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Learning the basics of growing Pak Choi is a great way to make your vegetable garden more enjoyable. It can integrate an oriental touch once the vegetable growing season comes.
The Pak Choi is distinguishable because of its plump body and glossy leaves. It is even eaten raw. This peppery crop can also provide a more exotic taste to your soups, salads, stir-fries, steamed dishes, and other recipes right after harvest.
Fortunately, it is versatile and easy to grow, and you will learn about making it a part of your plant collection through this article.
Quick Facts About the Pak Choi
- Botanical name: Brassica Rapa var. Chinensis
- Common name/s: Chinese cabbage, Bok choy, Pac Choi, Pac choy, Bok Choi
- Type of plant: Biennial vegetable – It is also often grown as an annual.
- Family: Chinese brassica
- Type of soil and ideal soil pH level: Well-drained and rich; should be a bit acidic to neutral (around 6.5 to 7.0 pH level
- Sun exposure: Partial shade, full sun
- Size: 6 to 24 inches tall; 6 to 18 inches spread
- Hardiness zones: USDA zones 2 to 11
- Bloom time: Summer season
Pak Choi (Bok Choy) Described
Also famous for its other names, Chinese cabbage, and Bok choy, Pak Choi can be defined as a biennial, cool-season vegetable. In most cases, this vegetable is ready to harvest and consumption after just one year of growth.
Among the distinguishable features of this plant are its crisp stalks with tender and smooth leaves surrounding them. The vegetable also comes with a flavor that may remind you of the chard and cabbage.
This plant also features an upright head and outward flaring leaves. You will also notice the green or white stalks that often resemble non-stringy and smooth celery.
Another thing that can describe the look of the Pak Choi is the growth of flower stalks from the central part of the plant. It also features a 4-petal cross in yellow that is common among those plants that belong to the cruciferous family.
The Pak choy is also one of those vegetables that grow really fast, whether you decide to grow it from nursery seedlings or their actual seeds. You can plant this fast-growing vegetable during the early spring if you want to be capable of harvesting Pak Choi during the spring to early summer.
You can also harvest this vegetable in the middle to late fall if you plant it during the early fall and late summer. It is also possible for you to lengthen the harvest period through succession planting every few weeks.
When Should You Plant Pak Choi or Chinese Cabbage?
As you may already know by now, Pak Choi or Bok choy is a rapidly growing veggie that you can often plant from seeds. You may choose to plant seeds of Bok choy into your garden right after the passing of the dangers of frost.
You may also plant Bok choy seeds indoors, specifically around four weeks before the coming of the last frost. It is also possible to purchase nursery seedlings that you can grow in your garden after the passing of the harsh effects of the last frost.
It is crucial to note that learning the perfect time to plant the Bok choy may require patience and practice so that you can lower the risk of the seeds setting during the first season. Note that this plant tends to bolt or send up its flower stalks during extremely warm or hot weather.
However, it also tends to bolt prematurely if you expose it to an environment with temperatures lower than 50 degrees at a time when the plant is still too young. If you live in a place that often experiences cool springs that also tend to change into warm temperatures fast, it helps to begin seeds indoors.
It would help if you then transplanted the Bok choy seedlings outdoors after the passing of every danger associated with the last frost date. It is also possible to prevent the Bok choy from bolting if you decide to plant it during either the early fall or the late summer. The reason is that both seasons have steady temperatures.
Ideal Planting Location
The most suitable planting site or location for this plant is fertile, rich, and well-draining soil. It should be a place that gives rain an easier time saturating the ground. Pick an area that receives full sunlight most of the day, which is even more critical for a fall crop.
If you have a spring crop, you should remember that growing it is tricky since any temperature change may cause the plant to bolt. In this case, make sure that you pick a location that allows the crop to receive around 3 to 5 hours of part shade and full sun.
You may also take advantage of container growth, which is ideal if your Bok choy only composes a small garden.
Growing Pak Choi from Seeds
Pak Choi can germinate and develop fast, provided you grow it in compost or soil that is rich and moisture-retentive. Here’s how you can grow it from seeds.
Sow the seed one-half-inch deep
Sow the Pak Choi seed one-half-inch or 1cm deep in seed trays. You can also do so in modules consisting of moist compost. You can then wait for the seeds to germinate.
Fortunately, the seed quickly germinates, taking only 5 to 7 days. After germination, thin them out to one for each module. Retain the moisture. Transplant the seedlings outdoors after several weeks, specifically upon reaching around two inches tall.
Plant the seedlings
Water sufficiently. Use a dibber to make planting holes, then plant the seedlings at a minimum distance of 10 inches each. Ensure that you gently firmed in the seedlings.
After planting in a vegetable border or raised garden bed, it is advisable to work on retaining moisture using light mulch. Keep on watering the area to prevent bolting. Another important thing to do is to use horticultural fleece to cover the crop. This is a big help in protecting it from flea beetles and other pests.
Prepare the ground
It would be best to broadcast Pak Choi seeds one-half-inch deep into the moist soil. Do this if you notice that the temperature is warm enough that it can handle direct sowing. You can use a garden rake for this step.
You also have to provide a space of around 10 to 14 inches between each seed. As a guide, make the baby leaves or dwarf types closer while the mature bulbs or larger breeds should have more significant space in between.
After that, cover the seeds with only a thin layer of soil before watering them adequately. Wait for at least three weeks and thin. Sow in batches continuously until the fall season arrives. Protect the plants from pests by covering them with fleece.
Caring for Pak Choi
To give your growing Pak Choi proper care, make sure that your focus is on the following areas:
Keep in mind how important full sunlight is for the growth of your Bok Choi plants. However, it can still tolerate or withstand part shade. The requirement is around 6-hour direct sun daily.
Use well-draining and fertile soil that has been enriched using organic matter. It grows well in slightly acidic soil with a soil level pH range of 6.5 to 7.0.
Humidity and Temperature
Pak Choi is capable of growing as an annual in each hardiness zone found in the US. Expect it to do even better in places with cool weather. Avoid exposing the plant to hot and dry conditions, which may only cause its premature bolting.
The ideal temperature for the plant’s growth is around 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, though it can also survive at approximately 30 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. There are also instances when it can withstand light frost and the temperature less than 30 degrees F.
This plant thrives well when grown and cultivated in soil conditions that are moist but not soggy. Drought may result in the seed bolting prematurely. When the dry fall season comes, plants need constant watering.
As a guide, provide this Chinese cabbage plant with around one inch of water per week so the moisture will remain between each watering.
Provide the soil with organic fertilizer and compost to grow Pak Choi. Note that this particular plant is a heavy feeder, so it is necessary to nourish the soil with high amounts of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium.
Make sure that you look for a quality nitrogen-rich fertilizer. However, it is crucial to do organic feeding during the planting period. Avoid using chemical fertilizers during the growth period.
Potential Pests and Problems
To grow Pak Choi healthily and adequately, watch out for the presence of insects, pests and diseases, or any other problems that may hamper it. The most common ones are the following:
Cabbage Root Fly
Some signs to watch out for indicating cabbage root fly infestations are tiny maggots or flies and small holes or tunnels found in the roots. You can protect the plants by putting around 4 inches around every stem. There should also be a slit to secure it in place.
The powdery mildew comes from powdery dust found over the leaf’s surface. The presence of this problem may cause the inner leaves to die, become stunted, and shrivel. Keep the soil moist to prevent the pest from invading the plant.
Pak Choi seedlings are prone to get infested by flea beetle. You can detect the presence of flea beetle by checking the leaves for brown parts showing the damage and tiny holes. Get rid of this pest using a protective fleece to grow Pak Choi. The soil should be moist, too.
Other Pests and Diseases
While this plant is not affected by most common Brassica ailments, it can still get infested by other insects and pests, including cabbage worms and cabbage loopers, whiteflies, and aphids.
Protect outdoor plants from these pets with the help of a garden fabric or a row cover. This can lessen the damage caused by the pests. You can also cover this potted plant using netting to protect it from harmful insects.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you grow Pak Choi (baby Bok choy) successfully?
For you to be able to grow Pak Choi, you have to provide it with the right conditions that support its growth. For instance, if the crops are still young and in the stage of development, keep them in partial shade. Provide them with 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight, too.
Young plants must also be in well-draining, sandy, loamy soil. You also have a higher chance of growing Bok choy successfully if you cultivate them in moist and cool conditions, similar to what most Brassicas love.
Is Pak Choi easy to grow?
Yes. It is so easy to grow that you can begin to harvest it after just a month or so of sowing it. You can then expect the harvested crop to feed you for a substantial amount of time during the year you harvested it.
Does Bok choy or Pak Choi grow back after cutting?
Yes. It is natural for this plant to regrow even after you cut and harvest it.
Is Pak Choi different from Napa cabbage?
Both Pak Choi and Napa cabbage are often confused with each other because the two are types of Chinese cabbage and belong to the cabbage family. Each one has long, fibrous, and coarse dark green leaves. Both also appear the same.
Despite being part of the same family, the two still differ because Pak Choi has more flavor than Napa. It is also bitter. On the other hand, Napa cabbage grows more significantly and is crispier than Pak Choi.
Since growing Pak Choi or Chinese cabbage is an easy and quick process, making it a part of your garden is a good idea. Start growing Bok choy now, and you will surely be able to enjoy a bountiful harvest that will feed you for a long time.
You will enjoy using it as part of the ingredients of your stir-fries (stir-fried dishes), salads, and soups, among many others. It is also versatile in that you can have it eaten fresh or raw without worrying about getting harmed.