Growing your own vegetables, fruits, and even flowers is not only fun but also healthy and economical. While there are costs up front such as purchasing seeds, soil, and fertilizer, gardening using a sustainable approach cuts costs considerably. Making your own compost helps to cut down on the need to use commercial fertilizer and soil. And, collecting seeds from your plants can also save on the need to purchase new seeds year after year, plus you can trade excess seeds with other gardeners. While I have saved certain seeds over the last few years, such as tomato, pepper, cucumbers or watermelon, pretty much the easier types of seed in my opinion, I have never tried to save seeds from leafy greens such as lettuce or spinach.
What does it mean when your plant bolts? It is when the plant produces blooms and seeds. Basically, the plant’s survival mechanism kicks in, in order to produce the next generation. Now, usually once my plants bolt, I will let some of them flower briefly because their blooms attract a lot of good pollinators. When their flowers disappear, the plant often looks scraggly and unattractive. That’s when I normally yank them up.
Every year I try to improve upon my organic gardening skills. However, this year in my goal to have a much more sustainable and even perennial garden, I am on a mission to save as many seeds as possible, and even allow some of these plants to self sow. Because I am letting many of my winter and early spring vegetables go to seed, this has required me to reevaluate space for spring planting, bed rotation, and the means to contain some of these bolting leafy greens.
Because of the mild winter we’ve had in the southwest, various leafy vegetables, particularly Chinese cabbage, ornamental kale, Russian kale, spinach, and a variety of lettuce have begun bolting. I’ve had to use small wire fencing and cages to keep these from overtaking the other young seedlings in the same bed.
After researching how these plants create seeds, I am now noticing the seed pods. Once these plants begin to die, I am going to harvest the pods. It’s been a very interesting process. A lot of the blooms are beautiful little gems with a lilac fragrance, such as the Chinese cabbage. I’ve noticed an abundance of lady bugs, butterflies, and bees partaking of their nectar. Once the seed pods dry, I will break them open to harvest seed and keep seeds in airtight mason jars.