Bok Choy Fall Planting: A Guide To Growing Bok Choy In The Fall
By: Amy Grant
Love leafy green, nutrient rich (and low calorie!) bok choy in your stir fries? The good news is growing your own bok choy in the fall is easy and low maintenance. Late season bok choy thrives in the cooler temperatures of autumn as long as you know when to plant fall bok choy in a timely manner before colder temperatures arrive. When should you start autumn bok choy? Read on to find out about bok choy fall planting times and growing information.
About Late Season Bok Choy
Bok choy, also known as pak choy and various spellings of the two, is a member of the Brassicaceae family, or cool season cabbage family. Growing bok choy in the fall is ideal because it thrives in cooler temperatures.
Consider companion planting your autumn grown bok choy with other cool season veggies such as other greens like:
- Swiss chard
- Asian greens
The plants also do well with the following:
- Broccoli rabe
When to Plant Fall Bok Choy
Baby varieties of bok choy are ready to harvest in around 30 days, while larger varieties are ready 4-6 weeks from sowing. For a fall harvest, direct sow bok choy in the mid-to late summer to as late as a few weeks before your first average frost in the fall if you provide the plants with protection such as a cold frame.
For bok choy fall planting, direct sow ½ inch (1 cm.) deep in rows that are 18-30 inches (46-76 cm.) apart. Thin the seedlings to between 6-12 inches (15-30 cm.) apart. You may also set transplants out at 6- to 12-inch (15-30 cm.) spacings 4-6 weeks prior to the first frost in your area.
Mulch fall crops heavily and keep them consistently moist to avoid premature bolting. In regions with warmer temperatures, plant bok choy in partial sun.
Remove weeds from around the plants and till the soil gently to increase oxygen levels at the roots. The wide, tender leaves of bok choy scream “dinner!” to soft bodied pests such as snails and slugs. Use an organic slug bait to prevent damage to the delicate leaves.
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Pak Choi (Bok Choy) Types and Varieties
Bok choy is divided into four categories, based on the appearance: White Stemmed bok choy, Green Stemmed bok choy, Soup Spoon bok choy, and Canton (Dwarf) bok choy.
Below you can see the information only on White-stemmed and Green-stemmed bok choy as both the Soup Spoon and Canton bok choy come under White-Stemmed and Green-Stemmed bok choy.
White-Stemmed Bok Choy
White-stemmed bok choy varieties are usually large, around 12-15 inches and harvested at full size. However, you can harvest them at a young stage as well. They are more popularly used in stir-fries and soups, but can also be used in salads.
Green-Stemmed Bok Choy
Green-stemmed bok choy (also known as Shanghai bok choi) varieties are smaller in size, and usually do not grow above 10 inches tall. Some of the green-stemmed varieties are harvested young when they are 6 inches tall and sold as baby bok choi. They have thin, tender leaves and pale to green petioles (stalk). This type of bok choy is more suitable for salads and steaming.
In general, bok choy needs soil that is rich in organic matter with an ideal pH of 6.5 to 7.0. When preparing your garden, work in a good amount of compost and organic fertilizer. The plants are heavy feeders which means that they need a lot of nutrients. They need large amounts of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Keep your garden well weeded so that weeds aren’t competing for the same nutrients as your plants.
If you are growing more than one row of bok choy, your rows should be 18 to 30 inches apart. Use row covers to keep pests such cabbage worms, flea beetles, aphids and other pests common to brassicas away from your plants.
Be sure to water your plants regularly. They will bolt if they start to dry out.
Space your rows 18 to 30 inches apart.
I live in American Samoa, where the weather is either hot and sunny or cool and rainy. I want to start a vegetable garden but am not sure what would be good for our weather. I want cucumbers, tomatoes, bok choi, green onions etc…what would you recommend.
Hi Crystal, I don’t know how to garden in such a tropical climate. The only thing I could suggest is trying a few things at a time and take notes.
Understand where you live.
Firstly, it is an isolated island. Out of fear of (potentially) invasive species and the ecological havoc/extinctions they cause, many plants that are not already on the island will likely be illegal to import. Try to get a copy of the regulations, so you know what is legal. I don’t live there and can’t help much.
Secondly, you don’t even have a cool season as the author(s) of this article understand one. Learn to eat what grows in your climate, not cool season crops from northern Eurasia which are almost guaranteed to die. I will attempt to suggest some substitute crops, but remember to check their legal status:
For tomatoes, you might succeed with the Everglades Landrace (a feral cherry/currant tomato), but also consider tamarillos (Cyphomandra betacea, aka “tree tomatoes”). Instead of cucumbers, try Coccinia grandis, chayote, or even okra. Instead of green onions, try society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea), though southern strains of garlic chives and wild onions native to South Texas have a fighting chance of success. Be aware that onion seed loses viability quickly. The young foliage of Toona sinensis (fragrant spring tree, Chinese mahogany) is supposed to be garlicky when stir fried. I don’t know if the related, but more tropical “Spanish” (actually Cuban) cedar (Cedrela odorata I think) is edible or not. There are of course many tropical spices to perk up foods, just not often oniony. Personally I would abandon the whole cabbage clan, though Ethiopian kale and some mustard greens succeed in hot places. Moringa trees (coppice them to keep them in harvestable reach and because these things grow very fast and have quite week, brittle wood) are a better choice. The raw leaves taste like arugula, but become very neutral and palatable cooked. Cat’s whiskers or African cabbage (Cleome gynandra) should also work–cook it like mustard greens.
Other vegetables: Malabar spinach (Basella alba / rubra–watch for invasiveness), Sissoo or Brazilian Spinach (a *sterile* form of Alternathera), Lagos spinach (a type of Celosia boil with a change of water as it has lots of tannin), Tahitian spinach (Abelmoschus manihot), Chaya / Mayan tree spinach (Cnidoscolus chayamansa)–must be thoroughly cooked because it is related to cassava and is cyanogenic (don’t use aluminum or cast iron pots either), roselle (Hibiscus sabhariffa) and false roselle (Hibiscus acetosella)–these two are sorrel substitutes, water lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and water spinach / kampong (Ipomoea aquatica) if they are legal (non native aquatics can spread real fast), and of course the Polynesian staple: taro. Yes, taro corms are the starch/calorie staple, but the leaves are also edible IF thoroughly cooked.
Talk to your neighbors! What do they grow?