A stir fry lover will be in heaven all winter long with a garden of Asian greens.
When people think of Asian greens, bok choy and Chinese cabbage are usually the two that spring to mind. But don’t limit yourself to those. There is Chinese broccoli, mizuna, mustard greens, pak choi, tatsoi, celetuce and komatsuna to name a few more. These frost tolerant vegetables are a great way to get your iron and vitamin C requirements during winter.
Preparing your soil
These leafy greens like neutral soil. It is always best to check the pH before you improve it and after to make sure it suits the plants you are growing. Add compost, manure and coconut coir to improve the soil. These leafy greens will require a lot of nitrogen. If you haven’t had legumes in this area recently, add two cups of coffee grinds to about 1m x 1m and mix it in well. Leave it for about 2 weeks for the coffee to begin to break down. Check your pH and you should be ready to plant.
You can either plant these crops in rows by sprinkling seeds along a trench, or you can choose to plant in a hole. For larger plants like Chinese cabbage, I would poke my finger into the soil to the first knuckle and plant 2 seeds in the hole. Space according to instructions and thin seedlings if necessary. Leaves like bok choy and tatsoi I plant in trenches. Do this by digging a shallow trench about 1cm deep. Sprinkle your seeds along the trench and cover. I personally never bother to thin my Asian greens. Instead, I harvest the faster growing plants in about 8 weeks, which makes enough space for the slower ones coming behind.
Asian greens are part of the brassica family of vegetables and susceptible to being eaten by caterpillars. White butterflies and cabbage moths are attracted to brassicas because of their smell. Planting brassicas with celery and winter tolerant herbs like oregano, thyme, coriander and rosemary will help mask their smell. You can also use cabbage moth decoys and netting to deter these insects.
The other pest to be wary of are snails. These are prevalent in winter and love to munch on the leaves of your greens. You can try beer traps, eggshells or copper tape to stop snails. It is important that you never leave a snail alive. Squash it and leave it in the garden to feed your plants.
These plants will regrow, so when you harvest, cut the leaves off leaving about 5cm of foliage above the soil. You will enjoy another crop in 8 weeks. Let them go to flower when spring comes. This is to self seed for next winter (in my opinion, plants that have self seeded always do better than those you have planted yourself), and also to feed the hungry bees who are coming out of hibernation.
Author: Diana Barnes, Growing Vegetable Down Under