What Does Bolting Mean In Gardening?

What does Bolting Mean in Gardening? In this post we review the causes and solutions!

What does bolting mean in gardening cabbage bolting in a garden

Cabbage bolts in a garden

As a new gardener, I’m sure you are trying your best to get the most out of your garden.

When I started gardening, I didn’t know a lot about plants. But, the best part is that I watched as my seeds sprouted to strong and healthy plants.


All I did at the time was till the land and planted my seeds. Easy peasy or so I thought!

One day as I was walking through my garden, I saw yellow flowers sprouting from the plants.

After researching for days what it meant, I came across the word Bolting.


That leads us to today’s question: What does Bolting mean in Gardening?

Unfortunately, I found out the meaning of bolting the hard way.

But that doesn’t mean you have to experience the same.

Bolting is a premature growth of flowers in a leafy plant.

When bolting occurs, the plant focuses all its energy on producing seeds instead of developing the leaves.

The result: bitter and inedible leaves.


In most cases, bolting occurs in plants that have edible leaves for instance kales.

On top of that, bolting also occurs when there is a rise in temperature in late spring and all the way to summer.

If you have had such problems with your garden, then stick around since there’s still more to learn.

Why do Plants Bolt?


Bolting to the plant is mostly a survival mechanism.

When the heat temperatures become too extreme for the plant, it triggers a switch in the plant.

That causes the plant to produce seeds and focus more on the survival of the harsh conditions.


Therefore, if the weather is harsh, the plant will try to produce the next generation and survive.

As much as it might have a bad effect on your normal yield, this mechanism actually helps the plant to live on.


However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the only way to ensure your plant can survive harsh conditions.

You can also help your plant through the tough season.


What does slow to bolt mean in gardening?


There are certain varieties of spinach, lettuce, cabbage and radicchio among other plants prone to bolting that have resistance to bolting.

These plant varieties are able to resist the bolting process to a certain degree.


Plants such as Sparx, Starfighter and New Red Fire are strains that are capable of resisting the bolting process.

However, since bolting is caused by different factors, for instance, dry weather, increased light and heat, merely choosing a bolt-resistant plant may not be enough.


Even high-heat tolerant plants have a certain temperature limit during the summer period.

You can use other preventive measures to ensure your plant survives the harsh environment.

bolting lettuce

Bolting Lettuce

Credits; Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0 us (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/deed.en)]

Well, lettuce is a vegetable that is highly known for its frequent-to-bolt characteristic.

This plant can be very sneaky if you don’t pay attention.

It will run seemingly to producing seeds within just a few days.

You will be away from your home for just the weekend only to return to finding drawn out plants.


And when it gets to this point, there is nothing else you can do with the plants than just add them to your compost heap.

The worst thing is that when lettuce bolts, the leaves tend to acquire a bitter taste.

This is always as a result of the rapid accumulation of the sesquiterpene compounds.


This might be a new term to you, but I will explain more about it in detail.

This compound is manufactured by the plants for the purpose of protecting themselves from burrowing insects and some leaf strippers such as locust.


In simple terms, it’s like these plants are arming themselves against any form of attacks by pests so that they produce the seeds and finally cross the line to the next generation.

Many will say that this is a remarkable stroke of evolutionary genius that this plant has.

What to Do When Plants Bolt?

what does bolting mean in gardening plant bolting

Credits; Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0 us (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/deed.en)]

As a gardener, at some point, you might have experienced bolting in your plants.

Well, I must say that it can very frustrating when your crops grow faster than expected then flower and produce seeds even before they are ready for harvesting.

Although this is a condition that’s more common with vegetables such as lettuce and spinach, it also occurs with flowers.


However, all hope is not lost. You still might be lucky enough to salvage some few leaves that you can mix in salads.

For the root vegetables, you can chop them and maybe use them in stews. But that’s not all.

You can also use the bolted vegetables as a boon for pollinators such as bees.


This will not only be a feast for the bees but also an added advantage to the floriferous touch of beauty in your garden.


Besides that, there are a few techniques that you can use to keep your plants producing over a longer period of time.

That being the case, here are some strategies that will keep your vegetable garden going throughout the year.

10 Tips on How to Prevent Bolting


1, Make sure you plant the seedlings when the weather is cool.
2. Pay attention to the sunlight hours the plants need. Also, be sure to shade them during some hours of the day in order to reduce overexposure to sunlight that might lead to bolting in the end.
3. As the weather warms up, be sure to give shade to the early bolting plants. You can do so by planting these crops among other taller crops that are growing at the same time.
4. Make sure you plant the seeds at the correct spacing. Plant only seeds that you have room for and leave the rest for later.
5. Ensure that you add mulch to any vegetables or herbs that are heat sensitive.
6. Make sure you water up to the plants when the weather is hot as moist soil stays cool throughout the day.
7. Always harvest your plants early in order to stimulate the plants to replace the harvested parts.
8. Consider planting slow bolting seeds that can withstand high temperatures without an issue.
9. Use the correct fertilizers for your plants.
10. Also, you can try harvesting the flowers and using them in your stir-fries and salads.


Related Questions


Which hormone is responsible for bolting?

Bolting is induced by hormones that belong to the gibberellin family.

However, in other cases, it could also be induced by external factors such as water stress, the growth cycle of the plant, temperature and lack of minerals.

Can you eat a Bolted plant?

Once the entire bolting process is complete, the plant is normally inedible.

The plant focus will be primarily to produce seeds.

Therefore, the rest of the plant tends to be tough and woody.

This will essentially make the plant tasteless.

If you are able to catch the plants in its early form of bolting, you will be able to temporarily reverse the process.

However, in some plants such as broccoli, this step will only give you extra time to harvest before the plant becomes inedible.

What do I do with bolted spinach or lettuce?

If you are able to identify the problem early enough, you can easily prevent the plant from bolting.

However, if it’s too late, then you have a couple of options.

You can essentially uproot the plant and replace it with a warm-season plant.

Or you can plant new spinach or lettuce once the hot season is over. Another great option is that you can let the plant to flower and enjoy the blooms. Hope this helps with what does the term bolt mean in gardening! Happy Gardening!

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