Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bolting Greens

Beets, Carrots & Snow Peas ~ a field of green

The weather is hot and sunny, and my garden is growing like crazy. The greens have been keeping me busy tending them. I need to harvest their leaves every couple of days before they get too large or else they will start to taste bitter. Also, the hot weather signals the greens that their growing season is almost over (they prefer cooler weather) so the little green leafy plants start to send up tall flower stalks in an effort to reproduce and continue their life cycle. Smart little greens. The act of flowering like this when the hot weather hits is called bolting. A term that was unfamiliar to me until I started this vegetable garden here in the mountains about 10 years ago. I read about bolting in several of my gardening books.

Colorful Red Flower Stalk on Bolting Swiss Chard

Greens that bolt start to put all of their life energy and nutrients into the flower stalks and resulting seeds for the next generation of plants. Because of this, the green leafy parts start to become bitter tasting and usually are smaller, which is not good for those of us who like to eat the grean leafy parts of lettuce, mesclun, Swiss Chard, spinach, cabbage, bok choy etc.

Tall Stalks of White Flowers on the Arugula (part of the mesclun salad greens)

There are ways to slow this bolting process down a bit, but nature will always have her way eventually. You can provide more shade for the green plants, thus keeping them a bit cooler and tricking them into thinking that their growing season is extended. You can snip off the flower stalks as they form, forcing the plant to produce more stalks. This method works well with green leafy herbs, but doesn't delay the green veggies very long. They are quick to recover and send up more flower stalks.

Yellow Flowers on the China Choy Cabbage

So today, I harvested a bunch of greens from my garden. I did my usual snipping off of individual outer leaves and left the plant in the ground to produce more leaves, and I also thinned them out by pulling up whole plants by the roots. That gave them more air circulation to prevent rot and slugs and other creepy crawlies from making themselves at home in my salad greens.

I brought in 1 lb of Swiss Chard (a combination of the Bright Lights variety and Fordhook Green), 1 3/4 lb of mixed mesclun and baby lettuce, and 1 1/4 lb of China Choy (like baby bok choy). They are soaking in bowls of cool water rejuvenating their crispness as I type this.

I guess I will be eating fresh green salads and lots of stir fry dinners for awhile. Good and healthy.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket


Hardware Bob said...

I am really impressed, finally your harvest is astronomical. And, all along I thought it was my influence stunting the production.

Your posting is very informative, a great resource for beginning or tenured gardeners.

Perhaps you will share your bounty with me. Green is good.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Bob,
Thanks for being impressed. My greens harvest (and other crops too) has been this large or larger in years past. My garden produces more when I have more time to devote to it.The weather plays a role as well. In the past couple of years I have largely neglected my gardening and my lack of bounty reflected that sad fact. This year I am consciously trying to make more time for gardening in hopes of producing more veggies and fruits to eat. Besides I need the peace my garden brings me.

Sure you can have some of my green bounty. I didn't think you'd like them.

Laura of Harvest Lane said...

Hi Farmer Jen!

I'm Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage. This is my first time to visit your blog. I feel like I just got an education in growing and harvesting greens and lettuces. Thanks so much for such a thorough, or what seems to this beginner as thorough, explanation!

God bless you and come and visit me sometime!

Laura of Harvest Lane
Happy at Home

CaliforniaGrammy said...

Nothing better than food from your garden . . . stir fry with your own lovingly cared for China Choi cabbage, yummo!

We've used shade cloth in our gardens in the past and it does help, but you're right in that once Mother Nature decides to bolt, she pretty much gets her way in the end!

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Laura,
Welcome, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Hi CA Grammy,
Yes, the greens have been very good eats! I will be harvesting More out there in the garden very soon. Good to hear from you!