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Plant Chinese Cabbage in Your Garden

Updated on June 4, 2017

Why Should You Consider Growing Chinese cabbage?

Very few people in the US grow Chinese cabbage, but they are one of the oldest vegetables grown in China. Because they have few insect pests, these cabbages are actually easier to grow than tomatoes.

Exactly what is Chinese Cabbage?

Chinese cabbages are loose leaf cabbages and include Ornamental cabbage and bok choy. Ornamental cabbages can be grown in flower beds as edible ornamentals. These vegetables thrive in cool weather. Choose early, mid and late season types of Chinese cabbage in red, green or purple colors for an extended, colorful harvest.

We Grew Three Crops of Chinese Cabbage Every Year

I used to live on a commune and we had greenhouses where we grew many of our winter vegetables and among them were the Chinese cabbages. During that time, we ate Chinese cabbage stir-fried three or four times per week. Because we had a crop of Chinese cabbage growing in the greenhouse during the winter, we had three crops this vegetable per year.

Planting Chinese Cabbage For Transplanting

Although Chinese cabbage can be bought as transplants from a nursery, the plants are easy to grow from seed. Plan your planting time so that you can set the plants out up to four weeks before the last expected frost. Plant your seeds about 4 weeks before that which means that you will plant your seeds about eight weeks before the last frost in the spring. Sow seeds indoors a quarter inch deep and two inches apart or plant two seeds per biodegradable garden pot. Place in sunny location with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep soil moist by covering planting container with breathable plastic. Remove plastic when plants germinate.

Growing Chinese Cabbage in the Garden

Plant seedlings outdoors when daytime temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit and seedlings have three leaves. Plant cabbages slightly deeper than they grew in the growing flats. Make the planting holes large enough to accommodate the roots, sprinkle planting hole with kelp powder and water well. Plant cabbage and water thoroughly again.

Give Chinese cabbage plenty of room to grow into huge heads. Allow up two feet between cabbage heads to allow for this massive growth. If garden space is limited, plant other quick growing vegetables around your cabbage such as lettuce, green onions, spinach, radishes, and turnips that can be pulled out when the Chinese cabbages need the space.

Start your late crop in midsummer about ten weeks before the first average frost date by sowing seeds directly into the garden. Space them further apart than in spring also plant them in a location where they are shaded from the afternoon sun by a taller crop such as corn or trellised tomatoes.

Side-dress plants with compost after they have been in the garden three weeks and place mulch over compost. When watering water around roots rather than leaves to prevent disease. Cut back on water as the cabbage matures.

Chinese cabbages have fewer problems with disease or pests than regular cabbages do. If cutworms are a problem in your garden, place crushed egg shells on soil around cabbages. If you notice that something has been eating the Chinese cabbages, sprinkle plants with diatomaceous earth, wood ashes, or hot pepper and soapy water spray.

To avoid plant diseases, work compost into your soil every year and avoid planting Chinese cabbages where you grew other members of the Brassicaceae family during the previous season.

Garden Buddies

Chinese cabbage grows well with other Cole crops such as Brussels sprouts or cauliflower. It should not be grown near corn because the corn worms will infest it.

How to Harvest Chinese Cabbage

Keep Chinese cabbages in the ground until you are ready to use if possible. Freshly cut Chinese cabbage is more nutritious than cabbage that has been stored. Use a sharp knife to cut heads when they are firm. Cut heads at the ground level. Remove roots to the compost pile. Refrigerate cabbages until you use them. Cabbages will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Stir-Fried Chinese Cabbage

Pre-chop some onion, onion greens, and garlic. Cut a piece of ginger root but leave whole. Cut cabbage into bite size pieces. In a wok over medium-high heat, add the cooking oil and a tablespoon of butter and heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and sauté for 1 minute. Add the cabbage, coat with oil and vegetables cover and cook until just starting to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and cook an additional about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle with the sesame seed oil.

© 2014 Cygnet Brown


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    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      7 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      You're welcome, Jackie Lynnley!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from the beautiful south

      Wow, I might give this a try, thanks for sharing!

    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      7 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I just had some last night! I have learned to love it!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      I do love this veggie in stir fry. A good topic that is well covered!

    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      7 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I would think that in Louisiana, chinese cabbage would work better in a fall garden.

    • mylindaelliott profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana

      Good information, I'm afraid it's still too cold some days here.

    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      7 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      It has finally warmed up here. Maybe we're done with snow here. Bring spring into your house. Start your plants inside now.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Definitely bitter and we grew it in the summer. I will try growing it in the spring and fall...thanks!

      Winter here is subzero, so that's probably not an option.

    • cygnetbrown profile imageAUTHOR

      Cygnet Brown 

      7 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      I guess it depends what you mean by "off". If weather is too hot, it can make the Chinese cabbage bitter. Growing in the cooler temps of fall and winter makes it sweeter.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      We tried growing this (we are generally very successful with our organic garden), but the taste was just off.

      Any suggestions?



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