It is one thing you find as you start to grow veggies sometimes they just like to bolt. Bolting is where your leafy greens suddenly start to flower and it is very usual with cooler crops after a spell of unusually hot weather. One of the biggest nuisances in the summer vegetable garden is bolting, well that and slugs! The results are bitter-tasting leaves and a gardener scrambling to save the harvest before it is ruined. So how do you stop vegetables bolting?
How to Stop Bolting or at least try too.
So how, then, to avoid or at least slow bolting? Here are some steps you can take to fend off the prospect of a bolting crop.
Try Bolt-resistant varieties:
Some varieties, for instance, beetroot ‘Boltardy’, are specifically bred to be resistant to bolting. You can find lots of bolt resistant types of seeds. Use bolt-resistant varieties especially if planting late when the weather is warmer. Resistant varieties are also a good option for biennials like onions and carrots that are sown very late in winter/early in spring. With Onions, you can get heat-treated onion sets, a process that dramatically impedes flower bud formation.
Plan your sowings well
Vegetables sensitive to cold snaps can also be started off within a greenhouse. Or before planting out under cloches once the weather has improved. For annual vegetables, don’t forget to sow little and often to ensure a steady supply of quick-growers such as lettuces – this way you can pick leaves in good time before they become too old and more likely to bolt. Oriental leaves such as pak choi and mustards are best sown in the late summer /early autumn I find. Some varieties just like it cooler.
Shade cool-season crops if it really warm
Relentlessly hot, dry summers are rare in Ireland. Mostly we want our tomatoes to turn red before the day get cold.
But if you are growing in a hot part of the world then offering shade for cool-season crops is a must. Grow the likes of lettuce and spinach in the shadow of taller plants such as climbing beans or sweetcorn. Shade cloth can also be deployed and makes a dramatic difference to plants that would otherwise wither and collapse in full view of the sun.
Maximise your soil health:
Healthy soil with plenty of nutrients and balanced moisture levels will, of course, encourage the quickest growth. It is only natural that good soil will help plants as struggling for moisture and nutrients can lead to bolting too. Or simply wait until the weather cools off a little in late summer. Cool-season crops will benefit from the moist soil the most, dry soil plays havoc with brassicas such as cauliflower and rocket.
Can You Eat a Plant After it Bolts?
The sad answer is not really. Once a plant has fully bolted, the plant is normally inedible. The plant’s entire energy reserve is focused on producing the seeds. So the rest of the plant tends to become tough, woody, tasteless or even bitter. Occasionally, if you catch a plant in the very early stages of bolting, you can temporarily reverse the process of bolting by snipping off the flowers and flower buds. In some plants, like basil, the plant will resume producing leaves and will stop bolting.
In many plants though, such as broccoli, cabbage and lettuce, this step only allows you some extra time to harvest the crop before it becomes useless. So harvest them quickly!!
Also, you can always allow one of your plants to bolt if you want to do some Seed Saving. This year we left one Kale to bolt not only does it flowers attract bees and other pollinators but it looks lovely and I will get some Kale seeds for next year.
Good luck with your plants this year, don’t beat yourself up if something bolts as it’s just natures way of saving seeds. If you enjoyed this post check out my other Gardening post to help you in your vegetable garden journey.
- Growing rainbow tomatoes – the true story!
- 10 great reasons to grow Lemon Balm
- Jobs for May in the Organic Garden
- 4 reasons to go Organic in the vegetable garden
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