How To Grow Napa Cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis)


Napa cabbage growing in garden

By Jennifer Poindexter

Chinese cabbage comes in two different varieties. There’s Napa cabbage which is a heading variety and there’s Bok choy which is a non-heading variety.

We’re going to discuss Napa cabbage. This variety is used in various dishes, but is especially known for its use in Asian style cooking.

If you’re looking for a different type of cabbage to incorporate into your recipes, look no further. I’ll walk you through all you should know to begin the growing process.

Here’s what you should know when learning how to grow Napa cabbage:

What You’ll Learn:

  • The different varieties of Chinese cabbage, focusing on Napa cabbage.
  • The ideal growing conditions, including temperature, sunlight, and soil requirements for Napa cabbage.
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to plant Napa cabbage, including timing, seed depth, and spacing.
  • Essential care tips for watering, fertilizing, pruning, and mulching Napa cabbage plants.
  • Common pests and diseases that can affect Napa cabbage and their management techniques.
  • Guidelines for harvesting Napa cabbage and storing it for future use.

Growing Conditions for Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage is considered a hardy biennial. Yet, in most areas, this plant is grown as an annual. It performs best in planting zones four through seven.

When growing Napa cabbage, do so when the weather is cooler. This plant prefers temperatures ranging from 45- to 75-degrees Fahrenheit.

Select a growing location which receives full to partial sunlight. This depends upon the region you’re growing in.

 In warmer locations, provide bright morning sun and afternoon shade. In cooler climates, you can grow Napa cabbage in full sunlight all day.

Once you have the location picked out, ensure the soil is well-draining and filled with nutrients. If the soil is a little sandy, this could work in your favor as well.

Another option for growing Napa cabbage is to grow it in planters. As long as the container is a foot deep and eight inches across, it should be able to support the plant.

You now know what Napa cabbage needs in a growing location. Provide these conditions, and you should be able to start this crop on the right foot.

planting Napa cabbage in home garden

How to Plant Napa Cabbage

When planting Napa cabbage, it’s all about timing. You should grow it either in early spring to have a late spring harvest or plant it in late summer for a fall harvest.

This crop grows quickly when provided a stable growing environment. The best way to add Napa cabbage to your garden is through direct sowing.

Napa cabbage doesn’t do well when transplanted. Even if you start it indoors, be sure to plant in biodegradable pots to avoid the act of transplanting when you move your plants outdoors.

When growing in the spring, plant the seeds outdoors approximately six weeks before the final frost. For a fall harvest, begin planting towards the end of summer when the temperatures are more accommodating for this crop. This generally is about six to eight weeks before the first frost.

Prepare the soil by tilling it, so it’s ready to receive seed. Then plant the seeds a ½ inch deep and 4 inches apart. From there, lightly cover them and keep the soil evenly damp.

It can take the seeds up to twenty days to germinate. Once sprouted, thin them to where there’s 1 foot of space between plants and 3 feet of space between rows.

It’s important to note that Napa cabbage can grow year-round in places with mild temperatures. The ideal growing temperatures are between 60- and 65-degrees Fahrenheit.

These plants can handle humid conditions as long as they’re provided adequate airflow. They can even handle colder weather once established. If the temperature drops below 45-degrees Fahrenheit while they’re young, it can lead to premature bolting.

Planting Napa cabbage isn’t a difficult process.  Sow the seeds, ensure the growing conditions are correct, and you should see plants in less than a month.

Caring for Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage is a low-maintenance crop. Follow a few tips on watering, fertilizing, pruning, and mulching and your crops should do well.

When watering Napa cabbage, it’s important to do so deeply. This encourages a deeper root system and a healthier plant.

Deep watering means you apply water for a longer period of time but fewer days of the week. It not only encourages deeper roots, but it also ensures your plants receive enough water without overdoing it.

You should test the soil prior to watering your plants deeply again by sticking your finger into the ground next to the plant. When it’s dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to water deeply again.

Next, you shouldn’t need to fertilize Napa cabbage. However, if the plants seem to need a nutritional boost, you may either side dress them or add an all-purpose fertilizer prior to the plant forming heads.

Once it forms heads, and you add fertilizer, it can cause them to split. You also don’t need to prune Napa cabbage unless it’s soggy or the plant is damaged.

Finally, be sure to mulch around your plants. This will keep weeds down which deters both pests and diseases. It also helps retain moisture around the plant.

This is all Napa cabbage needs from you when growing in the garden. Take care of your plants, and they should produce a nice harvest.

Garden Pests and Diseases Which Can Impact Napa Cabbage

Pests and diseases are two things which can get in the way of your harvest. It’s vital to take note of common threats and remain vigilant in protecting your crops.

The most common pests to impact this crop are aphids, flea beetles, cabbage loopers, and cabbage worms. You may treat all of these problems with an insecticide.

You may also spray your plants with soapy water to dislodge the pests and their homes. Treating pests at the first sign of a problem is vital in protecting your crop.

The most common diseases to impact Napa cabbage are clubroot, leaf spot, black rot, and downy mildew.

Any fungal based issue, such as leaf spot or downy mildew, should be treated with a fungicide. You should remove any damaged portions of the plant and destroy them. Don’t compost or you’ll further spread the disease.

It’s also important to ensure the growing location is receiving enough sunlight, the soil is draining properly, and the plant is receiving enough airflow.

Clubroot is a soil borne disease that there’s currently no treatment for. Unfortunately, this disease can live in soil for two decades even with no plant there to host it.

The best thing to do is to plant resistant varieties in areas you know clubroot is a problem or (if the disease has already impacted your plants) remove any infected plants from your garden and try planting in a container where you have more control over the soil.

Black rot is another fungal disease which should be treated with a copper spray and by removing damaged parts of the plant.

It’s also wise to water your plants at the base to avoid getting the foliage damp. If you must water from overhead, ensure you do so early enough in the day that it provides time for the plants to dry prior to the cool night air moving in.

Cabbage is a low-maintenance crop in most areas with the exception of pests and diseases. Therefore, it’s vital that you keep your eyes on your crops to spot the first signs of trouble.

harvesting Napa cabbage from home garden

How to Harvest Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage is typically ready to harvest in two months. When the heads are firm, they’re ready to be enjoyed.

Start the harvesting process by cutting the head directly from the plant at soil level. You may store the cabbage heads in your root cellar for up to six months.

These heads can remain in your refrigerator for up to one month. You may also blanch and freeze the cabbage. Then store it in your freezer for up to four months.

The main thing is to harvest your Napa cabbage before a freeze moves in. If you can harvest your cabbage at the right time and utilize the storage method which works best for you, you could enjoy your harvest for months to come.

You now know how to grow, care for, protect, and harvest homegrown Napa cabbage. Enjoy the growing process.

The more you care for your plants throughout the growing season, the more it should show in your harvest.

Key Takeaways:

  • Napa cabbage is a heading variety of Chinese cabbage, popular in Asian cuisine.
  • It thrives in cooler weather with temperatures between 45 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Choose a growing location with full to partial sunlight, depending on the climate.
  • Ensure well-draining soil enriched with nutrients for optimal growth.
  • Direct sow Napa cabbage seeds, avoiding transplanting, in early spring or late summer.
  • Water deeply and infrequently, testing soil moisture before each watering.
  • Mulch around plants to suppress weeds and retain moisture.
  • Watch out for common pests like aphids, flea beetles, cabbage loopers, and cabbage worms, and treat them with insecticides if necessary.
  • Common diseases include clubroot, leaf spot, black rot, and downy mildew, which require specific treatments and prevention measures.
  • Harvest Napa cabbage when the heads are firm, and store in a root cellar or refrigerate for up to six months.
  • Blanched and frozen cabbage can be stored in the freezer for up to four months.

Napa Cabbage Quick Reference Growing Chart:

Stage Growing Information
Growing Conditions Hardy biennial, mostly grown as an annual. Best suited for zones 4-7.
Planting Plant in early spring for a late spring harvest. Plant in late summer for a fall harvest. Direct sow seeds outdoors 6 weeks before the final frost (spring) or 6-8 weeks before the first frost (fall). Plant seeds ½ inch deep and 4 inches apart. Thin seedlings to 1 foot spacing between plants and 3 feet between rows.
Pests Aphids, flea beetles, cabbage loopers, cabbage worms
Diseases Clubroot, leaf spot, black rot, downy mildew
Harvesting Ready to harvest in approximately 2 months when heads are firm

More About Napa Cabbage

https://mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/garden-help/vegetables/napa-cabbage/

https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/cabbage-chinese-cabbage/

https://extension.umn.edu/vegetables/growing-chinese-cabbage-and-bok-choy

The post How To Grow Napa Cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis) appeared first on Gardening Channel.

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