Bok choy is known by other names such as Chinese white cabbage, pak choy, pak choi, and white mustard cabbage. But no matter what you call it, bok choy is an easy-to-grow vegetable that’s a must-have for the stir-fry garden. The dark tender leaves of this Chinese cabbage relative grow in bunches on white stalks with a mild flavor perfect for many Asian fusion recipes.
How to Grow Bok Choy
When planting bok choy get started in early spring while the weather is still cool. Plants can be started from seed or purchased as transplants for faster growth. Both are available at the Garden Center.
Some varieties can be harvested in less than 50 days. Baby varieties, like Baby Green Fortune, mature in about 45 days and grow to just 6 inches tall. These smaller varieties can grow well in a container garden, too.
- Bok choy is a cool-season cabbage relative that’s most often planted in spring but can be planted as a fall crop, too. Since Colorado is prone to hot summers, locate the planting bed in a sunny to semi-shady spot. A little shade during summer will help keep plants from going to seed before they’re ready to harvest.
- Amend the soil so it’s high in organic matter, loose and well-drained. Plan for regular watering with either drip irrigation or a soaker hose setup.
- Bok choy can be planted from seed or transplants and moved into the garden when the threat of frost has passed. Soil temperatures should be between 55-65 degrees. If plants are planted while weather is still cool (around 50 degrees), plants may bolt or go to seed prematurely.
- Buy transplants or start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last average frost date. When the weather has warmed, plant the transplants in the garden about 6-10 inches apart, depending on the bok choy variety (baby bok choy grow to only 6 inches tall), in rows at least 18 inches apart.
- When planting from transplants, be sure to slowly acclimate plants to the outdoors. This hardening off will help reduce transplant shock that may cause plants to bolt.
- If direct seeding in the garden, plant bok choy seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep, 1 inch apart. Rows need to be at least 18 inches apart. As plants start to grow, you’ll want to thin them to their 6 to 10-inch spacing. Keep the thinnings to use fresh in early spring salads.
- A layer of organic mulch placed around plants will reduce weeds and help maintain soil moisture.
- After planting, use floating row cover cloth to protect the leaves from insects, like flea beetles, cabbageworms and aphids. Be sure cover cloth is securely tied down so insects can’t find their way inside.
- Keep up good watering so the soil stays moist, but not too wet. If the soil was amended before planting, plants may not need additional fertilizer; however, you can add a well-balanced fertilizer to give plants a boost after thinning.
- Bok choy is a plant that is prone to bolting, so protect plants from extreme cold, extreme heat or sunshine, and drying out.
- Harvest the bok choy before the weather turns hot. If plants start to go to seed early, harvest right away or the leaves will turn bitter.
- The leaves can be cut from the outer layers while stems are still small and tender or wait for the plant to grow to about 8-12 inches tall and use a sharp knife to cut at ground level.
- Wash and store the leaves in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible. Tear fresh leaves into green salads, chop and add to stir-fry dishes or use as a cooked vegetable side dish.
Plant bok choy with these companions:
- Bush beans
- Garlic and onions
Avoid planting near tomatoes and strawberries.
Materials for Success
- Soil thermometer
- Soaker hose or drip irrigation
- High-quality compost and manure
- Organic mulch, such as straw
- Well-balanced fertilizer
- Small scissors or knife for harvesting
To learn more about growing artichokes or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.