Growing Chinese Cabbages, such as Napa and Sweet Choi, in central Texas, is very rewarding and satisfying. They reach maturity very quickly, for this reason, every newbie gardener should give them a try.
Sweet Choi is a kind of Asian green and it is a close cousin of Napa cabbage.
For central Texas gardeners, you have to choose varieties that are slow bolting and less likely to be affected by temperature fluctuations.
Growing Chinese Cabbage from seed
Starting Sweet Choi from seed is very easy and economical. The seed packet holds around a hundred seed, which is more than enough for a home garden. In addition, their shelf life is about five years, making it very budget-friendly.
The seeds germinate in four days, and the transplants are ready for planting in two to three weeks, weather permitting.
You may check out this post on seed starting basics, for a detailed step by step explanation.
When to start sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage seeds in Central Texas
Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage are cool-season crops and they are treated the same way as other brassicas. The Agri-life extension calendar of central Texas states that brassicas should be started in August to be planted out in July.
However, due to climate change, the calendar is only a reference and not an absolute recommendation. The seasons are changing drastically, and the heat of summer in central Texas is extending through October.
I recommend starting the seeds in mid-September to transplant in October for the late November harvest. Start the seeds again in late November to transplant in the second half of December for February harvest.
The best soil for growing sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage
Napa cabbage and Sweet Choi are not very fussy, a well-amended soil with compost is perfect for it to grow nicely.
The right location for growing Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage
Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage grow best in full sun, meaning six to eight hours of direct light. In case planted in partial shade, the growth pace will be slower.
Dig a hole as big as the root ball, Napa Cabbage, and Sweet Choi don’t need to be planted too deep.
The standard spacing recommendations are 24″ in every direction. For a home gardener where is limited, planting one plant per square foot. In my own garden, I space my cabbages 16″ apart and that has been working fine.
Fertilizing Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage
It is important to keep the soil evenly moist for the cabbage family to grow properly. Letting the soil dry for too long may cause the plant to stress, and this may result in either bolting or bitter taste.
Fortunately, it is the cool season so the soil doesn’t dry out as fast as in the summertime. However, in the central Texas drought is a lurking threat in every season, so keep an eye on the soil.
Cabbage looper is the main enemy of brassicas. It is the caterpillar of the white moth or cabbage fly. It is a green worm that devours the leaves if not taken care of at an early stage. There are two ways to deal with it.
- Using a mesh cover as soon as the Choi is planted in the ground. The fine holes of the mesh will prevent the white moth from laying eggs on the plants.
- Applying BT (Bacillus Thurengiensis), it is a bacterium that kills caterpillars once they ingest it. It comes either as a powder to sprinkle over the leaves or as a liquid to spray.
Both Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage are ready for harvest when an elongated head is formed and feels firm to the touch. Remove the outer leaves as they would be fibrous and unpleasant to eat.
Cut the head at the base with a sharp knife. Make sure to wash the Choi thoroughly as the caterpillars and dirt can hide in between the leaves.
What causes Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage to flower?
There are two main factors that cause the brassicas to flower or bolt.
- Warm temperatures: Since brassicas are cool-season crops, temperatures higher than 70 will trigger the plant to go into survival mode and produce flowers.
- Late harvest: Leaving the plant too long in the ground without harvesting, it will continue its life cycle and go to flower to produce seeds.
What to do if the cabbage went to flower?
In case the cabbage starts flowering, no need to panic, harvest individual leaves instead of cutting the whole head. The inner new leaves are still sweet and crunchy.
Leave the flowering stock untouched, as the little yellow flowers will attract the bees.
Ways to use Napa Cabbage and Sweet Choi in the kitchen
- Fisherman’s pie
- Sweet Choi and pear salad
- Corned beef and cabbage
- Fried cabbage and ground beef