QUESTION: The heat is getting to my beets. How do you keep beets from bolting? -Pam L.
ANSWER: Beetroot plants are especially comfortable growing in cool weather conditions. In midsummer, or whenever the weather gets pretty warm, beet plants have a tendency to bolt. The process of bolting occurs when a plant decides to give up on spending its energy on developing fruit, instead shifting to producing a flower, and then seed.
Bolting happens when a plant is under stress and is uncertain about its survival, so it starts working on producing an offspring to ensure that a part of it lives on into the future. The plant soon becomes tall and leggy, the leaves shrivel up and wither away, and the roots remain small and underdeveloped.
Fortunately, there are a few preventative measures that you can take to avoid having to deal with your beet plants flowering. We’ll also tell you what your options are once your plants have begun to flower, just in case you weren’t able to keep them on track.
The easiest way to avoid your beet plants bolting is to grow the bolt resistant cultivar called Boltardy which was bred specifically to resist the urge to start flowering. If you can’t get your hands on some Boltardy beets, there are still some methods to put into action to keep your beetroot plants focused on developing roots as intended.
First, be sure to wait until around three weeks after the last frost to plant your seedlings in order to protect them from the cold, starting them off indoors under cover and moving them out into the garden in rows spaced around 10 cm apart. To avoid disturbing the roots, sow seedlings thinly so that your plants won’t be competing against one another for water once the summer rolls around and warm, dry conditions affect moisture levels.
Beetroot is not susceptible to drought and like most plants, they will not abide soggy, overly wet conditions. In waterlogged soil, beet plants will produce large leafy canopies while neglecting root development. Beetroot prefers cooler weather conditions and have a tendency to bolt when the weather gets too warm. Try to offer them some shade or cover the plants with a light netting to keep temperatures down as low as possible. If your beetroot plants start to bolt, act swiftly and pick off the developing flower as soon as you see it forming. Picking the bud off before it has a chance to develop can slow down the process of bolting a bit and allow time for the roots to continue development. However, once a plant begins the flowering process, there is typically no going back.