How To Grow Bok Choy (Plant, Care, And Harvest)


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Have you wondered how to grow bok choy? It’s a lot easier then you might think!

Bok choy is a quick-growing vegetable with many uses.

Commonly used in stir-fries it’s also a great addition to salads.

This cold-hardy and fast-growing Asian vegetable is perfect for growing in your spring and fall gardens.

How To Grow Bok Choy text overlaid on a close up photo of bok choy on a table

It’s one that I consider a staple in our garden and once you start growing your own you’ll understand why, it’s just so versatile to cook with.

What Is Bok Choy?

Bok choy is a Chinese vegetable sometimes also called pak choi is also in the brassicaceae family.

This biennial plant is normally grown as an annual unless you are wanting to produce seeds. It thrives in cool temperatures between 55 and 70 F (12.7 and 21.1 C).

Choy is used in many Asian recipes but you can also use baby bok choy as a spinach substitute in any of your favorite recipes.

How To Grow Bok Choy

Freshly harvested bok choy plants.
Freshly harvested bok choy plants.

Planting

Start bok choy seeds indoors by seed 4 to 5 weeks before your last frost date.

Plant the seeds 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) deep in the plant cells and keep them watered and fertilized.

You can harden the seedlings off and plant them outside in your garden once nighttime temperatures stay above 50 F (10 C).

If these plants are exposed to temperatures below 50 F (10 C) for long they will think that winter is coming and start to bolt early.

If you are direct seeding in your garden wait until 1 to 2 weeks before your last frost date.

Plant the seeds 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) deep and 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart in your garden.

Once the seedlings have grown to be a few inches tall thin them down to being 6 inches (15.24 cm) apart if you are growing full-sized plants. If you are picking the outer baby leaves more often then you can space the plants closer together.

Fall plantings of bok choy are easier because the plants grow well in cool weather and you don’t normally get the spikes of hot weather that cause it to bolt early.

Growing Tips

Lighting

Bok choy grows best in part shade but does need 3 to 5 hours of sunlight each day.

If your garden is in full sun you can still grow it but production will be longer if you can give it some shade. If you don’t have natural shade in your yard try using shade cloth to keep the growing area sheltered from the hot sun.

Watering

Like most greens choy loves to grow in moist, cool soil.

To help keep the soil evenly moist try mulching with straw, shredded leaves, or wood chips.

If you haven’t received enough rainfall make sure to water well. Bok choy needs at least 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water per week. Drought conditions can cause the plants to bolt early.

Fertilizer

Like most greens, these plants are heavy feeders. Before planting add 1 to 2 inches (2.54 to 5.08 cm) of good quality compost to your vegetable garden.

If your garden needs extra amendments you can also add your favorite organic fertilizers at planting time.

Harvesting

Baby bok choy leaves are a perfect substitute for spinach.
Baby bok choy leaves are a perfect substitute for spinach.

Depending on the growing conditions and variety you have chosen bok choy can be ready to harvest in 45 to 60 days for full-sized plants.

The finished size will depend on the variety that you are growing.

Plant sizes can range from 12 to 24 inches (30 to 61 cm) in length. Baby bok choy varieties will be 10 inches (25 cm) or less normally.

When ready simply slice the plants off with a sharp knife at soil level.

However, if you want to get more food for your growing space you can harvest the outer leaves instead.

Once the plants are about 3 weeks old start picking off the larger outer leaves, leaving the smaller ones to keep growing.

With this method of harvesting, you can be picking lots of fresh bok choy leaves for weeks from a small planting.

Pests

Flea Beetles

These tiny beetles are a common pest for spring vegetables. You’ll notice the damage as many tiny holes on the leaves.

Learn more about controlling flea beetles.

Cabbage Worms

Cabbage worms are a common pest to plants in the brassica family and that includes bok choy. You’ll start to notice small white butterflies around your plants laying eggs on the leaves.

Not long after you’ll start having damage from caterpillars.

Learn how to control the butterfly and worms.

Cabbage Loopers

Cabbage loopers are similar to cabbage worms but look like an inchworm and wiggle as they crawl. This pest can cause a lot of damage quickly.

Learn more about controlling cabbage loopers.

Slugs

Slugs are a common garden pest just about everywhere. They can eat holes in the leaves and stems.

While they don’t normally wipe mature plants out they do make the leaves look undesirable for eating or selling.

Learn more about controlling slugs in your garden.

Aphids

These sap-sucking insects are very tiny but cause a lot of damage to plants.

The can be found on the undersides of the leaves most of the time, sucking the plant juices.

Learn more about controlling aphids naturally.

Growing Time
45 days

Total Time
45 days

Difficulty
Easy

Instructions

  1. Select an area of your garden that gets part shade if possible. Bok Choy likes 3 to 5 hours of sunlight each day for the best growth.
  2. Before planting add 1-2 inches (2.54-5.08 cm) of compost to your garden.
  3. Start bok choy by seed indoors 4 to 5 weeks before your last frost date. Plant seeds 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) deep in cell packs and keep them in a bright window or under lights. Until nighttime temperatures stay above 50 F (10 C) then you can harden off the seedlings and transplant them into your garden.
  4. To direct seed in the garden wait until 1-2 weeks before your last frost date. Then plant seeds 1/4 inch (6.35 mm) deep and 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart.
  5. Keep the soil moist and provide 1 inch (2.54 cm) of water each week. Mulch to help suppress weeds and reduce watering.
  6. Once the seedlings have grown about 2-3 inches tall thin the plants to be 6 inches  (15.24 cm) apart for full-sized plants. If you are growing them for baby leaves the plants can be grown closer.
  7. Start harvesting the outer leaves when the plants are 3 weeks old. For a full-sized head wait to harvest until 45-60 days according to your seed package, then cut off at soil level.

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