QUESTION: What happens when kale bolts? Can I still harvest the leaves? -Ron L.
ANSWER: Kale grows flowers, or starts bolting, usually in its second year, right after winter ends and warm weather starts to come back. How fast your kale goes to flower will depend on how quickly the weather heats up, and it will happen faster in warm weather areas. Whenever any plant bolts, it just means that it has reached full maturity and is ready to shift its focus to producing seeds. When you start to see signs of bolting, act quickly to get your last harvest.
Kale bolts during warmer weather after experiencing a bit of winter’s freezing temperatures. If the weather heats up rapidly in the spring, kale can start to bolt much sooner than you might think. Your kale plants might not even wait until spring to flower though. If there is a period of thawing and warmer than usual winter weather, it can trick your kale into behaving like winter is over and spring has arrived. It may start preparing to flower in the middle of January or February.
Throughout the growing season, kale leaves normally grow in a ground-level cluster near the base of the central stalk. When the weather warms up, watch the central stalk for signs that your kale is preparing to bolt. Signs include the stalk beginning to shoot up taller, the leaves starting to branch out from the stalk at a distance above the cluster, or the main stalk shooting up far above the cluster at the base.