Growing gai lan or kai lan is very easy. The plants are very forgiving and generally do very well with minimal care.
Gai lan is a cool season crop and grow best under cooler conditions. Although growing gai lan in an exceptionally warm climate is also possible by choosing the slow-bolting varieties.
The gai lan (Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra) is a leaf vegetable with thick, flat, glossy blue-green leaves with thick stems, and flower heads similar to but much smaller than broccoli. Flavor of the gai lan is very similar to that of broccoli, but slightly more bitter.
Gai lan is also known by some other names such as kai lan, Chinese kale, Chinese broccoli etc.
The gai lan plants grow well in the same growing conditions required for growing broccoli. And in case of taste, the gai lan is sweeter than broccoli.
Gai lan can be consumed in many different ways. You can use it as a cooked green or add it to stir-fries. It is nutritious and high in vitamin A and C, and rich in calcium.
How to Grow Gai Lan
Growing gai lan is very easy. The plants grow relatively faster and generally require minimal care. Here we are describing about some important factors for growing gai lan in your home garden.
Select a Location
Select a good location in your garden for growing gai lan. The gai lan plants generally prefer an open and sunny site.
Prepare the Soil
The gai lan plants generally grow best if the soil is rich in lots of organic materials. So prepare the soil by tilling and adding organic materials into it.
Select a Variety
There are actually two varieties of gai lan plants available, one with white flowers and another with yellow flowers.
Among these two varieties, the white flower variety is much popular and generally grows up to 19 inches high.
While the yellow flower variety only grows to about 8 inches tall. Both varieties will grow through the winter in most areas.
The gai lan plants are grown from seeds. The seeds should be easily available in your area. Please search your nearest garden center or order online.
Best Time for Growing Gai Lan
Gai lan plants grow best during winter season. The seeds can be sown in late summer for early-winter harvesting. Seedlings planted in autumn will last all winter.
The gai lan seeds should be planted into a weed free and well prepared soil. And hope you have already prepared the soil perfectly.
Sow the seeds directly into the soil between April and September. Sow the seeds on the soil surface in rows.
The rows should be 1.5-2 ft apart and and the seeds should be 3-4 inches apart. You can thin later when the seedlings are large enough to do so.
After that cover the soil with 1/4 inch of soil. And finally water the seed bed. Gai lan seeds generally germinate in 10 to 15 days.
As we have mentioned above, growing gai lan is very easy and the plants require minimal care. You actually don’t have to worry much about the caring of the gai lan plants.
Just water the plants regularly, especially during the dry season. And provide plenty of mulch in the bed to help retain moisture and also to keep the plants cool.
Thin the seedlings when they are about 3 inches tall to about 8-10 inches apart.
Pests and Diseases
Cutworms, loppers, cabbage aphids and leafhoppers may become a problem while growing gai lan.
Watch plants closely for insect damage and use organic pest control if necessary.
Keep the garden free of weeds to promote healthy plants as part of your regular care of gai lan.
Gai lan grows very fast, and you can expect to harvest the leaves within 60-70 days after planting.
You should start harvesting young stems and leaves when the first flowers appear.
Pick or cut the stalk of the plants by using a clean and sharp knife, about 8 inches from the top of the plants.. And doing this will encourage a continuous supply of leaves.
These are the common steps to follow for growing gai lan in home garden. Hope you have enjoyed the guide! Good luck and happy gardening 🙂
Tips for Growing Gai Lan
Here are some important tips for growing Gai Lan:
- Choose a site with full sun exposure and well-draining soil.
- Test the soil to determine its pH level and nutrient content before planting.
- Amend the soil with compost or other organic matter to improve fertility.
- Plant seeds or seedlings in the early spring or late summer.
- Space the plants 12-18 inches apart in rows that are 2-3 feet apart.
- Water the plants deeply and regularly, especially during hot, dry weather.
- Fertilize the plants with a balanced fertilizer or one that is high in nitrogen.
- Control weeds by hand-pulling or using an organic herbicide.
- Provide support for the plants as they grow, such as using stakes or trellises.
- Prune the plants to promote branching and a bushier growth habit.
- Harvest the outer leaves when they are 8-12 inches long, leaving the inner leaves to continue growing.
- Cut the leaves off at the base with a sharp knife or scissors.
- Allow the plants to regrow and harvest again in a few weeks.
- Remove any yellow or damaged leaves to prevent the spread of disease.
- Watch for pests such as aphids or cabbage loopers and take appropriate measures to control them.
- Provide protection from strong winds or heavy rain, which can damage the plants.
- Use a layer of mulch to help retain moisture and regulate soil temperature.
- Rotate your crops to prevent the buildup of diseases and pests in the soil.
- Avoid planting Gai Lan in areas where other brassicas (such as broccoli or cabbage) have been grown in the past.
- Use disease-resistant varieties to reduce the risk of crop loss.
- Monitor the plants for signs of nutrient deficiencies and adjust fertilization as needed.
- Provide even watering, as uneven moisture can lead to bitter or tough leaves.
- Harvest in the morning when the leaves are crisp and fresh.
- Store the harvested Gai Lan in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Blanch the leaves in boiling water for 1-2 minutes before freezing for longer-term storage.
- Gai Lan can be used in a variety of dishes, including stir-fries and soups.
- Enjoy the health benefits of this nutritious and delicious vegetable!