow leaves before transplanting. To grow this plant indoors, you need a tray with individual cells or blocks to avoid transplant shock.
Transplant the plants outside once it has grown a few leaves, and the temperature at night is doing a consistent >50°F. Remember to harden the soil before transplant by watering less frequently. Water generously after transplanting.
How to Take Care of Bok Choy
Here are a few things you should do to protect your plant and give it a conducive environment to grow.
- Weed regularly: You do not want your garden to be overrun with weeds, do you? By weeding immediately you spot the growth of weeds, you’re keeping your garden clear and also giving your plant space and nutrients it needs.
- Water generously: The stalk of the bok choy plant is filled with water, and for it to produce this sweet vegetable instead of bitter plants, it needs enough water. Enough, not too much as standing water or soggy ground can cause root rot.
- Thin the plants: If you planted the seeds directly to the ground, then you most likely planted them closer than they’re comfortable. Immediately they start sprouting and producing leaves; use scissors to thin some weak plants to provide more space for the others to grow into full heads.
- Apply fertilizer: NPK fertilizers are essential for the growth of this fast-growing veggie. You may decide to make use of compost if you’re practicing organic farming.
Now to the part you’ve been waiting for – harvesting. After planting and caring for your bok choy plant, it’ll be ready for harvesting in 50 days, depending on species.
You can even start enjoying this fast-growing plant before the head fully matures by cutting out the grown outer leaves. Make sure you do not cut out more than 1/3 of the plant.
At maturity, use a pair of scissors to cut the head in one snip. Put your scissors at the base, just above the ground. Do this when the weather is cool to prevent it from wilting quickly.
Take the head out of the sun and into the shade immediately you cut it as the leaves can shrink quickly when left under the sun. Store in a cool, dry place
Pests and Diseases
Here are some of the pests and diseases to look out for in your bok choy garden. Diseases are less common, but you’ll most likely have to deal with a lot of pests.
- Cabbage loopers
- Diamondback moths
- Flea beetles
- Black rot
- Downy mildew
- Turnip mosaic virus
Like I stated earlier, whatever you call bok choy does not matter; its unending uses is what does. That is why growing the veggie in your garden instead of purchasing it whenever you need it will be a wise decision.
Its simple nature and fast-growing capabilities are a welcome bonus.