My Onions Bolted: Can They Be Saved? The Results

Last Updated on 8 months by Michelle

Two weeks ago, I shared an update about a situation that many gardeners dread: my overwintered short-day onions had bolted.

For those who may not be familiar with the term, bolting is a phenomenon where the plant sends up a flower stalk, usually in response to stress or age.

This is a critical moment for any gardener because it signals that the plant has shifted its energy from growing the edible part we desire to focusing on reproduction.

In our specific case, the culprit was an unusually cold spell that hit our garden.

Temperature fluctuations, especially extreme cold, can stress plants and trigger bolting.

When this happens, the process of bulbing, where the onion forms the round structure we harvest, comes to a halt.

This is a significant concern because the primary reason we grow onions is for their bulbs.

To address this issue, I decided to experiment a bit.

I showed you all my attempt to salvage the situation by carefully removing the tiny flower buds from the stalk.

The idea was to see if this action would redirect the onion’s energy back into bulbing.

So, did it work?

Unfortunately, based on my observations, it doesn’t seem to have made a difference. As you can see in the accompanying video, the stalk of the onion has indeed grown taller since I removed the flowering tip. However, there’s no sign that it has resumed the bulbing process.

Interestingly, some other onions in the video are in the process of bulbing but haven’t yet sent up a flowering tip. This is a good sign, but it’s crucial to keep an eye on them. If they do start to grow a flowering tip in the future, their bulbing process will stop, just like their bolted counterparts.

So, what are the options now?

The only viable solution is to harvest the onions that have successfully formed bulbs. If I don’t, there’s a risk that water could seep into the flowering tip, leading to rot and making the onion unusable. It’s a hard decision to make, but it’s necessary to prevent further loss.

On a brighter note, I do have some onions that are successfully bulbing up, and for that, I’m incredibly thankful. To mitigate the loss of the bolted onions, I had the foresight to plant extra intermediate-day onions for the spring season. This means that both my farmstand and my family’s stock of onions should remain in good shape despite this setback.

In conclusion, gardening often comes with its set of challenges, and learning how to navigate them is all part of the journey. While I couldn’t save my bolted onions, the experience has provided valuable insights that will inform my future gardening endeavors. And thankfully, due to some quick thinking and extra planting, the onion supply for my family and farmstand customers will not be adversely affected. 

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