Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bolting = No Good

While I was grilling dinner the other night I happened to notice that my lettuce had a cluster of buds.  I thought it was odd and looked it up that night (good ol’ Google to the rescue). Apparently my lettuce plant was bolting…and that is bad. When lettuce bolts and runs to seed long before the plants mature it’s usually a sign that the plants were stressed in some manner. That’s not uncommon and can be the result of drought, high temperatures, overcrowding, or other unfavorable growing conditions. In my case – drought and high temperatures were the culprit. We had some H.O.T. days here in SE Michigan and I didn’t remember to water my plants since I could barely stand to be outside myself. The heat traumatized my plants apparently.  Boo.  While it may look pretty…

poorlettuce_athomewithh …it is a sign that you should give up on this plant and start over.  I had a hard time with that theory since the leaves look so appetizing!  What should you do if you encounter this?  Here are your options for dealing with those lettuce plants that have developed a stalk, flowered, and gone to seed in the garden:

  • Let the lettuce continue growing – not awfully attractive but maybe the flowers will help attract and support some populations of beneficial insects.
  • Produce a crop of lettuce seed – not recommended, as future generations from the seed may show an inherited tendency bolt and run to seed too quickly.

  • Add the plants to the compost pile – just make sure the seeds haven’t matured or you might just be setting yourself up for weedy lettuce volunteers in the future.

  • Or you can always eat the lettuce – it’s bound to be bitter and not the best tasting romaine around, but the leaves and even the tiny yellow flowers are still edible.

So what did I do? I tried to eat the lettuce.  It was a bit bitter so I decided that I’ll toss it and start fresh after a little vaca I have next month. No sense in getting another plant only to kill it while I’m gone. ;)

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