It’s August and my vegetable garden is brimming with ripe tomatoes, peppers and zucchini. Yet as I look around, I see bare spots where my short season spring crops once grew. As I consider fall crops to plant in these areas, bok choy tops my list.
My Fall Bok Choy Crop
Planting different veggies in succession is one technique for increasing vegetable yields without expanding the size of my garden. Here in northeast Ohio, I can usually grow two short season crops in the same area by planting the first in early spring and the second in August.
I’ve successfully grown peas, radishes, spinach and lettuce as spring crops. Bok choy is a different story. First, it always gets peppered with tiny holes from flea beetles. In my mind, this makes the leaves unappetizing and unusable.
Second, it likes to bolt as soon as the weather turns hot. As a biennial, bok choy is programmed to produce seeds its second year. The change from foliar growth to seed production is triggered when a cold snap in late spring makes this plant think winter has arrived.
Once summertime temperatures reach our area, bok choy goes into flower mode. I have used this to my advantage by collecting the seeds for a fall crops, but at this stage the leaves and stems are too tough to eat. Fortunately, neither problem affects my fall crop of bok choy.
When to Plant Bok Choy for Fall
Unlike my spring crops, I have a longer window for planting bok choy in the fall. Bok choy germinates best between 50 and 80 degrees F. (10-27 C.). Most years, I can direct sow bok choy in the garden during August once temperatures fall within this range.
Bok choy can survive temperatures down to 27 degrees F. (-3 C.). This means an early frost or light freeze won’t kill bok choy as it nears maturity. I prefer the baby bok choy varieties, which mature in about 30 days. (Larger varieties require about 45 days.) With our average first frost date of October 28, I can safely sow bok choy seeds until the end of September.
Fall Bok Choy Growing Tips
Utilizing this space to grow a fall crop not only makes my garden more productive, but it also provides a veggie that I have trouble growing in the spring. To get the most from this type of succession planting, I’ve picked up a few hacks for growing bok choy in fall:
- Start seedlings indoors – If August outdoor temps remain too high for direct seeding, I can germinate bok choy inside my air-conditioned home and transplant them in the garden as established seedlings.
- Keep the soil moist – August is one of our drier months. When direct seeding fall crops in the garden, I find it necessary to water more often in order to maintain the proper moisture level for seed germination.
- Provide afternoon shade – To keep the soil cooler and reduce evaporation, I shade the area where direct-sown seeds are germinating. This can be something as simple as folding a piece of cardboard in half and tenting it over the seedbed.