Growing Chinese Cabbages, like Napa and Sweet Choi, in central Texas, is very rewarding. Compared to common cabbage, they reach maturity the fastest. This is why new gardeners should give them a try.
Sweet Choi is a kind of Asian green that is a close cousin of Napa cabbage. Because its leaves are smooth and elongated, it looks more like a head of lettuce than it does a cabbage.
Growing Chinese Cabbage from seed
Starting Sweet Choi from seed is very easy and affordable if you want to grow a lot of it. The packet holds around a hundred seeds, and with their long shelf life, it is morethan enough for a home garden.
The seeds germinate in four days, and the transplants are ready for planting in two to three weeks.
When choosing seeds, make sure to look for slow-bolting or heat tolerant varieties. They will be more forgiving and won’t stress as much in case of a warm fall and winter.
You may check out this post on seed starting basics, for a detailed step-by-step explanation on how to start seeds.
When to start sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage seeds in Central Texas?
Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage belong to the brassica family and are cool-season crops.
According to the TexasAgri-life calendar, brassicas are started in August for September planting. Yet, due to climate change, the calendar is a reference and not an absolute recommendation.
Temperature is the best way to determine the time to plant crops. During the second decade of 2000, summer became hotter and longer. Brassicas do not do well in temperatures higher than 75F(25C). It is best to start seeds indoors whenever the heat of summer starts breaking down.
Mid-September is a good mid-point to start the cabbage seeds. Maintain them until the weather becomes suitable for planting out.
The best soil for growing sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage
Napa cabbage and Sweet Choi are not very fussy. Amended the soil with compost to enrich and improve any drainge issues. The soil should not be too loose to maintain some moisture.
The right location for growing Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage
Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage grow best in full sun. That is six to eight hours of direct light. If planted in a shadier spot, the growth will be slow, resulting in a poor hatvest.
- Dig a hole as big as the root ball.
- Sprinkle some bone meal or dry organic fertilizer.
- Read the label for the exact amount.
- Place the plant, green part up, in the hole. The top of the root ball should at the soil level.
- Back-fill the hole with soil, and press down to remove any air pockets.
- Water immediately after planting to reduce stress on the plant.
How to space Napa cabbage and Sweet Choi?
The spacing recommendation for planting cabbage is 24″ around. The problem, though, is that it may not be efficient for home gardens with limited space. So, looking into the Squarefoot Garden chart, the recommendation is 12 inches.
Both recommendations are on the extremes, either too far or too close. Spacing the plants at 16 to 18 inches apart is reasonable.
Fertilizing Sweet Choi and Napa Cabbage
Applying a slow-release fertilizer at planting time is very beneficial. It gives the initial boost to the plants to help them establish their roots.
Throughout the growing time, occasional fertilizing with liquid seaweed is a good practice.
Soil has to stay moist but not soggy throughout the growing season. Exposing cabbage to dry conditions stresses the plant and triggers bolting.
During a long dry spell, consider using automated drip irrigation to provide regular watering.
Cabbage looper is the main enemy of brassicas. It is the caterpillar of the white moth, otherwise known as cabbage fly. It is a green-colored worm that devours the leaves if not taken care of at an early stage. There are two ways to deal with it:
- Cover the crop with mesh or insect netting right after planting. The fine holes of the mesh will prevent the moth from laying eggs on the plants.
- Apply a caterpillar killer called BT (Bacillus Thurengiensis). It is a bacterium that kills caterpillars after ingestion. It comes in a powder form or a concentrated liquid. The latter is much easier to apply and more cost-effective.
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 are fibrous and unpleasant to eat.
Using a sharp or a serrated knife, cut the cabbage head at the base. Make sure to wash it thoroughly before eating. Dirt and bugs can hide 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: If you leave the plant too long in the ground without harvesting, it will continue to grow to finish its life cycle.The flowering stage is the last part of the plant’s life to make seeds for the following season.
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 for the bees and other insects to indulge on.