My garden is on a roof top in the South Bronx. I get a lot out of a little space, but I tend to only have one or two of each type of plant.

enter image description here

Most advice I find is for terrestrial gardens with rows and rows of the same plant. I also find that my plants do strange things, like this lettuce that seems to be bolting in the fall. I thought this was a spring occurrence?

enter image description here

Would it be a good idea to cut the top off?

enter image description here

I've had some good success replanting the root of a lettuce after eating the top. But, then again, maybe I should try to collect these seeds and plant them.

What is the best next move?


4 Answers 4


Bolting in the fall is the normal time for lettuce to go to seed. To gather seed is a bigger more complicated task. If you didn't purchase viable seed or if that seed is GMO just will not work at all. The other thing is that you won't know the genetics of that seed. Producing seed takes growing identical plants in a big group, ideally in a hermetically sealed grow room. And if you've got newly designed plants it is ILLEGAL to grow vegetatively. (just fyi, no biggie).

No harm in trying! But lettuce is fine and happy when you harvest a few leaves for dinner salad and leave the entire plant and roots alone. It will produce more.

Go ahead and try these leaves in your salad. Definitely take that center reproductive growth off. I've found the lettuce in some varieties after bolting to be bitter. Bolting is caused by extremes of temperature; too hot or too cold will confuse plants. We have extremely hot days and extremely cold nights. Anything that has a propensity to bolt will bolt as soon as it matures.


Taste it. Usually when lettuce bolts it's time to pull the plant, as it turns horribly bitter. If you like bitter lettuce that may not be a problem for you. It commonly happens as the weather heats up in summer, so if you got all the way to fall you did well.

Seed saving for lettuce probably makes very little sense with your garden size - indeed, you might want to look at some other greens in that situation, but a single seed packet should last you for years, even if you share the seeds with your gardening neighbors. As time passes you may need to plant a few more seeds to get 2 plants, but there are a LOT of seeds even in the smallest packet of lettuce seed. If what you have now is a hybrid, the seeds from it may not make very good lettuce anyway.


Unless you are interested in harvesting seeds, it makes sense to cut off the top. I had to do that for my lettuce as well. I also noted that the leaves from the lettuce started tasting bitter right around that time. So, I ended up removing the entire lettuce plant and replacing it with something else since space is always limited.


You can save seed from lettuce. It is very easy and fun. No- lettuce is not available in a GMO version. Luckily for seed savers lettuce is a strong self pollinator meaning it will not cross with other varieties easily. You do know the genetics because it is self pollinating meaning it will grow very very similiar to the parent plant in the next generation. Wait until the daisy- like flowers mature and make a feather white tuft protect from rain at this point as they dry down.

A bolting lettuce plant also means it was in that pot too long and all the NYC heat told the plant to flower. Once the plant initiates flowering that's it. The vegetative phase is over.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.