How to prevent the bolting of lettuce?

Eternal problem for the gardener, the bolting of lettuce seeds compromises the harvest, making the leaves tough and inedible. Why is this phenomenon so common? How to avoid it? Here are the answers !

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How to prevent the bolting of lettuce?

Sowing seeds, but what is it?

Plants all have a specific life cycle. In the case of annuals or biennials, the cycle is much shorter than in perennials which can remain in place for many years even if they flower and produce seeds. This is not the case with annuals, which have a very short cycle, extending over a year, or even a season, from germination to the death of the plant. In their case, the production of seeds which will allow the reproduction of the plant and therefore the species survivalmarks the end of life of the mother plant, just like for biennial plants which have a cycle extending over a maximum of two years. The bolting, or ‘bolting’, is therefore a very normal phenomenon on most lettuces, which are annual plants, however it can occur early, untimely, or even unexpectedly for multiple causes.

Problems posed by bolting

The lettuces during the rise to seed present a stem bearing the flower stalk. All the energy of the plant is then dedicated to the production of the famous seeds to the detriment of the foliage.

The leaves become leathery, sometimes bitter, they lose their original color to turn yellow; the salads then become unfit for consumption.

The bolting becomes a concern when it is too fast because the so hoped-for harvests are then compromised.

What are the causes of early bolting in lettuce?

There are many reasons that can trigger this phenomenon earlier than normal. To understand it, it is necessary to know that a stressed annual plant will accelerate its reproductive process to ensure the survival of thespecies Nevertheless. So here’s a lead!

And too much sunshinefrom warmer temperatures than normal for the season, a lack of watering or one depleted soil of its nutrients can induce this stress causing early bolting.

Another common cause is water stress in case of forgetting to water in times of drought followed by very (or even too) abundant watering. The plant, which had triggered its survival system during the drought episode by putting itself to rest, will receive the signal during watering or heavy rain, that it is high time to reproduce and take advantage of these finally favorable conditions.

There is also a higher frequency of upwelling when the days are longer either in June where precisely, the temperatures are generally on the rise and the rains less numerous. The annuals then receive the signal that it is time to reproduce under the most favorable conditions. At the end of spring and at the beginning of summer, the gardener must be particularly vigilant!

Another lesser known cause: le genetic patrimony. Never sow seeds from an early bolting! They risk giving plants that will have exactly the same problem!

How to prevent lettuces from going to seed?

Once the causes of the bolting have been elucidated, it is much easier to prevent the phenomenon effectively by implementing a few countermeasures:

  • Choose varieties that are not prone to bolting and prefer salads adapted to heat (‘Fat Lazy Blonde‘, ‘Augusta‘, ‘crackle‘, ‘Sucrine‘, ‘Kamikaze‘, ‘Grenoble Red‘, Kinemontepas‘…) if you live in the South of France. They will bolt much slower to seed.

  • Prefer sow your lettuces directly in the ground from March to late spring rather than transplanting seedlings.

  • Sow in the ‘leafy vegetable’ season on the lunar calendar and stagger the sowing every two weeks in order to spread the harvest period over a longer period and compensate for a possible accident of heaving on one of the sown plots.

  • Water very regularly with water at room temperature. The soil should never dry out completely between two waterings. Water preferably in the evening in the cool so that the lettuces benefit from the contribution all night long. During heat waves, water every evening.

  • Be careful, a light rain over a very short period does not wet the ground! Always check by scratching the soil a few millimeters to see if it has been deeply moistened or not. If necessary, water!

  • Arrange your summer salads in a shady location of the vegetable garden. If the vegetable garden is in full sun, sow them under tall vegetables that will shade them or provide artificial shade.

  • Mulch the soil To avoid evaporation and competition from weeds for water and nutrients, you will avoid two causes of stress to your lettuce in a single gesture.

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Source: Au Jardin, conseils en jardinage by

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