It’s OK to allow plants to go to bolt sometimes, such as when annuals are just past their prime season but not quite spent enough to pull. If you are unfamiliar with bolting, it is the phase in a plant (usually edibles) when it produces a rapid growth of flowers and subsequently, seeds.
At this point in time in north Texas (early spring) our winter vegetables and ornamentals are gearing up to bolt if they haven’t already. Bolting occurs when temperatures rise in relationship to a plant’s optimal atmosphere. The picture immediately below is an example of an ornamental cabbage, typically grown in flower beds during the winter time, that received an early sample of Texas summer temps recently (85+) and quickly sprouted beautiful yellow blooms. While most businesses and residents would normally remove ornamental cabbages around this time, the new growth on them en masse is quite striking. Besides, we haven’t entered April yet and although winter annuals are bolting, it remains a little too soon to sow summer plants, so why not leave them?
I would say the only downside to allowing plants to bolt is this: If you are growing edibles, they become quite distasteful after flowering or having gone to seed. This is because the plant has used all of its energy to produce flowers and seed while its roots and leaves (usually the edible parts) become neglected.
And, conversely, I believe the best thing about leaving bolted plants in the soil for a little while is that they provide a rare food source for those insects that have also emerged due to an early warm spell. This post’s feature pic is one I took of a beautiful Eastern Tiger Swallowtail last week partaking of bolted ornamental cabbage. (Taken in Denison, Texas near the Oklahoma border.)
As we move from winter into early spring, I hope you allow a few of your remaining plants to go to bolt so that you can enjoy a little extra glimpse of nature during this transitional period.
Until next time,
March 25, 2016