Outdoors

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
Megan Slack

Megan is a News Writer across Future Plc's Homes titles. She has a background in national newspapers in the UK and has experience in fashion and travel journalism, which she previously practised whilst living in Paris and New York City. Her adoration for these fashion capitals means she particularly enjoys writing about upcoming styles and trends for Homes & Gardens. Megan also loves discovering vintage pieces in her spare time, meaning her decor is largely influenced by the beauty of the jazz age.