Totally bolted

Lettuce flowersIt’s never occurred to me that lettuce actually has flowers. Actual flowers.

But this is a true fact, as I discovered yesterday in the garden. I was out there examining my spinach, which is probably not long for this world. It has completely, and I do mean completely bolted.

I should pause for a second to explain that last year, as I was reading everyone else’s informative gardening blogs, I kept reading about “bolting” and wondered what it all meant. Surely the spinach didn’t just get up and run out of the garden, did it? Not even in the mouth of a hungry rabbit?

But because I didn’t have much success with greens last year, I never got as far as finding out what it meant to have the greens bolt. There was no need to display that level of curiosity.

Bolted spinachThis year, I had a feeling I would get to learn the truth about bolting. I didn’t know what it actually meant, but I figured I’d know it when I saw it.

Sure enough, a couple of weeks ago, the spinach started to develop strange, bumpy shoots that looked an awful lot like something going to seed. I still managed to get one last harvest last week, but now, it’s just rows of big stalkiness.

Yesterday, Christa at Calendula and Concrete confirmed my theory of what the bolting looks like when she posted her Green Thumb Sunday photo.

The mesclun mix is totally out of control, but I’ve still been able to at least do what I can to cut edible leaves out of the mess. But now, with the appearance of a lettuce flower, I’m not sure it’s going to be long before the lettuce gives up and calls it a season, too.

All of this begs the next question…what do I do with the stuff? Do I just pull it all out like so many weeds, compost it, and move on to the next round of plants? Or, if I were to leave some of the spinach in the bed, would there be a chance of my getting some self-seeded spinach later in the season?

25 Responses to “Totally bolted”

  1. 1 steven June 18, 2007 at 9:09 am

    I’d say time for the compost heap and then figure out what to put in it’s place. You still have time for bush beans, some sturdier greens or you could sow some onions from seed for next Spring.

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener June 18, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Steven, I think I have some bean seeds — have to check. I don’t really want to use the space for onions, but sturdier greens sound good, too. Maybe some chard or kale or something? I’ll have to see what works.

  3. 3 Jenny June 18, 2007 at 11:10 am

    I pulled my bolted spinach out, but that’s because I didn’t like it much to start with. I planted carrots instead. (Come to think of it, I have to remember to water them tonight.)

    Also, a friend of mine (at just posted about a neighbor of hers who hung two tomatoes in buckets under a black walnut tree, and I very quickly posted a pointer to your experience with that. At least your suffering helps others, right?

  4. 4 kate June 18, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    It’s too bad the spinach has already bolted. I learned something new by reading about this. I didn’t know spinach, or lettuce, come to that, bolted. I guess it’s time to pull it and try something else! Beans sound like a good idea.

  5. 5 inadvertentgardener June 18, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Jenny, wow…two tomatoes UNDER A BLACK WALNUT???? I’m very glad I was here to help. Yikes. I hope your carrots turn out really well — they sound like fun to grow!

    Kate, I think it’s about time — they really are an early season crop. And, apparently, a late season crop, so I’ll get to try again later in the summer.

  6. 6 jenjen June 18, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    I simply adore baby spinach and butterhead lettuce. and broccoli. But here in Ohio, z5, it goes from too cold to do anything to the surface of the sun in about 60 seconds flat. My spinach bolted on the second 90 degree day.My lettuce is doing better because I partially shade it and water the bejeesus out of it. But I will never again as long as I live, I swear, I swear, I swear, block plant ANYTHING. I am not merciless enough to thin adequately and then weeding is impossible. So I have a beautiful bed of butterhead lettuce and each head has 2 leaves. Except for the edges of the bed. My radishes were threads, my onions and leeeks have nearly driven me blind trying to weed them. Sanity returned however before I planted my carrots in nice neat rows and they are weed free and fab.
    I have grown broccoli in the fall and it was the best I ever ate, clear up to thanksgiving. Guess I’ll have to grow lettuce in the fall too.

  7. 7 inadvertentgardener June 18, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Jenjen, broccoli in the Fall, huh? That sounds highly intriguing… I might have to join you in that venture…

  8. 8 Kylee June 19, 2007 at 10:31 am

    I have saved spinach seed from the spring crop and planted it in the fall and saved it for the next year. I try to prolong the bolting by pinching out the tops when it starts, but it might get me a week or so extra, by doing that.

    Our mesclun mix, I plant en masse and it works well that way for me. I pick and pick until it finally goes to seed, too, and I save it for the following year. The mesclun mix we have right now is from saved seed from last year.

  9. 9 inadvertentgardener June 19, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Kylee, ah…pinching out the tops. I will do that next time around. Good idea. How do you go about saving the seed?

  10. 10 jenjen June 20, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    Yes fall broccoli. Start you seeds in flats around Independence day, the week after, Plan on planting in ground by the end of august. Even a little later is fine. Broccoli likes it cool, those nippy nights in the fall and warm but not sweltering days. When it would really start to be cool during the day, the plants growth slows down so It will just sit there and hold those heads without bolting. I banked some leaves around the rows in november and ate broccoli for thanksgiving. Lettuce, peas, chinese cabbage,radishes are all good for fall.

  11. 11 Katiez June 23, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Bolting, when it happens, is one of those “aha” moments – self-explanatory once you see it, bewildering until you do!

  12. 12 inadvertentgardener June 26, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Jenjen, hmm…fresh broccoli at Thanksgiving? That’s a tempting goal to take on…thanks for all the great tips!

    Katiez, you’re totally right. Even Google failed me on figuring out what it meant, but once it happened, I knew for sure what was going on.

  13. 13 Flo July 9, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Thank heavens I’m not the only one, I thought my spinach was “having a moment” & might grow out of it, apparently it’s bolted (as has most of the rest of the veggie patch). I’d never even heard of it till this evening…..we live & learn. By the way any hints on stoping it happening next year.

  14. 14 inadvertentgardener July 9, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    Flo, there’s some feedback in the comments about ways to avoid that for a little longer, but I think the fact is that when it gets warm, the spinach bolts. There’s no getting around it…

  15. 15 Dave June 8, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Thanks Guys, I’m a first time veggie gardener and although I’ve been enjoying my young spinach all spring I just experianced my first “bolting”. It’s nice to learn something although I’m going to miss my spinach. Dose anyone know why my first time aspargus went from a tiny little chute into a fern like plant? I’ve heard it takes three years to produce an edible stock. Is that true and if so what should I do with it now?

    • 16 Jodee July 8, 2010 at 9:03 am

      The fern like plant is what the asparagus looks like when it “goes to seed”. You need to leave those plants through the fall and winter and clean them up early spring. This helps your asparagus to grow, reproduce, expand.
      I would wait at least 2 years before you begin picking your asparagus. It needs time to establish. If you pick it all right away, there is nothing there to seed.
      Good luck!

  16. 17 inadvertentgardener June 9, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Dave, I’ve never grown asparagus, so I’m not sure I can offer much by way of insights — maybe some other commenters can, though?

  17. 18 JOEDUPONT May 25, 2009 at 8:02 am

    I just ate a bunch of bolted spinach.
    Not bad. HOw come people just don’t eat
    this stuff. seems to me that food is food
    and it is a gift from the heavens.
    Thanks for the post..
    I even encluded the seeds in my meal.
    with lambs quarters, and some mustard greens
    and two hambergers.

    • 19 Johnny June 21, 2009 at 9:56 am

      We just grew spinach for the first time this year, and we are experiencing our first bolt as well. Funny you mentioned that googled failed you when looking for more information, well thanks to this post, it no longer does. This was good info, and pictures, of course I had to learn enough by googling ‘pointy spinach leaves’ to associate them with the bolt. we are going to try a salad of mostly pointy leaves. Hope it turns out ok, but it looks like the crop is over.

  1. 1 Sluggus minimus « The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on June 19, 2007 at 9:38 am
  2. 2 On the Shores of Lake Chicago Trackback on June 20, 2007 at 3:28 pm
  3. 3 Homeless rabbit « The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on June 26, 2007 at 7:01 am
  4. 4 Spinach, reseeded « The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on March 25, 2008 at 6:50 am
  5. 5 Joy Lanzendorfer » Garden Bounty In June Trackback on June 5, 2008 at 11:18 am
  6. 6 Why your dog is like a leaf of spinach. Neoteny. « What the Owl Knows Trackback on June 3, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Getting in touch

Need garden advice? Then you probably shouldn't send me an email.

Also, please note that this site has now relocated and will not be updated. You can find me at the new and improved location.

Take a look back…

All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

Drop in & Decorate

Bake. Decorate. Donate.
Free guide tells you how!