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Lettuce Bolting: When to harvest?

What is lettuce bolting and why does it matter?

Bitterness and bolting in lettuce have a direct correlation and we have a feeling you don’t particularly want to grow bitter tasting lettuce, so here are a couple of tips!

1. Know your end goal for the crop.

Whether you are growing lettuce for commercial use, you’re a master gardener, or a homeowner just looking to have a backyard garden, tasty lettuce is likely your goal. In this case, bolting is something you are going to look to avoid. Bolting is the action in which lettuce takes when it stretches tall and the leaves begin to separate from the stem. This is the plant’s natural tendency to go to flower and seed and once this process begins, the lettuce starts becoming bitter. Depending on how much lettuce you are growing, you may not be able to harvest in just one day. If this is the case, be sure to plan accordingly to minimize bolting.

2. Know your environment.

Florida’s unique climate can be difficult to grow lettuce. Harvest time is crucial to the taste of lettuce and in the harsh weather temperatures in the Suwannee Valley region. One day can make or break the taste of your crop so finding the perfect day to harvest is crucial because bolting can happen overnight. At the North Florida Research and Education Center, we use hydroponics in the greenhouses in an attempt to control the environment of our lettuce trials. This technology allows for the lettuce to be grown in a nutrient-based solution away from the hot, unpredictable conditions that North Florida is known for. However, there are varieties that can be grown in the sandy soils of Suwannee Valley and our Small Farm’s Academy would love to host any questions you have regarding the varieties that would work best for your needs!

Click the link below to watch a quick tutorial on how to check for bolting!


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For more information on upcoming programs in Suwannee Valley, contact our office at 386-362-1725.

North Florida Research and Education Center-Suwannee Valley

7580 County Road 136 Live Oak, FL 32060

By: Denver Cameron, Wanda Laughlin, and Betsy Martin

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution

2 Comments on “Lettuce Bolting: When to harvest?

  1. worked with peanuts.bkueberries.oeaches,plums,vetch,tobacco etc for IFAS prior to six years ago.I was an OPS. ….have a few questions.i have never tried hydroponics.Will there be a separate print out or paper I can get and read carefully pertaining to local lettuce? that does not have to do with hydro technical methods?( Organic please?).i have been growing soybeans and yet to get good accurate info.locally when I visit my wonderful local IFAS office here.

    • Hi Kathy,
      Click on our website and you should find the information you are looking for as well as upcoming training opportunities in the greenhouses.
      Also, the contact information for our greenhouse manager is on this site if you need more assistance!