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How to grow pak choi: tips on sowing, growing and eating, by Jack Wallington

Gardening expert and no-dig allotmenteer Jack Wallington provides weekly advice on how to grow food yourself 
Pak choi

Gardening expert and no-dig allotmenteer Jack Wallington provides weekly advice on how to grow food yourself, even in small spaces. 

I always keep a separate stash of seed packets containing fast-growing crops that can be sown anytime from spring until late summer, perfect for quickly filling gaps left by harvested crops. Lettuce, spring onions and beetroot are all part of the gang, with pak choi one of the stars. Grow it for baby leaves raw in salads or chunky heads for stir fries, similar in texture to Florence fennel.

Growing pak choi is easy, sow this weekend and repeat every couple of weeks; you can extend the season into autumn using protective fleece or a polytunnel. Sow seeds 1cm deep in rows 40cm apart and keep watered to prevent bolting.

Spacing depends on whether you’re growing for baby salad leaves or for larger plants to cook. For baby leaves, space every 10cm, plants will be ready to start picking after one month. I prefer to grow pak choi into full-sized, chunky heads, which takes about two months, so I space 25cm apart 
to give plants room.

On a number of occasions, I’ve found a healthy line of seedlings entirely vanish overnight to hungry snails. If you have the same problem, start pak choi in seed trays and plant out once they have four to six good-sized leaves.

I’ve grown red-leaved ‘Rubi F1’ and white-stemmed ‘Glacier F1’, which are both delicious roasted or fried with garlic. If your goal is baby leaves, try ‘Baraku F1’ from chilternseeds.co.uk, bred for this purpose, though any cultivar can be used. All are rich in vitamins A and C, calcium and potassium.

Pak choi is a small-space champ, happy in window boxes or troughs on patios and balconies. You can keep picking baby leaves as they grow and the large plants can regrow by cutting a few centimetres above the base and growing point.