Asian Greens for January: Chinese Cabbage

Sorry for the delay this week – technical problems.

Young Chinese cabbage transplants in our hoophouse in October. Photo by Bridget Aleshire

If you have Chinese cabbage in your hoophouse, January is the month to harvest it in zone 7. We do not harvest leaves from this crop, but wait for it to form full-size heads and then harvest those mature plants. We sometimes start harvesting as early as December 4, if the plants have reached full size and we “need” to harvest them. Otherwise we wait till December 15. If we have planted enough we can harvest until January 23, or sometimes as late as February 9.

Other Asian greens we are also harvesting at this time of year include pak choy, mizuna and the frilly mustards, tatsoi, Senposai, Tokyo Bekana, Maruba Santoh and Yukina savoy.

Chinese cabbage has very tender, light green savoyed leaves and is excellent for stir-fries, or pickling (sauerkraut or kimchee).

Chinese cabbage (both the Napa kind and the Michihli or Michihili kind) are Wong Bok types (Brassica rapa var. pekinensis) along with the “celery cabbages” – the non-heading Tokyo Bekana and Maruba Santoh.

We like Blues, an open-pollinated “barrel-shaped” Napa cabbage, shown in the photo above. Kasumi has the best bolt tolerance and is larger: 5 lb (2.3 kg) compared to 4 lb (1.8 kg); Orange Queen is a colorful but slower-growing variety (80 days in spring).

Napa and Michihili Chinese cabbages in October.
Photo Wren Vile

The Michihili types are taller and narrower, can be transplanted closer (8″) and might make more sense in terms of space use, although Napa cabbages do store better under refrigeration than michihli types. Jade Pagoda and the O-P Michihli both take 72 days from sowing to harvest in spring – considerably slower than Napa types. Michihili are more stress tolerant and resistant to bolting and black speck than Napa cabbage.

Blues takes 52 days from sowing to harvest in spring, but of course, takes longer in fall and winter. We sow September 15 in an outdoor nursery seedbed, and transplant into our hoophouse at 2-3 weeks old (October 2). It is very fast-growing in those temperatures and conditions. If we start harvesting December 15, it’s 3 calendar months from sowing, 91 days. The minimum germination soil temperature for Chinese cabbage is 50F (10C), and the ideal soil temperatures are 68F (20C) to 86F (30C). Under the ideal conditions the seedlings will emerge in 4 days. The maximum soil temperature to get any germination is 95F (35C).

We plant 52  plants for 100 people, with 4 staggered rows in the 4ft bed, 10.5″ apart (every 7th tine on Johnny’s row marker rake) and plants 10″ apart. With a harvest period of 5-8 weeks, 6-10 heads per week is about right for us.

We have not had many disease or pest problems with our hoophouse Chines cabbage. We do pay attention to using insect netting over the outdoor seedbed in the fall, but once we transplant indoors, our pest troubles are usually over. Vegetable weevil larvae have caused trouble in January. They come out of the soil at night and make holes in the leaves. They tend to prefer pak choy and turnips. We have used Spinosad against them with some success.

Chinese cabbage.
Photo Ethan Hirsh

Tipburn (brown leaf margins, including internal leaves) is caused by quick drying of the soil, when the weather makes a sudden switch to bright and sunny from overcast. Be ready to irrigate when the weather suddenly brightens.

The winter-kill temperature of Chinese cabbage outdoors without protection is 25F (-4C). Our hoophouse crop has taken outdoor temps of 8F without inner rowcovers, and -8F with added thick rowcover. It is more cold-hardy than most varieties of pak choy, and less cold-hardy than Komatsuna, Senposai, tatsoi, Yukina savoy. Mizuna, Maruba Santoh and Tokyo Bekana have a similar level of cold-tolerance.

Once past the winter solstice, the order of bolting of Asian greens is something like: Tokyo Bekana and Maruba Santoh, pak choy, Chinese cabbage, tatsoi, Komatsuna, Senposai, mizuna, Yukina Savoy, leaf radish, frilly mustards.

When it’s time to harvest, we lever and pull the plant out of the soil, then cut off the root. This helps with the next task of replanting the space. It is much easier than cutting the plants at the base and then digging up the root.

After the Chinese cabbage are all cleared, we might follow with kale or collards on January 24 to transplant outdoors as bare root transplants in March. If we have no plans for a follow-on crop that early in the year, we fill gaps in the Chinese cabbage plot until January 25, using “filler” Asian greens we sowed in October. After that date we fill all gaps with spinach transplants until February 20, and from then on we only fill gaps on the edges of beds, leaving the bed centers free for tomatoes, etc in mid-March.

Close-up of Chinese cabbage in our hoophouse in late November. Photo Pam Dawling

Resources

  • Grow Your Own Chinese Vegetables, Geri Harrington, 1984, Garden Way Publishing. Includes the names for these crops in different cultures.
  • Growing Unusual Vegetables, Simon Hickmott, 2006, Eco-Logic books, UK.
  • Oriental Vegetables: The Complete Guide for the Garden and Kitchen, Joy Larkham, revised edition 2008, Kodansha, USA
  • The Chinese Kitchen Garden: Growing Techniques and Family Recipes from a Classic Cuisine, Wendy Kiang-Spray

Events December 2013 – April 2014

LFH_Logo2Local Food Hub, Charlottesville, VA

Date: Wednesday Dec 11, 2013
Time: 3:00 – 6:00 pm
Change of Location: The new location is:

Albemarle County Office Building
Room A
1600 5th Street Extended
Charlottesville VA 22902
Cost: $25 (free for Local Food Hub Partner Producers)

http://localfoodhub.org/our-programs/workshops/

Providing for the Full Eating Season: Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests of Summer Vegetables, and Growing and Storing Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables

People eat year-round and growers need to expect this! Learn how to produce a consistent supply of produce throughout the year. The first half of this workshop will explain how to plan sowing dates for continuous supplies of popular summer crops, such as beans, squash, cucumbers and sweet corn, as well as year round lettuce. Using these planning strategies can help avoid gluts and shortages. The second half of the workshop will tackle growing at the “back end” of the year, with details on crops, timing, protection and storage. Why farm in winter? Here’s the information to succeed – tables of cold-hardiness, details of four ranges of cold-hardy crops (fall crops to harvest before serious cold, crops to keep growing into winter, crops for all-winter harvests, overwintering crops for spring harvests); scheduling; weather prediction and protection; hoophouse growing; and vegetable storage.

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cropped-vabf-virginia-grass-fed-cattleVirginia Association for Biological Farming Conference, Richmond, Virginia.

Dates: Thursday January 30-Saturday February 1, 2014

Location: Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, Richmond-Midlothian, VA
Registration: $130.00 for members

http://vabf.org/conference/

Book-signings scheduled throughout the conference

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Website_banner_v2PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) Farming for the Future Conference

Dates: Wednesday February 5 – Saturday February 8, 2014

Location: State College, PA

Registration: $145 for members for Friday and Saturday?

http://www.pasafarming.org/events/conference

Book-signing

Producing Asian Greens

Detailed information for market and home growers. Many varieties of tasty, nutritious greens grow quickly and bring fast returns. This session covers production of Asian greens outdoors and in the hoophouse. It includes tips on variety selection of over twenty types of Asian greens; timing of plantings; pest and disease management; fertility; weed management and harvesting.

Cold-hardy Winter Vegetables

Details on crops, timing, protection and storage. Why farm in winter? Here’s the information to succeed – tables of cold-hardiness, details of four ranges of cold-hardy crops (fall crops to harvest before serious cold, crops to keep growing into winter, crops for all-winter harvests, overwintering crops for spring harvests); scheduling; weather prediction and protection; hoophouse growing; vegetable storage.

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Lynchburg College

Date: Saturday February 15 2014 10am to 3 pm

Location: Lynchburg College, SW Virginia

Feeding Ourselves Sustainably Year Round
10-11  Grow a Sustainable Diet–Cindy Conner
11-11:10  Break
11:10-12:10  Year Round Gardening–Ira Wallace
12:10-1:10 Lunch
1:10-1:50  Understanding and Using Seed Catalogs –small group activity.
1:50-2.00  Break
2.00-3.00 Crop Rotations, Cover Crops, and Compost — Pam Dawling

Details to be confirmed soon

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AiscAvnOsQFURv1wbixykzdTEl5dCrYHumxaW5HMlv_9XK1UpLeQQEgEAD9gMcdG9L_RhllIVVAnqOEAkdAwxOJeL_fFsxWEKQyzNfllayMqc7g=s0-d-e1-ftlogo_sfcCSA Expert Exchange Online Conference, Small Farm Central and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture

Dates: March 6-7, 2014

Location: Online

Registration: $70 for access to both days

www.csafarmconference.com

Crop Planning for Sustainable Vegetable Production

A step-by-step approach to closing the planning circle, so that you can produce crops when you want them and in the right quantities, so you can sell them where and when you need to and support yourself with a rewarding livelihood while replenishing the soil. Never repeat the same mistake two years running!

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Mother Earth News Fair, Asheville (confirmed 12/21/13)

Dates: Saturday April 12 – Sunday April 13, 2014

Location: Western North Carolina Agricultural Center, 1301 Fanning Bridge Road,
Fletcher, NC 28732

Registration:?

http://www.motherearthnews.com/fair/north-carolina.aspx#axzz2k02EAfZq

Workshop topic to be decided

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Back from Allegheny Mountain School

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming/coldhardy-winter-vegetables-pam-dawling-2013″ title=”Cold-hardy winter vegetables – Pam Dawling 2013″ target=”_blank”>Cold-hardy winter vegetables – Pam Dawling 2013</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/SustainableMarketFarming” target=”_blank”>Pam Dawling</a></strong> </div>

I’m just home from a trip with Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, to the Allegheny Mountain School, where we each gave several presentations. My new one, Cold-hardy winter vegetables, is embedded here. For my others, go to SlideShare.net and search for Pam Dawling. Here’s titles I’ve up-loaded previously, if you’d rather cut and paste than browse:

Fall vegetable production (60 min)

CFSA 2012 – Growing great garlic

Southern SAWG – Producing Asian greens for market

Southern SAWG – Intensive vegetable production on a small scale

VABF Farm School 2013 – Sustainable farming practices

VABF 2013 – Crop rotations for vegetables and cover crops

Ira Wallace contributes to the SESE blog and to the Organic Gardening blog on Mother Earth News. Click to read her recent post about planning a tomato tasting party. Here’s more about AMS from their website:

“Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) is a not-for-profit experiential fellowship program designed to serve our region’s communities in developing a more secure food system.  AMS is located in Highland County, VA. Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) has assembled its third cohort of nine Fellows where they are working and studying sustainable food cultivation and restorative, nourishing traditions.  Our goal is to teach Fellows to train others to grow their own food and to understand the benefits of eating local, whole foods. AMS is a fully funded intensive 20 month two phase program.  Phase I (April 28,2013-November 1, 2013) takes place on a mountain farm in Highland County, VA where Fellows experience a full growing season to cultivate and harvest their own food, prepare nutritious meals and put up/sow food for winter.  In addition, Fellows engage in mentored research on topics relevant to food or medicinal cultivation and health.  During Phase II (January 1, 2014-December 31, 2014), AMS Fellows are provided stipends to work in positions for our Partner Service Organizations, local nonprofits focused on food systems activities which positively impact community and environmental well being.”

The nine energetic and enthusiastic Fellows are a small temporary community farming together and learning about sustainability. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them, as well as Kayla and Trevor, the two farm managers, and Laurie Bergman. They farm in a splendidly isolated zone 4 mountainous area. Their gardens are almost weed-free, and their onions and leeks are stupendous! Brassica flea beetles are the main insect challenge. The fresh air was a lovely change from muggy central Virginia. Several of the crops we grow outside (eggplant, peppers, watermelon, sweet potatoes) are creatively packed into their hoophouse.