Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Grow Asian vegetables in your garden

From bok choi to komatsuna, the exotic tastes of Asian greens are as close as your kitchen garden

Growing Chinese cabbage
Growing larger than most other Asian greens, Chinese—or Napa—cabbage (B. r. var. pekinensis) is a rewarding crop with cultivation guidelines all its own. First, timing is all-important. Start Chinese cabbage indoors around July 10 in Zone 5 or warmer gardens, 10 days earlier in Zones 3 and 4. Fill 10-centimetre pots with a fast-draining soil mix and drop three seeds into a shallow thumbprint in each container; cover with soil, add water and set them in a sunny window. As seedlings grow, thin to the strongest-looking one per pot and water as needed.

After three weeks indoors, gradually expose seedlings to outdoor conditions over a few days. Meanwhile, prepare individual planting spots 45 centimetres apart in a sunny bed. Dig out holes deep and wide enough to hold two double handfuls of fine compost; boost nutrients with a teaspoon (5 mL) of vegetable fertilizer and stir all together with the excavated soil—in essence, making a zone of fertility for each transplant. If insects appear, cover seedlings with a floating row cover or dust young plants (as directed) with fresh rotenone powder, a natural insecticide that will biodegrade long before you pick. As plants expand, mulch with compost, and water every fourth day, feeding once with fish emulsion after a month’s growth.

Chinese cabbage grows numerous leaves around an increasingly dense head. Don’t rush the harvest. When it plumps up, pull up a whole plant, cut away the roots and strip off the outer leaves—it may feel as if you’re throwing half in the compost—to reveal a clean, heavy head.

Ready to eat? Get great recipes for your Asian greens!

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