Bok choy is a small to medium (6-16 inches) plant grown for its greens that is a type of Chinese cabbage. It has a crisp and firm texture, even when cooked, so it’s popular for use in dishes like stir-fries. It’s also relatively well-suited to growing hydroponically, although it’s best harvested all at once. Here’s what you need to know about how to grow hydroponic bok choy.
- Most Suitable Hydroponic Method: Any
- Best Grow Medium: Rockwool or coconut coir
- Time to Germinate: 4 to 7 days
- Time to Maturity: Depends on variety and desired size, from 30 to 60 days
- Optimal pH Range: 6.0 to 7.0
- Optimal Nutrient Mix: Any well-balanced mix for lettuce
- EC Range (Nutrient Strength): 1.5 to 2.5
- Growing Difficulty: Moderately easy
Growing Bok Choy Indoors
As with other plants, one of the key benefits of growing indoors is that you’re not limited to conventional growing seasons. If you’re a bok choy fan, you can grow and enjoy it all year long.
Another huge benefit to growing bok choy indoors is that you limit the risk of plant damage due to pests and disease. It’s still not a perfect world, but you have a ton of control when growing indoors.
Keep your equipment clean, and your plants happy!
Germinating Bok Choy Seeds
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As one of the many types of brassicas, Bok Choy is relatively easy to germinate. You can sprout the seeds in a paper towel much like you would for lettuce or tomatoes, or you can sew them directly into rockwool cubes and keep them moist.
Bok choy seeds need slightly more warmth than most other brassicas and greens to sprout, with an ideal medium temperature of 75–85 degrees F.
They don’t need light to sprout but give them light immediately after sprouting to prevent legginess and mold/mildew growth.
Time to Germinate: 4-7 days | Special Requirements: 70-75F | Difficulty: Easy
Tips for Growing Hydroponic Bok Choy
Bok choy is larger and a little harder to grow than lettuce, but it makes a great introduction into more valuable greens. Each plant can grow to 16 inches tall and reach 12 inches or more across, so space them at least 14 inches apart to ensure good circulation to prevent disease. You can start with plants as close together as six inches and thin them later, and you may only need 8 inch spacing for smaller varieties you plan to harvest at baby size.
The best pH range for bok choy is between 6.0 and 7.0, and swings above and below this will damage the plants. They’re a little more sensitive than other greens like lettuce. Aim for the middle of the range at 6.5 for ideal growth and healthy leaf development.
Provide around 6 to 7 hours of light per day in one continuous period for bok choy growth. Since there’s no fruiting or flowering cycle, you’ll just need lights designed for vegetative growth. Bok choy and similar greens actually have a slightly lower daily light integral (DLI) than lettuce, making it pretty easy to keep well-illuminated with affordable grow lights. With a DLI of just 12, it’s fairly easy to use a PPFD table from the light manufacturers to match your lights to the bok choy plants.
On the topic of nutrients, always start your seedlings off with a nutrient solution that’s about half strength so you don’t burn them. Since bok choy needs a maximum EC of 2.5, don’t give seedlings much above an EC of 1 during their first few weeks of growth. Slowly increase to 1.5 to 2.0 EC over time to keep them bulking up.
Time to Maturity: 30 to 60 Days | pH Range: 6.0-7.0 | EC: 1.5-2.5 | Light/Dark Cycle: 6 hr/18 hr | Hydroponic System: Any | Grow Medium: Any | Spacing: 8-12″
When to Harvest Bok Choy
Bok choy is flexible like lettuce in that it’s valuable as a baby product as well as a full-grown head. Baby bok choy are harvestable in as little as 30 days from transplanting. Full-grown heads will reach maturity at around 60 days.
Cutting bok choy off at the base with a sharp knife is best any time it’s big enough to eat. Baby bok choy with as little as four or five leaves can be cooked whole. Don’t try to twist or snap the plant off since it has a wide and strong base. Nothing will grow back, so remove the base and roots after cutting.
When to Harvest: Any time after reaching 4-6 inches in height | Number of Harvests: Single
Growing Bok Choy to Seed
Gathering your own seed from bok choy is tricky because it doesn’t readily go to seed. You’ll need to keep the plant hot and give it a long day cycle of 8+ hours of light to get it to form a flower stalk. After triggering flowering, the process goes similarly to saving seed from lettuce. Simply wait for the pods to dry and collect the seeds. In most cases, you’ll find it much easier to just buy new seeds from a source like High Mowing Seeds rather than waiting months for a bok choy plant to flower.
With a neutral pH and a moderate level of nutrients, you’ll find yourself rewarded with ample harvests of beautiful bok choy. Experiment with various soilless growing mediums like rockwool and coconut coir since there’s relatively little research into this particular crop. You’ll soon find the perfect balance of air exposure and moisture control for rapid bok choy growth.
Is bok choy self pollinating?
No, bok choy required bee pollination to produce viable seeds. Bok choy does NOT need to be pollinated in order to grow and produce an edible harvest. Pollination is strictly related to non-edible seed viability.
Can you eat bok choy leaves?
Yes, that is the part of the plant you eat. Bok choy leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and are great either way. Shredded, raw bok choy leaves work especially well when added to fresh garden salads.
Is bok choy healthier raw or cooked?
Raw, cooking vegetables reduces their nutritional value when compared to consuming them raw.
Is bok choy anti inflammatory?
Yes, bok choy is a cruciferous vegetable that can reduce inflammation by helping detoxify the liver.
Can you eat yellow bok choy?
Yes, you can, but it will likely be bitter. Once a bok choy plant begins to bolt and flower the leaves will yellow and become very bitter. This doesn’t make the plant dangerous to eat, but rather not very palatable.
Bok Choy, Pak Choi, Call it Whatcha Want
Call it whatever ya want, but if you grow it hydroponically you’re gonna be calling it good! Hopefully, these tips will help turn you into a hydroponic bok choy master. It’s an easy growing hydroponic plant that rewards you with amazing flavor. Beyond that, I think it adds an amazingly beautiful aesthetic to any soilless garden!
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