Growing Crops: Chinese Cabbage

If you are an Asian foodie, then this is the crop for you! Chinese cabbage (often referred to as Napa cabbage) is a staple of many Asian dishes, including stir-fries, soups, Spring rolls, and coleslaw with a twist of Thai Peanut Sauce.

There are a number of Chinese cabbage varieties you can plant, including Blues, Jade Pagoda, Kasumi, Monument, Orient Express, Tip Top, Two Seasons Hybrid, and Wong Bok.

Wong Bok is a common Fall harvest variety, mild of flavor and easier on the digestive system than some others, that can be purchased here:

Best Climate to Grow: Chinese cabbage will grow almost anywhere except in extreme heat – which tends to make it bolt.

Light Requirements: Lots of sun, but will do well in light shade during the warmer months, which will help delay bolting.

Soil Requirements: Moisture-retentive, compost-rich soil. Amend as needed the season prior to planting by incorporating compost or rotted manure into the soil.

Feeding and Water Requirements: If the soil is rich with compost to begin with, there should be no need for additional fertilization. The soil must be kept moist at all times, so drip irrigation and thickly mulching with compost is recommended to retain moisture.

When to Plant: For a Summer harvest, start your seeds indoors 8-10 weeks prior to the last frost date. Your best bet is to plant them in individual pods or modules to minimize trauma when they are
hardened off and transplanted
into your garden once the danger of frost has passed.

For a Fall harvest, sow directly in the ground 8-10 weeks prior to the first Fall frost date.

Planting Depth and Spacing: For Summer harvest seedlings, transplant them 12 inches apart in rows that are 12 inches apart. Or, if planting in a block of garden space instead of rows, make sure each seedling has 12 inches of growing room all around.

For Fall harvest seeds, plant them ½ inch deep and 4 inches apart in rows that are 12 inches apart, or broadcast the seeds over a block of garden space. Once the seedlings are about 2 inches tall, thin them to 12 inches apart in rows, or 12 inches all around in blocks.

Container Requirements: Because Chinese cabbage is a comparatively quick-growing crop that takes up less space than “regular” cabbage, and will produce more leaves once the first head has been harvested, we can say that it is a good candidate for container growing. We recommend a wide container that is at least 8 inches deep. Chinese cabbage grown in containers will benefit from frequent additions of compost for feeding and moisture retention purposes, and drip irrigation specifically for containers is recommended.

Harvesting and Storage: Using a sharp knife, slice the cabbage heads off at the base, leaving the stalk to sprout again. Chinese cabbage will keep for a week or so in the refrigerator if properly stored in a lettuce keeper or your refrigerator’s vegetable crisper section. It is also ideal for canning for the fermented Asian vegetable dish known as Kimchi (or Kim Chee).

Harvesting Seeds: Not recommended. All cabbages easily cross-pollinate with other brassica family members – such as broccoli- and need to be grown separately, at least 100 yards away from any relatives. This is a prohibitive distance in an urban or suburban garden environment.

Pests to Monitor: Cabbage Root Flies, Cabbage White Butterflies and their voracious larvae, Flea Beetles, Slugs, and Snails. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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