Bolting explained

What is happening to my leafy greens?

Bolting, i.e. going to seed, is a common phrase used in vegetable gardening. Easily recognizable by the alien heads that can shoot up in your garden, bolting usually occurs when temperatures soar in the summer or when plants are stressed by, for example, lack of water. This triggers a key cycle in plant life, that of producing seeds. The plant will refocus its energy into flowering to produce seeds to ensure its propagation and survival. After bolting, plants are usually inedible; their stems become woody and hard and their leaves strong and bitter. At this stage plants will usually be removed from the garden and replaced with a more heat-tolerant crop. One or two plants could be left for seed harvesting later in the season. If caught early on, bolting can be delayed by cutting back the flowering spikes. Remember that any plant or weed in your garden is competing with other crops for nutrients and water in your garden. Leafy greens (such as lettuce, spinach, and arugula), cabbage, broccoli and herbs all tend to bolt. You could leave the herbs in the garden, however. Their aromatic flowers are great for bringing pollinators into your garden to pollinate your peppers, tomatoes and eggplants.