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Kitchen Gardening

Why Do Greens Bolt?

It’s not just warm temperatures that bring an end to your salad season

Fine Gardening - Issue 164

No matter what you do, when you grow lettuces and other greens in your garden, they will eventually start growing taller and blooming. Most people assume that it’s just high temperatures that cause this to happen, but bolting can be caused by a number of factors. Bolting is no more than the process of a plant setting seed—with one qualification: In the same way that we apply the word “weed” to a plant not wanted, “bolting” is used when we don’t want the plant in question to go to seed. So we talk of lettuce, spinach, mustards, basil, and other leafy green crops bolting—but not tomatoes.

Even though you can still harvest leaves while a crop is bolting, you’ll usually find them not as tasty; they’re often also smaller and tougher. That’s because, during bolting, a plant channels its sugars and other resources upward as seed…

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