Pak choy: grow your own at home

Brassica rapa var chinensis

For a versatile, fast maturing and tasty crop, try growing some Asian vegetables in your patch. Not only can you enjoy these succulent veggies stir-fried and steam boiled, but you can also grow smaller varieties to add to your salads.

When can I grow pak choy?

Pak choi and other asian vegetables such as bok choi are a cool season crop, preferring moist conditions and temperatures between 15-20 degrees celsius. Light frosts will be tolerated by most varieties. Generally spring and autumn are ideal.

  • Dry temperate regions:  September to April
  • Temperate & cool regions:  September to March
  • Warm temperate and sub-tropical regions:  March to September
  • Semi-arid and arid regions:  March to October
  • Tropical regions:  March to September

Varieties of pak choy

The four main varieties are:

  • Chinese white-stemmed:  around 30cm high, light to dark green leaves often curling outwards, white leaf stalks that are, wide, shortish and generally flat. Great in stir-fries.
  • Green stemmed (Shanghai):  broad, flattish lighter green and smoother stalks, wide at the base and generally harvested  when 15cm tall. Generally used for salads but also used for stir-fries.
  • Squat Canton type:  short compact variety with wrinkled dark green glossy leaves and white stalks. Sometimes harvested early as Baby Bok Choi and has a good heat tolerance.
  • Soup-spoon type: growing up to 45cm in height, this variety has cupped ladle-like leaves with white stalks.

Seeds or seedlings

Direct sow seeds into your garden or containers, or plant into seedling trays then thin out as they sprout. Transplant after 15 to 30 days. The seeds are only small so be careful not to bury them too deep. They just need a light covering over the top to keep them moist.

Growing tips

  • Pak Choi prefers uniform conditions and full sun except in parts of Australia with very hot summers. High temperatures and long days will induce them to bolt to seed.
  • They are shallow rooted and require frequent watering, especially in hot and windy weather. Mulch and subsurface irrigation can be helpful.
  • Provide wind protection and good air circulation.
  • They like a rich loamy soils with high fertility, organic matter and good drainage.
  • A pH between 6.5 and 7 is ideal. They are sensitive to pH below 6, so if pH is low add agricultural lime (at least 4 weeks before sowing).
  • Plants are best grown quickly for great flavour and texture. This can be helped along by applying seaweed solution at the time of planting, and fortnightly applications of compost or worm tea.

Pests and diseases

Pak choi can suffer from clubroot, down mildew, and be effected by aphids, caterpillars, slugs and snails. Remember that it’s common to get a few holes from insects, and it won’t effect the taste. If slugs and snails are becoming a significant pest consider trying coffee grounds or a beer trap. For aphids and caterpillars you could make a basic soap spray but it’s best to avoid this unless there are large numbers of pests.

Companion planting

Pak choi make great companion plants with beans, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cucumber, marjoram, peas and strawberries.

Harvesting and storage

Your pak choi will grow in no time at all, and will be delicious freshly harvested from your garden. They will usually take around 35 to 55 days. Harvest the number of plants you need for the day by cutting them at the base with a knife, or pulling them out then trimming off the roots. It’s best to do this in a cool part of the day when the leaves are well hydrated. Any left overs can be kept in the fridge in a container with a damp tea towel over the top.

Where can I buy seeds?

Go to your local nursery or search for seed stores online. Try to buy seeds that have been grown in Australia. You could also join a local savers group.

Enjoy munching on your greens. Have you found a favourite variety? I’m hooked on the purple varieties at the moment.

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