Thursday, December 11, 2014

End of Season Review - Brassicas - Part 1


All season I complained about how cool and wet our summer was. But, as is so often true in gardening, when one crop is suffering because of the weather, there are usually others that are thriving. And this was definitely the case with the greens and brassicas – until the slugs got out of hand in late summer, that is.


Chinese Greens


I absolutely love bok choy and this year I grew two varieties – Joi Choi Hybrid and Mei Qing Choi.

Throughout the year I have referred to these as Chinese cabbage, which of course they are.  But since Chinese cabbage also refers to the heading napa types, which are significantly different from the choy types, I’ve decided to start using the term “Chinese greens” instead.

This is my second year growing Joi Choi Hybrid and I simply love it.  Not only is it delicious but it is very slow to bolt, so production is outstanding.  I transplanted the original seedlings on April 30th and started harvesting on June 1st.  They kept producing until almost 5 weeks later, bolting in the 1st week of July.
 
Joi Choi Hybrid
 
Mei Qing Choi was a new addition this year.  We enjoyed eating this choy - the leaves were firmer but the taste was not quite as mild as the Joi Choi.  The one big problem with Mei Qing were the pests - it attracted more of them than any other brassica variety.  Of course there were the cabbage worms & the slugs which absolutely loved the tight little nooks where the leaves met the stems.  But this choy was also the only brassica to attract aphids, a pest that had, up until that point, stayed out of the vegetable garden.
 
Mei Qing Choi

 

 
At first glance it appears the Joi Choi was the most productive, with 730 grams (1.57 lbs) per sq. foot per sowing.  But Mei Qing was only grown as a fall crop, when the slugs were going crazy, so it actually did very well.  The majority of the Joi Choi harvest was in the spring with only 417 gr (0.92 lbs) per sq. ft. being harvested from the fall sowing.
 
 
Prior Year Comparison

In 2012, I purchased two packets of pak choi seeds – the standard Pak Choi and the Joi Choi Hybrid that I grew this year.  As it was mid-summer at that point, I tried to direct sow them.  They germinated but that’s about all they did – they grew to only about 3” tall & then bolted.  So total harvest that year was a big fat zero.

In 2013, I knew that transplants were the way to go, so I started the seeds indoors.  As you may recall from prior posts, this was also the year when I added compost to all the beds but nothing else due to a misconception that compost was the only nutrition that my crops needed.

 
 
 
I couldn’t help but laugh when I looked back at my numbers from 2013.  And no, the 55 grams from 4 pak choi plants placed 12” apart is NOT a typo.  The Joi Choi hybrid did much better, comparatively speaking.  Last year I wrote down that the Joi Choi harvest was “fantastic!!!!".... just goes to show how everything is relative ;)
 

Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

My experience growing Chinese greens since 2012 is yet another excellent example of how each year is a learning experience.  I went from zero harvest in 2012, to a small harvest in 2013, to a good sized harvest this year.  Each year I changed something which resulted in a marked improvement.  It sure makes you feel good when things work out that way.

I need to keep fiddling with my timing – my goal is to get 2-3 plantings of Chinese greens in per season, depending on the variety.  Joi Choi Hybrid is getting a nice big spot next year.  I will grow a few Mei Qing Choi, but try it as a spring crop instead of a fall crop to see if that makes a difference in the pest department.  I will also be adding at least two or three more varieties to my list – this is definitely one vegetable group where there is no lack of diversity.

Collards


I grew two varieties of collards this year.  This was my second year growing Vates and they did very well.

Vates
 
However, this year I tried a new variety - Beira Tronchuda (also known as Portuguese Kale) – and it blew Vates out of the water.  Beira not only produced HUGE leaves, but also a huge harvest all together.  The basket pictured is over 18" across which gives you some idea as to the size of the leaves.

Beira Tronchuda
 
Considering that I only grew 3 plants per variety, the numbers speak for themselves.




Another interesting point is that these harvest numbers are actually low as I missed out on a full two months of harvesting.  The stalks were getting far too tall for the netting that was covering the bed so I had to pull the plants at the beginning of August.  Since the collards were in the middle of the bed, I wasn’t able to take the netting off of them while still covering the rest of the bed.  And a row cover or netting is an absolute necessity on the brassica beds otherwise the plants would be overrun by cabbage worms. 

Once I realized that the collards would have to be pulled, I did start new transplants, but it was far too late by then and they didn’t grow beyond a few inches tall.
 

Prior Year Comparison

Last year I only grew Vates & was quite happy with the harvest.




Of course, compared to this year, the 2013 harvest was pretty small.  But, just as with the pak choi, it’s all relative.

 
Overall Impressions & Plan for Next Year

Next year, Vates is out and Beira Tronchuda is in.  I’m so happy with it that I’m not even going to bother trying another variety at this point.  And 4 plants should be more than enough for our needs.  But I will definitely be planting them at the end of the bed.  This way, when they get too tall for the netting, I can still keep the netting on the rest of the bed & cover each tall collard stalk individually with a piece of row cover or netting.
 
Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

6 comments:

  1. I like the little baby choys as they grow so fast. I find that I can get a harvest from them before I have to plant the last of the corn in June. So the bed can do a spring harvest and a summer harvest. It is tight timing if I direct seed, but so far it works. And if I transplant it is easy timing. Here at least. Though the rotation of a heavy feeder to a heavy feeder might not be so good. Space wise it works for me.

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    1. I had to look that up as I didn't realize that there were actual baby choy varieties - I just assumed baby choys were immature standard choys. That's really good to know - I'll be working some baby choy into the plan for sure.

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  2. Joi Choi is my favorite bok choi by far. It grows so quickly I don't bother with miniature. I have tried Win-Win and Mei Qing and went back to Joi Choi. And next year I also will be planting Beira Tronchuda in place of the collards I usually grow, inspired by Michelle's harvests. It's good to see you liked it and had success.

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    1. There are so many different varieties of Chinese greens out there that I just want to try them all! And you are so right about Joi Choi - as I experiment with other varieties, that is one that will always find a spot in my garden.

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  3. I love both Joi Choi and Mei Qinq Choi. My only complaint with Joi Choi is it grows so big, so fast, it is tough for two of us to eat it all! Which is not a bad complaint to have for sure. Toy Choy is one that stays small, maybe too small compared to the others. I wind up growing Mei Qinq since it's sort of medium sized.

    Beira Tronchuda also did well here but I haven't grown it for a couple of years. There's never enough room in the garden for everything, it seems. Komatsuna is another one of my favorite Asian greens, if you like to cook them. It's been great for me in spring and fall, and relatively easy to grow for me.

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    1. A veg that grows too big, to fast? Impossible! ;) I do enjoy the Mei Qing but will likely drop it if next spring's sowing is still too buggy. Thankfully there are lots of choices when it comes to choy type greens. I'd never heard of Komatsuna - Just looked it up & added it to my list as well - thanks for the suggestion!

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