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In the gardening world, bolting refers to when the plant (usually vegetables and herbs) puts all its energy into flower and seed based growth instead of the expected leaf growth.

Plants are for the most part triggered into bolting because of hot weather. Once temperatures get to a point where the plant will have difficulty surviving, it will stop leaf growth and try to produce flowers and seeds as quickly as possible. It’s easy to tell when a plant has bolted, because it will send out long shoots topped by flowers that will eventually contain seeds.

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 and woody as well as tasteless or even bitter.

Bolting can be prevented with a few steps.

  1. Plant early in the spring so that it grows during the late spring.
  2. Plant late in the summer so that it grows during early fall.
  3. Add mulch and ground cover to the ground and water regularly to keep the soil temperature down.
  4. Look for plant strains that can tolerate heat better than others, making them more bolt resistant.

Some plants that are known for bolting include basil, broccoli, cabbage, cilantro, lettuce, and spinach.