What does bolting mean in gardening ?
Bolting refers to the sudden growth of a flower stalk of an herbaceous plant. Seed formation stops after flowering and the desired growth of the vegetable stops automatically.
Bolting occurs because the plant is reaching maturity, which can be accelerated by cooler weather and/or shorter days. This is why lettuce and spinach are spring crops, before the days get longer and warmer.
Vegetable plants are not very picky about soil, sun exposure, and water, but they can be picky about the temperatures of their environments.
If the temperature rises above seventy degrees Fahrenheit for several days in a row and then stays high, your vegetables will start to grow and look more like grass than your intended vegetable plants.
Most vegetables need about four to six hours of sunlight a day to do well. Failure to provide this sunlight may cause some vegetables to bolt and grow faster than others, some might grow unusually long shoots while others will fade away.
Common factors to affect vegetables by bolting-
Temperature – For example, spinach bolts in 80 degree F weather, but lettuce and Swiss chard bolt at 40 degrees F.
Lack of moisture– A common reason for lettuces to bolt, especially during dry spells in spring and summer.
Length of day – Plants such as lettuce grow best with 12 hours of sunlight or less per day. If they receive more than 12 hours, they may bolt prematurely.
How to Prevent Bolting in Vegetable Crops ?
If you know what causes your plants to bolt, you can take steps to prevent it:
If high temperatures are a problem, select varieties that resist bolting. There are many bolt-resistant varieties available for vegetables such as lettuces, spinach and broccoli.
Plant your vegetables in a shady spot from late morning on if possible. Be sure that they get at least six hours of sun per day; any less than that will inhibit their growth.
Bolting is a natural part of the growing cycle for some plants, including lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and other cole crops. And it can be controlled to a certain way by controlling temperature, hydration and soil fertility.
Understanding the basic processes that cause bolting in vegetable crops allows gardeners to take measures to prevent it from happening.
Whether you’re growing salad crops, spinach or marrows, the key to stopping the plants from bolting is to use a plant-holding technique called Inter cropping.
This allows you to grow a crop of vegetables alongside another crop which can be harvested earlier, so that they block out the sun before it reaches the vegetables you want to mature slowly.
Planting root vegetables and leafy greens in the early fall means you won’t be able to harvest them during the first few months of winter when the ground is frozen. Prevent bolting by planting these plants early in the spring instead.
You can also use other methods, such as mulching, watering regularly and avoiding direct sunlight, in order to prevent bolting from happening.
Can You Eat a Plant After it Bolts?
This question is pretty broad, so let’s break it into two parts. You can sometimes eat a plant after it has bolted; many plants will produce useful leaves or shoots once they have finished producing flowers or seeds.
Also, many plants are edible at every stage of their life cycle, not just while they are still producing flowers. For example, tomatoes can be picked while they are green and immature, and in that state they will respond to some light snipping to encourage leafy growth.
What To Do if Plants Bolt?
It’s not a problem if your plants produce seeds! You can use the plants for salads, or you can use the roots of carrots and beetroots for soup. It is 100% safe to eat plants in flower – simply cut away from the flowering stem.