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Balcony garden notes: Bok Choi

About Bok Choi

I probably had tasted this vegetable mixed into stir fries prior to this, but the first time I remember knowingly trying Bok Choi was one summer visiting my Granddaddy’s house.  We came across it at the grocery store, and I mentioned I’d never tried it.  My Dad said he liked it, and so Granddaddy said “let’s try some, then!” and threw a couple heads of it in the basket.  Granddaddy was prone to buying a lot of anything he liked!

So I remember trying it raw and being very impressed with the mix of sweet, crisp, and mildly spicy. And once I knew what to recognize, I realized I liked it very much cooked into stir fries and such.

I later learned that the spelling is quite variable, which is not surprising as it comes from Asia where the languages don’t tend to use our characters.  I’ve seen it spelled Bok/Pak/Pac Choy/Choi.

Food sites describe it as “nutrient rich and low calorie”, which seems valuable.


Plant family:  Brassicas (Cool Season Cabbage family)

Season and Growing conditions

Cool season – can tolerate light frost, may actually improve flavor.  Should be able to do spring and fall crops, though excess cold or heat can trigger early bolting.
Plants want moderate to full sun (6+hours per day) though part-shade may help prevent bolting in hot conditions.

Can be successfully grown in a hydroponic setup.

Wants rich soil (leafy plants want nitrogen) with very good drainage to prevent the fleshy stalks from rotting.   

Starting seeds

Plant seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep, thin to 7” or more.  Seedings predicted to emerge at 10-21 days per seed packet.  Per various websites, will germinate quicker than that, and “readily germinate”.

It may also be possible to get new plants by rooting the base of harvested plants (from store or previously harvested one?)

Setting plants

Recommended spacing of 7” or more.  Sources recommend anything from 6-12 inches of soil depth with “rich, well-drained” soil.    If growing for “baby” bok choi, can use 6-inch diameter pot.


Fertilize soil before planting with balanced fertilizer. If adding additional fertilizer, use nitrogen rich product to promote leaf growth.

Water to keep soil most but not soggy.  Try to avoid watering leaves, if possible.


Should be ready for harvest in 45 days.  Baby varieties within 30 days.

“Baby” bok choi is harvested when it is 5-6 inches tall.

Pull whole plants or cut outer leaves for cut-and-come-again harvesting.  Once it bolts it will become bitter.

Pests and problems

Flea beetles
Aphids, mites could be controlled with neem spray


Other cool season greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula, swiss chard, mustard, mesclun mixtures
Other brassicas like radishes, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, broccoli rabe Beets or carrots Herbs:  Dill, Mint Flowers for pest control:  Nasturtium, Marigolds may help control mites. Tatsoi and Mizuna – two other asian greens, tatsoi is like broccoli raab and mizuna is like mustard.

Use for/cooking

Bok Choi can be eaten raw in salads and slaws, If cooked the key is to cook quickly to retain texture and crispness. Stir fry alone or with other veggies.  Can also roast it – whole heads at once. 



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