Each week I like to share my understanding of a horticultural word or term. This week we are looking at the word bolting.
Occasionally a plant may put up a flower stem and start to flower. If left this flower will eventually produce seed in order to produce more plants. In cases such as fruit, this is not a problem. However, in the case of vegetables, this may not be a good thing as the plant will put its energy into making the seed instead of growing itself. I commonly have this happen with overwintered onions as late spring comes around. When the plant produces a flower stem this is what we call bolting or going to seed.
The reason a plant will do this is usually due to stress. Stress could be due to lack of watering or changing weather conditions. Causing the plant to want to reproduce so as its genes live on.
When I find a plant that has begun to bolt I simply break off the flower stem. In crops such as onions, the onions that have bolted should be used first as they may not store as long as others.
Of course, prevention is better than cure and to try to prevent bolting is best to keep the plant's requirements to what it wants all the time. While in practice this is easier said than done as we can not control the weather it is worth bearing this in mind.
Do any of your vegetables suffer from bolting? How do you tackle this problem? Let me know int he comments or Email me here.