The Contrary Garden: Bolting Carrots

If all you ever see of my vegetable garden is on this blog you might think it’s a perfect little garden of Eden.  Hardly. It’s as weedy and problematic as anyone else’s, and that’s what this new series of posts is about.  In this post: bolting carrots.

A bolting carrot sends a flower spike up above his better-behaved siblings, rivaling the height of the neighboring pole peas.

A formerly chubby and robust carrot has bolted and is reduced to a colorless, woody, impossibly hard little finger.

A vegetable is said to be bolting when it prematurely goes to seed.  When a plant that is not cultivated for its seeds prematurely goes to seed the part you do cultivate it for (say, the leaves or root) suffers.  In the case of my carrots, I am after the large orange taproot.  Carrots are biennials, meaning that they do their growing in their first year and their reproduction in their second year, and then they die.  The excessive heat and longish dry spell has triggered a defensive reaction in my carrots, leading them to “believe” (if I may over-anthropomorphize as usual) that they may not make it to next year and that if they want to reproduce they’d better do it now, while they can.  That means that they are sucking all the stored nutrients and energy out of those lovely, fat orange taproots and growing absurdly tall flower spikes.  I have temporarily put a stop to it by pulling any carrots that looked like they were starting to take off, and watering those that remain, to put a damper (ha!) on their panic.

— Amanda

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