Sunday, March 4, 2012

Asian greens and bolting...

Love-to-bolt bok choy
What we know about bolting...
  • Bolting describes the process of a plant sending up a flower/seed stalk prematurely.
  • Plants have a genetically controlled internal clock that tallies the number of daylight hours required for a plant to bolt.  In addition...
  • Anything that puts a plan under stress will cause it to bolt.  This includes conditions that are: too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet, too crowded.  Many Asian greens are particularly fussy!
  • Cold-bolting basically looks like - you sow your seeds in February, the plants face some cold snaps (which sets the bolting process in motion), once the plants face a warm April, the plants will bolt.  
  • More evidence that nature is cool:  the bolting process is the plant's survival mechanism.  When the plant faces adverse circumstances, it will try to produce seeds to guarantee the next generation as quickly as possible.  
  • When a plant prematurely bolts, the leaves usually become bitter and inedible.  Sometimes it's possible to delay this process by pinching off the top of the seed stalk, but this strategy will not stop the process.  Once it's on it's way, there's no stopping the bolting process.  
  • Once a plant bolts, the bitter compounds in greens such as lettuce provide insect resistance.  Mother Nature has thought ahead again!
Easy to grow sweet potato greens
So what if we want to grow and actually get to enjoy our love-to-bolt Asian greens?
  • Don't wait to harvest.  When your greens are ready to harvest, get to it.
  • Plant early and consider trying some sort of row cover or hoop house to start your season even earlier.
  • Or, save your favorite cold-weather greens for fall.
  • Plant in small amounts, and plant successively.
  • Choose a spot in the garden that gets some shade during the day.
  • Try slow-bolting varieties of your favorite greens (mizuna is a mild and tasty option and is not too fussy.  Garland chrysanthemum is unique and fragrant and does well in spring/fall gardens).
  • Water consistently during periods of drought.
  • Try heat loving Asian greens (such as vegetable amaranth, malabar spinach, or sweet potato greens).
Feel free to add on to these lists of what we know about bolting and how we harvest in spite of it!


  1. I've recently begun to buy bok choy .. it adds a little crunch and green to stir fry and fried rice dishes I stick in my kiddos lunch thermos.

  2. I agree with you! Soil condition make them bolt fast too!

  3. I have never had much luck with Asian greens, due to bolting issues, but this year we will be experimenting with numerous new varieties and one way or another I am going to learn how to grow them proficiently...wish me luck, I'll need it.:)

  4. I had a good lesson here. Thanks Wendy!! Love your tips. It is so true that the best way is still stick to the varieties that will grow well with our gardens. Have another great day!

  5. Oh my gosh....we just had this lesson at the high school the other day. It was time to process to the Bok Choy and Cabbage. It burst forth in growth and had the yellow flowers. The kids asked, "Should we wait to let it get bigger?" And I said no.....end of line....time to pick:) The cool season veggies have gone crazy here!

  6. Hi Wendy, sorry I've been away so long. I love the way nature works, don't you? Amazing stuff. Hope you're doing well.

  7. Thanks for the great tips. Love bok choy especially when cook in thick soya sauce, crunchy and juicy.

    Ben (Gardening Pleasures)


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