Early fall, with its often foggy mornings and cool temperatures, signals that change is in the air. Many of the staples of summer are running low and growth throughout the garden is slowing noticeably. But if you think it’s time to put the hoe away for the winter, think again – because now is the time for Asian greens mixes to come into their own. Read on to learn how to plant Asia lettuces.
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What are the varieties of Asia lettuce
Up to twice a year you can usually grow Asian lettuce. The first time in the spring (from April), the second – in July or August. Asian greens mix offer a fascinating variety of leaf shapes, textures and flavors. Enjoy the soft and creamy leaves of rosette-shaped bok choi (also known as pak choi) or crisp Chinese cabbage (brasicca). Other popular varieties include mizuna, leaf mustard “Red Giant” and “Wasabina”, Namenia, Komatsuna.
Asia lettuces planting in late summer is best
Oriental salad leaves thrive best in the second half of the year. Asia Salatе of the cool season is best sown in the last weeks of summer to grow through fall and beyond. Plant Asia lettuce directly in prepared soil or start seeds in plug trays to plant out a few weeks later. Most of them are quite hardy and will still give off some leaves for cutting in winter, especially if they are protected in a greenhouse or arbor.
Where to plant Asia lettuces: Asian vegetables grow best in well-drained soil. They do not need full sun to thrive. Fast-maturing vegetables like mizuna can thrive with only 2 to 3 hours of direct sun per day. Longer maturing vegetables like bok choy need more light. Plant in raised beds or pots. Asian vegetables also grow well in troughs and trays, as individual plants or as a mix of different species and/or varieties for a delicious flavor explosion in one convenient container.
Planting Asia lettuces – here’s how: mark drill holes about 1 inch deep. Keep a distance of 15 to 25 cm between rows. Sow seeds thinly along the length of the holes, then cover again. Water well in dry conditions. Once the seeds have germinated, gradually thin the seedlings to their final spacing. For most plants, this is 15 to 30 inches apart, depending on what you are growing.
Sowing in spring (from April).
If you plant Asia lettuce earlier in the year, you will need to pick the leaves regularly to slow flowering as the plants push up the flower stalks and leaf production stops. Plants grown in partial shade locations often shoot more slowly. If you seed every few weeks, you should ensure a steady supply of usable foliage during this tricky time of year. Prepare the soil for planting by spreading an all-purpose organic fertilizer over it and then raking it to create a fine, friable surface.
How to protect the plants in winter
Weed between plants to keep them free of competitors – especially important during the colder, darker months of the year. Slugs can be a nuisance, as they like to rasp holes in tender leaves. Intercept them at dusk or set slug traps filled with beer and remove the trapped slugs. Protect plants planted earlier in the year from flea beetles by enclosing freshly seeded beds with row covers or insect screens. You can make it more difficult for flea beetles to overwinter by raking the soil surface and clearing surrounding areas of leaf litter in early winter. Netting or trellises also discourage pigeons from picking plants apart.
In cooler regions, putting up a greenhouse or cloche will improve growth rates as winter approaches, while a greenhouse almost guarantees harvest in all but the coldest weeks of winter.
Harvest Asia lettuce
Harvest Chinese cabbage and bok choy whole by cutting off the base of the plant. Loose, open plants, such as mizuna, should be harvested little and often, tearing a few leaves from each. Pinch the leaves between your finger and thumb or use scissors. Enough leaves should be left after each cutting to allow the plant to recover. Overwintered plants will grow vigorously when warmer weather returns in the spring, producing a bountiful harvest before they wither.
Tip: Asian vegetables are rich in iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C. Cooking with these vegetables is a unique way to get healthy nutrients. You can find some great recipes here!