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The Seed Program
Growing Hints

This is one of the many growing hints that are available as a bonus with a registered copy of The Seed Program.

Chinese Cabbage

Chinese cabbage, also known as pak choy or bok choy, is an easy to grow cool weather green. It is related to cabbage, but not as closely related as the other popular brassicas: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc. The flavor is somewhat similar to cabbage, but very much milder. The taste is so mild, in fact, that chinese cabbage can easily be used in salads, especially when harvested in cool weather.

Chinese cabbage can be grown in either the spring or the fall in cold climates, or over the winter in mild ones. The heads mature more quickly than regular cabbage, but the taste of the leaves can become bitter once the weather heats up. In areas where spring is brief and the heat of summer arrives early, a fall planting is a better choice.

Chinese cabbage plants can be started indoors and transplanted for an early crop, or sown directly in the garden. The young plants are sturdy and fast growing, but need to be cultivated to eliminate weeds. Once the plants are a few inches high, it is very helpful to place a mulch around them to prevent weeds and provide the plants with the cool moist conditions they like best.

Chinese cabbage is not as prone to most cabbage family diseases as other related crops, but it is still a good idea to rotate your planting: avoid planting chinese cabbage where other brassicas have been grown in the past two or three years.

Cabbage worms (cabbage loopers or imported cabbage worms) and flea beetles can be more of a problem with chinese cabbage. Spraying or dusting with BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) will help with the worms. Covering the plants with floating row cover will safely eliminate both pests. Row covers may also extend the harvest by a few weeks in early winter.

Individual leaves can be picked once the plants are three or four inches high. Entire heads can be harvested any time after they have begun to form, and usually reach full size in 60 to 75 days. Some varieties don't form heads at all. Use chinese cabbage fresh in salads, as cooked greens, in soups or in stir fries. It can be used in place of regular cabbage in most recipes, but the texture is somewhat more delicate and a shorter cooking time may be required.

The first few frosts in fall do not damage chinese cabbage at all, but you will want to pull most of your plants before the heavy freezes arrive. They will store for a few weeks in the refrigerator. It is said that mature heads will keep for up to two months if packed in straw and buried or placed in a cool cellar.

For more crops, more complete gardening information, a garden journal and a planting schedule you can customize for your region, purchase The Seed Program!

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