Martha Stewart warns that bolting vegetables can ruin your kitchen garden – and how to spot the signs

Bolted vegetables can seriously reduce yields in your garden, but it's not too late to save your produce

Basket filled with vegetables from a garden
(Image credit: GKSFlorapics / Alamy)

It's no secret that we're always looking for ways to improve our kitchen garden ideas – so when we saw that homes and gardens doyenne Martha Stewart had just dropped some essential vegetable growing tips, we thought we would share them. Her latest advice will significantly improve your vegetable crop – and fill your kitchen with flavorful goodness.

In the educational episode of her new show, Martha Gets Down and Dirty, Martha shared vegetable garden ideas from her greenhouse, where she is growing a selection of edible delights. However, Martha explains that these veggies are only delectable because she removed the 'bolted' veg, which would hinder the rest of the crop. 

Martha Stewart in a kitchen with vegetables

(Image credit: Cindy Ord / GettyImages)

When a vegetable has 'bolted,' they have flowered prematurely, and, though they are not dangerous to consume, they will taste bitter and much less appetizing. To prevent this, Martha pulls out the flowered vegetables, which can often feel harder than the other plants. 

But what other symptoms should we look out for? And which vegetables are most at risk? 

Horticulture experts and authors of The Guides for the Prairie Gardener, Sheryl Normandeau and Janet Melrose, expand on Martha's advice to explain how to preserve your veggies' deliciousness. 

'When a vegetable bolts, it can significantly reduce yields in your garden. Indicators of bolting in vegetables such as arugula, spinach, lettuce, and radishes include the sudden production of long flower stems, while the growth of the rest of the plant either slows or stops entirely,' Sheryl begins. 

She warns that when a plant bolts, flowers will rapidly appear, and seeds will follow. You should also look out for leaves that may turn yellow and feel more leathery. 

Greenhouse with vegetable plants

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

Sheryl continues, offering her garden ideas that will improve your produce this season and set you up for success in the year ahead. 

'You can pinch the flower buds off of your vegetables to delay bolting for a few more days, but be sure to harvest the plants right away to salvage them,' she shares. 'If you miss the window to harvest them, you can collect the seed for use next year – just let the pods or seed heads dry on the plants before picking and storing them.'

However, if some vegetables have already flowered, all hope is not lost. Instead, Sheryl explains that some plants, including radishes, have 'edible seed pods,' which will still taste good in a salad or stir fry.

Large green vegetable garden

(Image credit: Future / Mathia Coco)

'If you can't use your bolted veggies in any other way, pull them up by the roots and compost them. Try planting bolt-resistant cultivars next year and use protection such as row covers to prevent temperature stress,' she says. 

Whether you're looking for small vegetable garden ideas or you have an expansive crop, these tips will ensure your plants remain healthy and bless your dinner parties for weeks to come. Now, we're left with the decision of what to serve them alongside. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.