Bolting. It's a scary word if you're growing lettuce in an indoor garden and it's happening to you. But wait, there are things you can do! You just need to know what causes leafy greens to bolt in the first place, as well as how to prevent it from happening to you.
What is ‘bolting’?
Bolting is a natural process that all plants go through. It means that the plant is going to seed. In the case of lettuce, the process starts when the plant hits its reproductive stage. Once this happens, it's "game over" for lettuce. If a lettuce plant bolts, it’s still edible but the flavor turns bitter. If your lettuce plants flower, it’s not possible to revive them and they’ll have to be replaced.
It’s a common misconception that replanting lettuce in fresh soil will help. Unfortunately it won’t. The plant will stop producing more leaves and run to seed eventually. It’s a short-lived annual plant which is one of the reasons why it doesn’t respond well to transplanting.
What causes it?
The most common reason why lettuce bolts is that the temperature is too high. Another possible reason is if your plant didn’t get enough water.
If your lettuce plant is exposed to too much heat, it will prematurely bolt before it’s time for the leaves to be harvested. Click & Grow lettuces prefer cooler temperatures ranging between 18 - 24 °C / 64 - 75 °F. Avoid growing in rooms with high temperatures such as 24°C / 75°F and above.
Healthy Click & Grow lettuce
How do I know if my plant is bolting?
You can identify a bolting lettuce plant by its stretched-out, leggy appearance. You'll see a slender stalk where the leaves are attached. This is a sign that it’s time to harvest the plant all in one go.
Once it starts bolting it will no longer produce more tasty leaves. All the plant’s energy will be used to go full flower and produce seeds.
If your lettuce has started to bolt, don’t despair. Even though the leaves will be more bitter than usual, there are other ways to reduce the bitterness if you don’t like the taste. You can trim off the ends of the leaves by a few centimeters. This is usually where you’ll find the most bitterness.
You could also place the fresh produce into cold water for a few hours. Soaking it in cold water mildens most of the bitterness. Don't eat the stalk.
How can I prevent bolting?
If your plant has received enough water, been grown in a suitable room temperature, and harvested within the recommended time frame, bolting shouldn’t occur. We recommend harvesting your entire lettuce plant in one go, 30-35 days from planting.
Alternatively, harvest gradually by cutting off the larger outer leaves first, starting from 25 days after planting until it reaches 5 to 6 weeks of age. The Click & Grow mobile app will help you keep track of the growing process and remind you when it’s time to harvest.
Bonus tip: If the room temperature is slightly warmer than what we recommend, use a small fan to cool the plants and prevent them from bolting.
Make harvesting easier with the Click & Grow herb shears.
Got an indoor gardening question you’d like to ask? Head over to our ‘Ask a Gardener’ forum now. Get friendly tips from our experienced horticulturalists and worldwide community.
- How to Harvest Lettuce Like a Pro
- 8 No-Nonsense Indoor Gardening Tips You Can’t Ignore
- 5 Reasons to Download the Click & Grow Mobile App Today
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