COLUMBIA, Mo. - The warm, sunny days and cool nights that come with a typical Missouri fall provide ideal conditions for growing cool-loving vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, said a University of Missouri horticulturist.

"Chinese cabbage is a cool-season vegetable that grows best under short days with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees," said David Trinklein.

Temperatures above 75 degrees tend to cause bitterness and soft heads.

Highest-quality Chinese cabbage probably results when planted in mid- to late summer for the fall garden, he said.

Sow seeds several inches apart and about a quarter of an inch deep. Rows should be 18 to 36 inches apart, depending on soil type.

Water thoroughly until good seedling establishment occurs. After seedlings emerge, thin to 8-12 inches apart within rows. Keep the soil moist for best results.

Timing and application of nitrogen fertilizer is important to Chinese cabbage.

If you have made a pre-plant application of fertilizer, Trinklein recommends side-dressing with nitrogen after thinning.

Too much nitrogen, however, can lead to lush vegetative growth, making plants more prone to disease, he said.

Certain types of Chinese cabbage can be used as early as 30 days after sowing, but it takes about 50 to 60 days for the heading types to mature.

Harvest by cutting the entire plant just above the soil line.

The flavor of Chinese cabbage is milder than that of regular cabbage. Use either fresh or cooked.

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