How to Grow Pak Choi

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Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Watering device
  • Mulch
  • Kitchen shears (optional)
  • Compost
  • Trowel

Crisp and loose-headed, the kind of Chinese cabbage known as pak choi or bok choy (Brassica rapa var. chinensis) -- and a handful of other spelling variations -- is a versatile Asian green that is used fresh in salads, stir-fries and casseroles. You have dozens of varieties of pak choi from which to choose, including 'Green Baby,' which is ideal for growing in containers; 'Summer Boy,' which does well in warm climates; 'Joi Choi' for cooler regions and 'Mei Qing Choi,' which flourishes in a range of temperature conditions. Either sow pak choi seeds or plant seedlings.

Tip

    • Because pak choi is a cool-season crop, time its spring and fall sowing or planting so that the plants won't contend with high temperatures. Plan to sow the seeds either about one month before your area's average annual last frost date in spring or in late summer in time for a fall crop. 
    • A 2-inch layer of compost worked into the top 6 inches of soil prior to sowing or planting improves drainage and adds fertility. 
    • The pak choi garden bed should be in full sun in most locations, but partial shade is fine for it in a hot climate. 

Step 1

Sow pak choi seeds in the ground about 4 inches apart within their rows, leaving 18 inches between the rows. The seeds need to be sown at a soil depth of 1/2 inch. Water the area thoroughly after sowing.

Step 2

Thin the seedlings that emerge, removing enough so that the remaining plants are about 18 inches apart in all directions. Alternatively, set pak choi seedlings or transplants into the ground at a spacing of 18 inches apart in rows that are 18 inches apart.

Step 3

Set a 2-inch-thick layer of straw, finely chopped bark or another mulch material around -- but not touching -- the plants. Mulch suppresses weeds and keeps roots cool during the hot days of summer.

Tip

  • Kitchen shears are helpful for the thinning process because you can use them to snip off unwanted pak choi seedlings at ground level without disturbing the roots of the plants you leave to grow. Pak choi plants removed during the thinning process can be used in salads.

Step 4

Keep the pak choi bed evenly moist as the plants grow, aiming for the top 6 inches of soil to be moist after each watering. Long-growing pak choi cultivars benefit from the addition of a handful of compost worked into the top few inches of soil near the base of each plant. Do this about halfway through their expected growing season. Avoid disturbing the plants' roots.

Warning

  • Among the pests to watch for in your pak choi patch are aphids, which can be removed with a strong jet of water from a hose If you can't seem to keep the foliage from being severely damaged, cover the garden bed with floating row cloth, which will screen the plants from flying insects yet let in sunlight and water.

Step 5

Harvest the whole heads of the pak choi when they reach maturity, which happens about 30 to 55 days after sowing the seeds, depending on the variety. Your seed packet should include the average maturity date for the specific pak choi cultivar.

Warning

  • Pak choi is prone to bolting -- going to seed -- after weather extremes. If spring cold snaps are common in your area, then either start the seeds indoors before transplanting them outdoors, or sow them directly outdoors closer to the last average annual frost date. If, on the other hand, you grow pak choi plants in a warm climate and they aren't in partial shade, then keep shade cloth handy to use during high temperatures, or grow pak choi plants in containers that can be moved easily from afternoon sun exposure.

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