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What to Do About Lettuce Bolting

I planted some Romaine lettuce around the end of October, first of November. They are growing great, but yesterday I saw where they are trying to seed! Can you tell me why and how do I keep that from happening? Americus, Georgia (zone 8)

The taste of fresh, home grown lettuce is hard to beat. I always plant salad greens in September for fall harvesting and then again in early spring, right around mid-March. It always makes me a little sad as summer approaches because I know my lettuce crop is on its way out.

I know the season is near its end when heads of lettuce begin to elongate or bolt. Bolting is a process that occurs with many leafy, cool season crops like lettuce, spinach, parsley and kale. All the plant is doing is putting up a flower spike to produce seeds for the next generation of plants. After this takes place, I’ve found that it can alter the delicate flavor of the leaf, making it taste a little stronger, even bitter.

Although disheartening, this is just the nature of the plant. There is not anything you can do to prevent it, but you can delay it by selecting varieties of lettuce that are slow to bolt, like one called ‘Red Sail’. I grow it for the beauty of the leaf as much as I do for its taste in salads. Another type of lettuce that’s been popular for over hundred years is ‘Black Seeded Simpson’. And a recent selection of this variety called ‘Simpson’s Elite’ is much slower to bolt.