Post last updated: October 10th, 2018
Bolting occurs when vegetable crops prematurely start to flower. Bolting is triggered by (1) cold spells at particular stages in growth cycle, (2) changes in day length, (3) warmer temperatures and longer days as crops close in on their maturity date or (4) stressors such as insufficient water or minerals.
Plants prone to bolting are broccoli, collards, lettuce, spinach and other greens.
Once a plant begins to flower, in preparation for going to seed, the veggies will start to taste bitter.
Veggie garden experts have suggestions for avoiding bolting, most of which absolutely, positively don’t work in Florida but let me mention them anyway: (1) start early crops indoors and plant when the temperature is warmer, (2) sow quick-to-bolt crops like cabbages in mid-summer (this one really makes me laugh), (3) delay cold-sensitive plants until temperatures are more stable, (4) careful watering and (5) choosing varieties that are slow to bolt.
In my opinion, growing cool weather crops in Florida is tricky. For starters, the heat doesn’t even begin to subside until Halloween. Thus, it makes no sense whatsoever to plant a cool weather veggie in 80 or 90 degree heat. Unfortunately, we go from hot to frost in a matter of weeks, sometimes by mid-November. Even in December and January, just for laughs, the weather coughs up 30 degree days followed by 80 degree days. The result:
Despite such discouraging conditions, I hoe right on because I like bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, kale, onions, radicchio, and turnip greens. I always get enough food to make it worth the work considering that the bugs and weeds are a lesser problem in cool weather. The veggies almost take care of themselves.