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Herbs Gone Wild! 3 Simple Steps to Tame Bolting

On hot summer days herbs are known for bolting out of control and going to seed. There are 3 simple steps to tame your herb garden to enjoy a continued harvest.

The urban farming Boston movement has taken off this summer. And herbs are an incredible way to get the most from a very limited growing space, like planters lining outdoor seating at a restaurant to continually supply the chef or bar manager with ultra-fresh herbs all summer long. But a string of hot summer days can cause your herbs to bolt, turning them from a bountiful leaf-based beauty into an “ugly duckling” that’s gone to seed. The stress of heat triggers the end of the life cycle for herbs, which is devastating only half way through the growing season. Bolting can be slowed, or even stopped, following a few simple tips from Green City Growers horticultural team.

1. Prune

Consistently pruning herbs (harvesting them) will force the plant to put energy into new leaf growth. Different types of herbs require different pruning methods. Refer to the Green City Growers herb pruning guide from our book, The Urban Bounty How to Grow Fresh Food Anywhere, for complete instructions on pruning. One example:


2. Eliminate Potential Stress

Ultimately, bolting happens when the plant is under stress, thinks it’s going to die, and as a last ditch effort pushes out the next generation to save the genetic line. Stress could be lack of water, or lack of nutrients. Make sure you are properly watering, feeding, and maintaining your plants so they are their healthiest.

Some herbs, like basil, LOVE the summer sun and thrive in hot weather. More delicate herbs like parsley and cilantro survive better in the cooler spring and fall seasons. Learn which plants do best in which seasons. We don’t normally advocate for shading your plants, but in this case it can help your more delicate herb varieties survive the summer heat. Plant cilantro under your tomatoes, or other vining, leafy crop. Or plant in a section of the garden that only gets partial sun; 4.5 hours instead of 6 plus.

3. Pick the Flowers Off

If you catch the bolting early, when a long shoot pops up or a flower begins to form, literally nip it in the bud! Pinch off the flowers and prune back the long shoot, and you may stop the bolting process.

What do you do AFTER an herb has already bolted?


Harvest! Harvest it all the way to the root and make something incredible! Have an overabundance? Make a big batch of pesto or chimichurri sauce and freeze it to enjoy pesto pizzas and chimichurri chicken tacos any time you like, both Green City Growers favorites!

The moment your herbs look like they may bolt, take charge and don’t let them go wild!


Learn More

Local restaurants often make ideal locations for growing their own herbs and select crops to supply their chef with ultra-fresh produce. Lush gardens in boxes lining an outdoor patio, a rooftop farm, or raised beds in an ally or parking lot can beautify an urban space adding curb appeal. Own or chef at a local restaurant? Request an on-site consultation to evaluate your available growing space!

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