It has been a month since the Bok Choy bug scare and much has happened since then.
I will be summarizing my lessons learned at the end, but I’d like to point out an observation which will be become quite obvious in these upcoming pictures. Unintentionally, I ended up using two different types of soil with this batch, some in a coir based soil mix (red colored soil) and others in a peat based soil mix (black colored soil). And the difference in growth was significant.
March 31 (Day 21): Leaves starting to look like bok choy
April 2 (Day 23): Even those munched by the cabbage fly larvae are regrowing.
April 3 (Day 24): It is starting to become obvious the difference of plant size among those in red versus black soil.
April 4 (Day 25): Sporting four true leaves!
April 6 (Day 27): Grow vege grow!
April 11 (Day 32): Leaves extending beyond the containers.
April 11 (Day 32): Some of them have weird shapes, like this one with a crooked bottom.
April 13 (Day 34): It’s starting to getting crowded in some of the containers!
April 15 (Day 36): The largest of the bunch!
April 16 (Day 37): The leaves are super tender and will easily bruise / tear under impact.
April 18 (Day 39): It getting so crowded in some of the containers that plants have to fight for sunlight and space. In hindsight, I probably should have thinned them even sooner, but I’m finally getting to it and I like to think of it as a “pre-harvest”.
April 18 (Day 39): Overlapping leaves.
April 18 (Day 39): Cool regrowth on a leaf previously eaten by the cabbage white larvae
Sidenote: Maybe this is a beginner question, but I have been wondering what happens to the seed leaves because we never see them in vegetables bought at the market. It turns out they just shrivel away as the plant grows (and hence its mission is complete). Interesting.
April 18 (Day 39): Even though it is only a pre-harvest, this is still my first harvest-like activity, and so I’m still going to celebrate by arranging them into a circle! Notice their stems are much slimmer than store-bought bok choys, which I’m guessing is because they are not fully mature yet.
They taste good, but crunchier and slightly more bitter than the mature store-bought version.
April 19 (Day 40): After the pre-harvest, the remaining plants have much more space to stretch and mature.
April 20 (Day 41): Vast size difference between the large black-soil ones in the front and the tiny red soil ones in the background.
April 21 (Day 41): Also noticed difference in leaf size correlating to the amount of sunlight received. Leaves that are overshadowed turn out smaller and rounder.
April 23 (Day 44): Yay, the stalks are getting wider.
April 24 (Day 45): Space does matter, plants gaining mature size with the larger space.
April 26 (Day 47): They look beautiful and drool-worthy.
April 28 (Day 49): Eat me! Eat me!
And so it is, the time for harvest! To feed my curiosity, I pulled them up to observe their roots as well. They have relatively shallow roots, which I am unsure if this was a compromise on their part due to the container that I placed them in.
Some of them are pretty.
Some of them not quite, but crookedly cute in their own way.
April 28 (Day 49): Harvest!
What’s left? I kept the tiny ones in red soil, as well as some of those previously overshadowed in black soil. I wanted to see if they would grow a little more.
But after reliving the entire process while picking out the photos above, I doubt that the ones in red soil will be growing much more. And hence, I will be harvesting all of them tomorrow.
April 30 (Day 51): Some of those in red soil are starting to yellow…
Soil: Red coir based soil vs. Black peat based soil
I’m not 100% sure on the reason behind the vast difference in growth as there were the extra factors of:
1. Despite my heroic notions of not leaving any seedling behind, it may not have been the best idea to move the seedlings around so much when young. Thinning out vegetable seedlings for the first time: the rescue mission
2. Watering habits: In the beginning, I was watering plants shallowly, and only later on learnt to give plants deeper drinks and prolong the time in between. Top 5 lessons learnt in first month of balcony farming
3. Maybe I didn’t give them enough sunlight? Maybe the soil depth wasn’t sufficient?
Will need to experiment further to have more concrete conclusions, but I know I will be instinctively leaning towards peat-based soil in the future.
Pests Encountered – Cabbage White Butterflies and Mysterious Maybe-Aphid Bug
After my initial bug scare (Beginner meets pest: something is eating my bok choy), and picking off the almost 20 green larvae, they hasn’t been a comeback of pests. Maybe it is the insecticidal soap + diatomite earth mix spray that I have been giving them every 10 days or so, or the cabbage white butterfly season has passed? I was also experimenting if a thin layer of vermiculite on the top soil will ward off cabbage whites, but there has no sign of green larvae on any of them since then.
Along the way, I did notice another bug (or maybe they were eggs) on one stalk for that one time. I trimmed off the infected stalk, checked on the others to make sure they didn’t have the same thing, and threw the infected stalk away.
So in conclusion, here is my version of How to Grow Bok Choy:
- Sunlight: Love sunlight, but can’t tolerate too much heat. So for hot summers, partial shade might be best, but for cooler weather, full sunlight should be the way to go.
- Container size: They have comparatively shallow roots, like lettuces. I’m growing them in a square container of 11cm (4.5 inch) deep.
- Soil & Fertilizing: Well-draining, rich soil, not too picky. A heavy feeder, fertilize often (even weekly), especially during growth spurts.
- Sowing seeds: Resist the temptation to over-sow as they germinate really easily. My cowardly way of avoiding thinning as much as possible will be to direct sow in moist soil one seed per hole, about 5cm apart. Cover with thin layer of soil.
- Watering: They cannot withstand drought but hate constantly damp soil at the same time. I give them a long deep drink whenever the soil is on the dryer side, but never allow the soil to completely dry off.
- Pest: Mainly cabbage white butterflies, which can be solved by checking regularly and picking their larvae off by hand, using a insect net/cover over the crop, or regular diatomite earth spray.
I have also started growing a purple variety of bok choy, which is a F1 hybrid from Korea. Can’t really see the purple hue at its current size, but their leaves do feature darker red-ish veins.
I am pretty sure I will be planting regular bok choy again very soon.
The Vege Girl Project: Day 58