Lettuce bolting

When daytime temperatures get warmer, it will only be a matter of time before cool season lettuce that we planted in early spring bolts. Bolting is when lettuce starts to get a center stalk and eventually it will make flowers and become bitter. What makes lettuce bolt? Both summer heat and more sunlight in our longer sunnier days contribute to bolting. If you find your too late and it is already bitter, either compost it or give it to chickens. They don’t seem to mind the bitterness.

I read a tip where you can make bitter lettuce sweet again so I decided to try it as my winter lettuce is pretty much finished and bitter. The tip said to mix up 4 TLB salt with 1 liter of water till dissolved in a bowl and then soak your lettuce in it for ten minutes. Then rinse and it should be sweet. I did try it and the lettuce got totally wilted. Not edible. After I rinsed it, I soaked it in fresh water hoping to revive it and the lettuce was still salty and wilted. Still not edible. I didn’t even want to give the wilted lettuce to my chickens or compost it for fear of too much salt still in it. Oh well, so much for that tip!

If you still have lettuces that haven’t been picked, get out there soon before they bolt! To get the best from your lettuce, water your plants the evening before you plan to pick it. Then pick lettuces first thing the next morning before it gets too hot. After I wash it and spin out the water, I put lettuce in a ziplock baggie with a wet piece of paper towel folded (squeeze out excess moisture). Lettuce should last a good amount of time when doing this in the refrigerator.

There are other lettuces we can grow here in the shade in the summer. I will write a post soon about growing these warm season lettuces for the summer that are heat resistant and don’t bolt. They are called Batavian or Crisp lettuces. More on that later.


10 comments on “Lettuce bolting

  1. Deborah Madison says:

    I spoke too soon! Three beans are emerging!!!!!

    Thanks so much, D



  2. Pamela Grob says:

    Can I plant my peppers now if I put it in a grow box or a planter? I know the soil in the ground isn’t warm enough yet.


  3. tonytomeo says:

    It amazes me that some people grow lettuce right through summer. Of course, the coastal climate is very different from that of interior valleys. There is some in the garden now that is still quite young. I will find out how well it does. If it bolts, I will get it all to myself. Turnip, radish and mustard greens that grow wild have been bolting since winter ended, but I continue to eat them until they bloom and start to shed lower leaves.


  4. Ashley says:

    This is really helpful. I have “marvel of 4 seasons” seeds for lettuce, and I was thinking of starting some. Guess it’s way too late, yeah?


    • Yes it is too late to start cool season lettuces like 4 seasons now but you can get start warm season lettuces called Crisphead/Batavia lettuces now from seeds. They do very well in the summer in part shade or do provide some shade cloth for them to live under. Johnny’s seeds has some of those lettuces. Go here:

      Batavia lettuces


  5. Debbie R says:

    I am growing tomatoes, peppers, squash and herbs on the deck. How do you deal with the wind??
    All of them get wind whipped. i bring them in and out. They are getting bigger so it is a chore to do everyday… When is it ok to leave them out overnight with temperatures here?



    • Ah yes, wind is always a factor. Plants will adjust to the wind but for newly transplanted starts it can be very hard on them. I put row cover (med weight) around them. Maybe make a ‘cage’ with 3-4 bamboo poles around the inside edge of of your pot and wrap the row cover around them. I use clothes line pins to attach the row cover to the poles. For lower plants, drape the row cover over the pot and hold down with rocks-but leave some room for the plants inside-not too tight if laying it directly over the plant. You can leave them outside now-usually I wait till June 1 to plant peppers outside so maybe continue to bring those in and out but the rest should be fine. Just some ideas-good luck!


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