Bok Choy blues

woohoomanOctober 4, 2012

I've tried growing Bok Choy a few times with mixed results. Last year I actually had a few "decent" size heads, but nowhere near what I see in the stores.

Those were grown in Large containers with pretty decent composted "soil."

What am I doing wrong?? Do I need lots of nitrogen like lettuces need? And if so, what's a good organic fert. for them? Spinach acts the same way -- they look alright but it almost resembles baby spinach. Next thing you know, it's warm and the bolting starts.


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Probably needs a bit more nitrogen. I grow in the ground by conventional methods.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:21PM
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Not sure when you are trying to grow them or where you are in San Diego. I am in La Mesa and I have fairly decent results. Some varieties are better for warmer times of the year. What were you trying to grow and when?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 12:38AM
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I haven't started this year yet. I'm in Santee and it's still too warm here also.

I just have some seeds by Lilly Miller that say Bok Choy and another from Stover that says White Stem Pechay.

Like I said, I did "ok" in containers last year but they were still kind of small. I've tried them in the raised bed, but the slugs get them immediately after they sprout.

Should I start them as transplants? I just thought that might be tricky because they seem to bolt when they reach a certain AGE. Heat usually does this to my spinach and lettuce, but AGE seems to do it to the Bok Choy -- even if the temps are still relatively mild.

I'd appreciate any help.



    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 4:28AM
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Yes the last two weeks have been pretty brutal in the east county. I would normally have started cool season veggies in Sept. And then if it gets too hot, restart them again. I have grown many asian brassicas in the last twenty years and I seem to know less about what to expect every year. So I have adapted the idea of taking risks and learning from that. I prefer planting bok choy types in containers for transplanting to raised beds. I think some varieties actually come out better this way but mainly I do it to reduce the problem of thinning. Due to our weather patterns we also have trouble with "cold bolting". Some varieties are very prone to it. Some of my best results have come from these varieties: Mei qing choy a baby or Shanghai style green stem hybrid, sold by Kitazawa and Agro Hai-tai. Also similiar, the Ching-Chang or Shanghai types sold by Evergreen, namely Summer boy, All seasons and H K. The Mei qing and Summer boy are VERY bolt resistant. For normal sized Bok choy if I grow it, Canton short and hybrid Qing-tah tsai. As far as size, I don't get very good results, but we grow them to eat not the county fair. I used to keep picture notes but not so much anymore. Since I retired this last spring we have been doing a lot of traveling so gardening has been less successful of late. Here are some pictures from my notes.a href=""; target="_blank">

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 2:51PM
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Thanks for the info about varieties. Maybe I'll give some a try. yeah, I'm not trying to win any contests -- I'd just like to harvest some with some substance before they bolt.

Couple more questions - 1) how long do you leave in cells before transplant? 2) I try to go as organic as possible, so what kind of fertilizer do I want? well-balanced? high in Nitrogen like fish emulsion? or what?

Thanks for the help.


    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:17PM
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Kevin, I usually start the seeds in those plastic seed starter kits with the removable bottoms or old six pack plant cells. When they start showing true leaves they get a watering with fish emulsion. I'm guessing about the time in the cells before transplant but I'm thinking about three to five weeks. I use rabbit manure, yard clippings compost and 16-16-16 el cheapo chemical fertilizer. Biggest pest problems are cabbage worms, brown snails and slugs. And for those I use BT or Spinosad, decolate snails and Sluggo. About the only weed problem is with grasses and nettle, both easy to pick out.

Thursday morning last I started some seeds and realized I was out of Canton short and Mei Qing. Just ordered some and more from Evergreen ten minutes ago.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:39PM
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Oh something I totally forgot about. Three or four years ago a strange collection of beetles showed up on some second year broccoli plants in the garden. Could not identify them at the time. Then the next fall everything in the brassica family that I tried to direct sow directly was devestated by swarms of fast moving young beetles almost as soon as they sprouted. I tried several replants and the same thing happened and I could not control the beetles. By then enough chatter was going around southern California gardening circles to identify the critters as Bagrada beetles from sub Saharan Africa. They specifically target brassicas, so I thought that that was going to be the end of my favorite veggies. I did what they try to do in India for the same problem. That is do not leave any brassica plants or residue around after harvest. Hopefully it worked or some natural pest got to them, cause I did not see any last year. Keeping my fingers crossed this year. But anyway I did not want to chance leaving the plants in to collect seeds, so no more seed collecting. Most of what I plant now are hybrids anyway.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2012 at 3:57PM
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Thanks reefisher for the help -- hopefully I'll have better success.

Yeah. Don't know if I saw that beetle. I have gotten nailed in the past by, what I assumed, was looper eggs on a few of my broccoli leaves but I was still able to harvest nice heads and side shoots. Maybe it was beetle larvae.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 12:49PM
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I am new to growing bok choy and am wondering how to get bulb production. The leaves and stems I just harvested were delicious, but the stems were thin. (seed: White Stem, Botanical Interests)

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 3:48AM
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There are some very nice photographs on this thread.

Kathykloop, so much of bok choy size depends on consistent, moderate growing conditions - temperature and soil moisture. Stress leads to bolting.

I use a fair amount of organic fertilizer on the Asian greens. Higher nitrogen is needed for good leaf development. They just seem to appreciate it but both hot and cold weather here can put a stop to leaf growth fairly quickly.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 11:47AM
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Thanks, digit. We had a short run of 100 degree days before the cool weather returned. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for this next batch.

Has anyone heard of mounding soil around the base to increase bulb size, similar to celery?

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:13PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

They do need some space. I space mine 1 foot apart in row and 1 foot between rows (maybe down to 10 inches if needed) They fill in the area very well.

Joi Choi and Red Bok Choy behind

Joi Choy- leaves a little beat up, I let it sit out on the table to "Wilt" down to get the rubber band around it and slide it into a bag.

Red Choy, a week before Thanksgiving


    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 2:54PM
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Nice! Please tell me you feed them organically. If so, what do you feed them and on what kind of schedule?



    Bookmark   November 3, 2012 at 6:23PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

The only thing they have had was a large dose of compost (2 inches deep) on the ground and tilled in and some fish emulsion added through the drip tape once. They grow really well for me.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 11:54PM
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toffee-el(Z8b Sunset Z13 Elev 4650ft)

Go buy some baby bok choi from 99 ranch. So tender and nicer than the giants from Safeway etc., I become a total convert after trying the baby or dwarf bok chois.

In this case, size matters ie smaller the better.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 12:09PM
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