Growing Asian Greens from Sowing to Harvest

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Growing Oriental leaves

Early fall, with its often hazy mornings and cooling temperatures, signals change is in the air. Many of summer’s staples are winding down and growth all over the garden is noticeably slower. But if you think it’s time to hang up the fork for winter, well think again – because now’s the moment Asian greens such as bok choy, mustards and mizuna really come into their own. Read on or watch our video to discover how to grow them...

Types of Asian Greens

Asian greens offer a fascinating range of leaf shapes, textures and flavors. Enjoy smooth and creamy leaves from rosette-forming tatsoi or bok choy (also known as pak choi); the crunch of Chinese cabbage; or the narrow or deeply serrated leaves of mibuna and mizuna. And then there’s the intriguing range of spicy mustards: frilly, spoon-shaped, red-veined, red-leaved – even golden!

Sowing Asian Greens

Cool-season Asian greens are best sown in the last weeks of summer to grow on into autumn and beyond, making them ideal for following on from earlier crops.

Sow direct into prepared ground, or start them off in plug trays to plant out a few weeks later. Most are pretty hardy and will continue to give some leaves for cutting throughout winter, especially if provided some protection in the form of a greenhouse or hoop house.

Asian greens grow well in pots, troughs and trays too, either as individual plants or sown as a mixture of different species and/or varieties to give a tasty explosion of flavors in one handy container.

“Tatsoi
Asian greens such as this tatsoi grow well in containers

Most Asian greens are brassicas that often bolt, or flower, as days lengthen earlier on in the season. Sowing them from the second half of summer avoids this problem, and there are fewer pests such as flea beetle about too.

If sowing earlier in the year, be prepared to pick the leaves very often to slow bolting, when plants push up flower stems and leaf production ceases. Plants grown in part-shaded locations are often slower to bolt, while sowing every few weeks should ensure a steady supply of usable leaves at this tricky time of year.

Prepare soil for sowing or planting by sprinkling over a general-purpose organic fertilizer then raking it in to leave a fine, crumbly surface.

To sow, mark out drills about half an inch (1cm) deep. Space rows six to ten inches, or (15-25cm) apart. Sow seeds thinly along the drills then cover back over. Water well if it’s dry. Once germinated, thin the seedlings in stages to their final spacings. For most plants that’s six to 12 inches (15-30cm) apart, depending on what you’re growing.

Our Garden Planner includes helpful growing guides for each crop which include recommended spacings. And when you add them to your plan, plants are automatically spaced at the recommended distance, so you know exactly how much to grow in the space available to you.

“Asian
Sowing into plug trays for later transplanting is convenient and space-saving

Sowing into plug trays before planting out has some advantages. You can start plants off while the final growing area is still occupied by another crop, and tender seedlings are at less risk of slug damage. Fill trays with all-purpose potting soil, firm it down with your fingertips then sow one or two seeds into each cell. Cover with more potting soil, water and place the tray somewhere bright to germinate. The seedlings are ready to plant out about a month later.

Seed mixes, sown into their final containers for cut-and-come-again picking, should be scattered evenly onto potting soil before covering with more of the same. The seedlings shouldn’t need thinning.

Transplanting Asian Greens

Plant plug-raised seedlings at their final spacings. Carefully remove plants from their plugs then lay them onto prepared ground. Use a dibber or similar to make the holes, then position and firm the plants into place. If it’s dry, be sure to thoroughly water after planting.

“Oriental
Oriental salad leaves grow best in the second half of the year

Cool-season Asian greens are best sown in the last weeks of summer to grow on into autumn and beyond, making them ideal for following on from earlier crops.

Sow direct into prepared ground, or start them off in plug trays to plant out a few weeks later. Most are pretty hardy and will continue to give some leaves for cutting throughout winter, especially if provided some protection in the form of a greenhouse or hoop house.

Caring for Asian Greens

Weed between plants to keep them free of competition – particularly important during the colder, darker months of the year. Slugs can be a nuisance, readily rasping holes into tender leaves. Pick them off at dusk or set up slug traps filled with beer and remove the slugs you trap. Protect plants grown earlier in the year from flea beetle by enclosing newly sown beds with row covers or insect mesh. You can hamper overwintering flea beetles by forking over the soil surface and clearing leaf litter from surrounding areas in early winter. Netting or mesh will also keep pigeons from pecking plants to pieces.

In cooler regions, setting up a hoop house or cloche will improve growth rates as winter approaches, while a greenhouse almost guarantees harvests in all but the very coldest weeks of winter.

“Asian
Given the protection of a cold frame, greenhouse or hoop house, Asian greens will keep cropping well into winter

Harvesting Asian Greens

Harvest plants like Chinese cabbage and bok choy whole by cutting through base of the plant. Loose, open plants such as mizuna should be harvested little and often, by taking a few leaves at a time from each plant. Pinch leaves off between finger and thumb, or use a pair of scissors. After each cutting there should still be enough leaves left for the plant to recover. Overwintered plants will grow strongly when warmth returns in spring, giving plentiful harvests before eventually bolting.

When most plants are throwing in the towel for the season, you can always rely on the Asian greens for a final flourish. If you have experience of growing these loveable leaves, then please share your tips for success in the comments section below.

Bugs, Beneficial Insects and Plant Diseases

< All Guides

Garden Planning Apps

If you need help designing your vegetable garden, try our Vegetable Garden Planner (for PC & Mac) or if you'd prefer an app for your mobile or tablet device, our iPad & iPhone app Garden Plan Pro is available on the App Store here.
Garden Planning Apps and Software

Vegetable Garden Pest Warnings

Want to Receive Alerts When Pests are Heading Your Way?

If you've seen any pests or beneficial insects in your garden in the past few days please report them to The Big Bug Hunt and help create a warning system to alert you when bugs are heading your way.

Show Comments



Comments

 

Add a Comment

Add your own thoughts on the subject of this article:
(If you have difficulty using this form, please use our Contact Form to send us your comment, along with the title of this article.)

 
   
(We won't display this on the website or use it for marketing)



Captcha


(Please enter the code above to help prevent spam on this article)



By clicking 'Add Comment' you agree to our Terms and Conditions