Bolting and Buttoning in Cole Crop Plants  


Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are cole crops that have a tendency to bolt (go to seed) or button (produce an extremely small head) if plants are not grown properly. These crops need to be kept actively growing through their production cycle, including growing transplants from seed. If they slow down due to under-fertilization or are stunted due to overgrowing their container, buttoning or bolting is more likely. Therefore, be sure to properly fertilize plants grown from seed and ensure they have enough light. The easiest way to fertilize transplants is to use a potting soil with fertilizer already added. Light may be more of a challenge. Often natural sunlight is not sufficient unless the plants are in a greenhouse.  Therefore, additional light is often needed. Click here for a video on how to build a grow light.

If you are not growing your own transplants but rather selecting plants later in the month for transplanting, choose small, stocky, dark green plants. Even after transplanting, these plants need to be well-fertilized. Fertilize at transplanting with a starter solution and continue to fertilize every 2 to 3 weeks until harvest. Both buttoning and bolting are irreversible. Once a seed stalk starts for form, nothing can be done to force the plant to produce a normal crop.

Ward Upham, Extension Agent


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