Don’t worry, bok choy planting is an extremely easy task. With the correct information and conditions, bok choy can bloom into a stunning plant. Besides the aesthetic, it is also highly nutritious and a rich source of vitamins like A, C, K, and folate. Since it is a low-calorie food item, one can smoothly add it to their diet for a quick crunchy bite.
Convinced yet to grow this amazing plant in your own backyard? Read further to know essential information about bok choy. From bok choy planting to caring for the plant, this article is the ultimate answer to all your questions.
Bok Choy: Plant Profile
Bok choy (Brassica rapa) is a biennial vegetable, native to China. Also famous by other names like Chinese cabbage, pak choi, pak choy, and bok choi, this cool-season plant is mainly used for culinary purposes. It is found in a wide variety of recipes including soups, salads, stir-fries, among many others.
The leaf or the stalk, both can be either cooked or eaten raw to give you a delicious and mildly acidic flavor. To give a better idea of the flavor, one might even say that it lies between that of cabbage and chard.
By the looks of it, bok choy has a crisp and smooth greenish-white colored stalk which supports the leaves of this plant. The beautiful green or purple leaves arch outwards to bring more attention to the sweet, juicy center.
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Bok Choy Planting
This cruciferous plant can be grown in two ways – by seed or by transplanting. They are usually planted in early spring. This way they are ready by spring to early summer for harvest. Many people often prefer to harvest it in the fall season, in which case they should be planted between mid to late summer.
How to grow Bok Choy indoors:
- Step 1: Prepare a container of about 6 inches deep for the dwarf variety, and 8-10 inches deep for a full-sized bok choy plant.
- Step 2: After getting good-quality seeds from a nursery, sow them ¼ to ½ inch deep in well-drained and fertile soil.
- Step 3: Space them at least 1-2 inches apart.
- Step 4: Compost can be added as per the requirement of the soil.
- Step 5: Place the container in a sunny area.
- Step 6: The seeds will ideally start to germinate in a week.
- Step 7: Once the seedlings are about 2 inches high, they are ready to be transplanted.
How to grow Bok Choy outdoors:
- Step 1: Choose a sunny spot in the backyard or garden for planting the seeds.
- Step 2: Sow the seeds ¼ inches deep into the soil, with approximately 2 inches between every seed.
- Step 3: The soil should be organic and well-drained, and the seeded area should be kept moist.
- Step 4: Add about an inch of compost and smooth it out with a rake.
- Bonus tip: Check out these amazing leaf rakes.
- Step 5: Germination should start in approximately a week.
- Step 6: When the seedlings reach up to 4 inches in height, thin them to 6 – 10 inches apart.
How to transplant Bok Choy:
- Make sure to carry out transplantation under fully sunny conditions.
- Transplanting can be done after nighttime temperatures are sure to stay over 50℉. Colder temperatures can lead to bolting.
- Seedlings should be placed in well-drained, organic soil with plenty of compost.
How to Grow Bok Choy: Basic Requirements
Once you are done with bok choy planting, there are still certain things to consider. This section discusses how to grow bok choy in terms of its soil, water, light, temperature, and fertilizer requirements.
1. Planting Area
The area chosen for bok choy planting should be free of any other cruciferous plants. Moreover, the spot should not even have a close history of growing other cruciferous members.
This is because members of this family can easily transfer certain pests to each other which can lead to extensive plant damage. If the spot was used for growing other cruciferous plants earlier, the bacteria or pests may be still present in the soil.
They can catch on to the roots of bok choy and ultimately ruin your bok choy planting. Thus, it would be wise to practice crop rotation to avoid planting similar vegetables year after year.
This cruciferous vegetable thrives in well-drained, organically rich, and slightly acidic to neutral soil. The pH level of the soil should be between 6.5 to 7.0. However, a range of 6.0 to 7.5 would also do.
If the soil is rich or you have added compost, there is no need for additional nutrients. Nevertheless, in case the leaves start turning yellow or the growth seems stunted, consider adding some high-quality nitrogen fertilizer.
The soil should not be waterlogged, ever. It should always be slightly damp and free of weeds since they fight the nutrients. Mulching 1 – 2 inches away from the base of the plant should help in retaining moisture while keeping weeds away.
Bok choy is a biennial, cool-season vegetable that is usually grown as an annual. It flourishes between USDA hardiness zones 2 to 11.
Though it can withstand slight variations in temperature towards the hotter and cooler sides, it cannot withstand extremes like a full frost or drought conditions. There are certain varieties available that can thrive in warmer conditions.
If temperatures drop too much, it can cause bok choy to bolt. Bolting is when the bok choy plant experiences a sudden change in its environment, which can lead to early flowering. This usually happens when temperatures fall below 55℉ during the night. Remember, the ideal temperature for bok choy planting is between 55 and 70℉.
Bok choy planting thrives in the sun, yes, but not too much. It blooms best in full sun and part shade. Approximately 3 to 5 hours of direct sunlight is considered best for these leafy greens. In case a slightly shady area is not available, you can attach a tarp over the bok choy planting base.
These vegetables appreciate consistency with watering. Remember to not waterlog or oversaturate the soil. Keep it damp.
Water the base of the plants and avoid getting the leaves wet. Wet leaves rot easily thus ruining the plant. You can use various garden tools like sprinklers or a hose to do this job. Just make sure the soil is not left completely dry.
How to Harvest Bok Choy
The time taken for bok choy to mature, and also its final height completely relies on the kind of bok choy planted. Ideally, a standard variety takes around 45 days to mature and can grow up to a height of 12 – 24 inches. Whereas the baby bok choy takes around a month to fully bloom and grows under 10 inches. Also, when in full bloom, bok choy looks very similar to celery.
Technically, bok choy can be harvested as soon as you feel that usable leaves have grown. However, immediately harvest the plant if it starts to bolt. Bolting can mess with the entirety of the plant leaving nothing for harvest.
Immature, tender leaves cut down while thinning, are sweet to taste and can be used in salads. Other than that, there are two ways to harvest bok choy:
- Cut the entire plant in one snip from right above the soil line.
- Cut the older leaves from 1 inch above ground level and leave the inner tender leaves intact. This will allow the growth to continue.
Only harvest a usable amount, if possible. This is because bok choy can be difficult to preserve and also has a shorter shelf life unless dehydrated or pickled.
Tips to Boost Bok Choy Harvest
- Practice regular weeding and mulching. This can allow the bok choy plant to absorb as many nutrients from the soil as possible while also preventing moisture loss.
- If the weather has been dry for a while, regularly water the plant to avoid bolting. During monsoons, do not water it until the soil is dry.
- Extend the harvest season by planting a new batch every two weeks. Remember to stop right before summer since hot weather can cause quicker seeding.
- Practice companion planting to improve the quality of yield. Common companion plants beneficial for bok choy are beets, bush beans, and carrots among others. Refer to this companion planting guide for more information.
- Harvest the plant by hand during the cooler part of the day. Again, snip it right above the soil line. This helps with moisture retention and might allow more leaves to grow in the same spot.
Common Pests and Diseases (Bok Choy Planting)
However beautiful, nutritious, and amazing this plant is, it is still very much susceptible to pests and diseases. Although if proper care is taken, you might be able to manage them or maybe even completely avoid them!
- Alternaria Leaf Spot
Alternaria leaf spot is a fungal disease that shows itself on the bok choy leaves as black, tan, or grey spots with yellowish concentric circles. Abrasions on the leaves may turn brittle and start to crack. They might even show on the stem.
Prevent this disease by buying a germ-free seed from a reliable source. If the plant is already affected, consider appropriate fungicide application along with crop rotation.
- Black Rot
Symptoms of black rot include a charred appearance of the leaves. Yellow-colored irregular abrasions are seen along the edges of the leaves which slowly spread towards the center. This abrasion often forms a V-shape. The bacteria that causes this is spread due to splashing water on leaves and also warm, humid conditions can lead to its growth.
Black rot can be prevented by practicing proper sanitation and hygiene in the garden. Avoid planting cruciferous vegetables consecutively and avoid cruciferous weed species. The latter often preserves bacteria.
Clubroot can cause yellowish leaves that often wilt during the day and arch up slightly during nighttime. The roots can distort and swell causing stunted growth of the plant.
Unfortunately, there is no effective control method to fix this fungal disease. The only methods available are very costly. Once in the soil, it can last for a very long time and crop rotation is ineffective as well. Although clubroot can mainly be prevented by purchasing only certified seeds and transplanting only from disinfected fields.
Other common fungal and bacterial diseases include soft rot, downy mildew, white leaf spot, among many others. Check out this website to know more about diseases and disorders affecting bok choy and other Asian vegetables.
- Cabbage Looper
Cabbage loopers are small caterpillars with white lines along the sides of their body. They eat in small holes from the leaf and lay white or green eggs on the bottom surface of the leaf, close to the leaf margin.
The larvae can be handpicked if it turns too problematic. Other ways to rectify this include the application of a biological pesticide called Bacillus thuringiensis. This natural enemy feeds on the younger larvae of cabbage loopers. Remember, the application of chemical sprays should be done extremely carefully and only if it is crucial.
- Diamondback Moth
The older larvae of this pest usually only stay on the bottom area of the leaf where they cause shotholes. The younger ones feed between upper and lower surfaces. Their legs at the rear end form a characteristic V-shape and they hang from silk threads if any disturbance is caused to the leaf.
Diamondback moths too can be treated with the natural pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis. Chemical insecticides should only be used if the leaf tips are being affected.
Other common pests include cabbage maggots, flea beetles, aphids, among many others.
This incredible plant checks all the boxes as the perfect contender in your backyard, so go ahead and plant bok choy with the help of this guide.
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