Benefits of Going to Seed

comments (1) June 20th, 2017

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WesternGardener Jodi Torpey, contributor
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The arugula bolted, but left behind lovely little flowers for tiny beneficial insects.Click To Enlarge

The arugula bolted, but left behind lovely little flowers for tiny beneficial insects.

Photo: Jodi Torpey

The weather once again conspired against my early spring garden. I planted arugula and radishes in March and expected to start harvesting tasty leaves and roots in about a month.

That was before a series of snowstorms and drenching rains hit, followed by unseasonably hot and dry weather. 

It seems like overnight, the arugula had bolted and the radishes weren't far behind. 

Bolting is when a plant flowers and goes to seed before its time. Warm weather can take a toll on cool-season plants, making them start to produce seeds earlier than expected. I was able to harvest a few radishes, but the arugula was a lost cause.

That is until I noticed how many tiny insects were enjoying those little white flowers. It occurred to me there are some benefits to letting plants flower and go to seed:

Chives form nice purple flowers that insects appreciate. The flowers are also edible and make a lovely topping for green salads.

When cilantro goes to seed, it turns into coriander. This spice is a great addition to use in recipes, especially curries and other Indian dishes.

Dill is delicious as a fresh herb, but the seeds are equally useful in cooking, too. 

Mint is another plant I let flower and go to seed. The bees are attracted to the nectar of the tiny white flowers.

The only herb I keep from going to seed is basil. I pinch off the flower buds before they form so I can enjoy the leaves as long as possible.

The seeds of other vegetables and herbs can be harvested and saved, too. After the flowers have disappeared gather the seeds to save and plant next year.


posted in: seeds, bolting

Comments (1)

Mary14889 writes: My showy red amaranth went to seed in my northern garden last summer and I was surprised with a nice bed of volunteer red amaranth this spring! I had already planted it in my spring planting so now have two beds to enjoy and share. Dill also volunteers but gets dispersed throughout the garden. Sunflowers surprised me by coming up everywhere this spring as well but naturally we let those go to seed. What else...tomatoes and tomatillos come up in abundance but most of those are pulled as weeds. Chives have turned into a pest as well.
Posted: 11:53 am on July 12th
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