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It seems like we went from mud to dust in just a few days, and warmed up quite a bit in the process.I know it is hard to think about fall crops when your summer crops drowned or at least were stunned by the deluge we went through. Sometimes looking for the next harvest is the best way to cope with a failed crop.I was out buying some fall plants (cabbage mostly) and ran across some pak choi plants. Although I just planted some pak choi seed in my fall garden, I bought some plants to put in also. I think this is the first time I’ve seen it for sale in the fall.If you are not familiar with pak choi (sometimes called bok choy), it is a somewhat loose leaf type of Chinese cabbage, although it is not as finicky about heat and cold as some of the head type Chinese cabbage. With its striking white stems and dark green leaves, it is great for edible landscaping. Even if you are not into edible landscaping, it looks great in the garden.Pak choi is becoming a popular “low calorie” vegetable. As with most leafy vegetables, it is a very good source of vitamins, minerals and health-benefiting anti-
oxidants. Studies show that cruciferous vegetables such as bok choy (and cabbage, broccoli, etc.) help to reduce your risk of developing cancer. It’s full of cancer-fighting compounds such as vitamins C and E, beta-
carotene, folate and selenium. Vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-
carotene are powerful antioxidants that can help to prevent cell damage from free radicals, which may help to lower your cancer risk. Selenium may help to slow the growth rate of tumors. Bok choy is also full of fiber, which keeps your digestive system healthy and may help to prevent colon cancer.Like other dark, leafy greens, bok choy is an excellent source of the flavonoid quercetin. Quercetin can help to reduce inflammation in the body, which may help to reduce your risk of developing a variety of chronic health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.Pak choi is a cool season crop and it is a very quick growing vegetable with maturity dates 40-50 days so you still have time to grow some this fall before the first frost if you plant it right away. This vegetable grows in a compact upright shape so it is great for container gardening as well as conventional gardening.As with most vegetables, pak choi prefers a sunny location, but I have found a little afternoon shade can help protect it from the heat of the day. Once you’ve selected a place to plant it, prepare the soil by digging in organic matter, such as compost or rotted manure. The extra soil nutrients will help it to grow faster.Plant seeds one quarter to one-half inch deep, 3-4 inches apart. Gently press the soil to set the seeds and remove air pockets. Water thoroughly.When the plants get about 4 inches high, you can thin them and use the small plants in salads. You will want to leave about 12 inches between the plants. Pak choi can be harvested at any time during its growth. You can take off individual stems/leaves or harvest the whole plant at once. If you remove the larger outer leaves close to the bottom of the plant and do not harm the plant, it will continue to grow.Pak choi can start to bolt if the weather starts to warm up too much. If the plant starts to send up a flower stalk, it will mean the leaves are starting to get tough. At the first sign of a flower stalk, it is time to harvest the whole plant.It you haven’t tried this attractive plant in your garden, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to do so. Pak choi can also be grown as a spring crop, just in case your garden is full this fall.Happy gardening!
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