What do these crops have in common? They like cool weather, and they don’t like warm weather. Have you ever brought home one of these seedlings from the nursery, planted it in your garden, and watched it do nothing. In fact, did that dill plant shrink?? Or have you planted spinach, pea, or arugula seeds at the same time as your tomatoes and they grew about 10 leaves then flowered? Two potential reasons for this:
1) The plants were pot bound when you got them from the nursery
2) It got hot all of a sudden because you planted them after May 24th.
Both of those situations would put the plant into shock/stress. When annual vegetables/edible plants go into shock they figure it’s the compost pile for them, so they desperately try to reproduce before their imminent termination. Strange reflex, but useful in the wild world. It’s certainly not what I’m thinking about in a life and death situation. They send up a flower stalk and halt all leaf production, this is called “bolting”. I recommend tossing that term around with your gardener friends when you’re giving advice…in the blink of an eye you go from gardener to Master Gardener. The leaves even seem to thin out, and worse, they become bitter in taste. Arugula gets more bitter. ummm hmmmm.
2 Ways to Grow Great Spinach, Arugula, Cilantro, and Dill
1) The Annoying Way: In early April suit up and shovel a route to your vegetable garden. Yes, it’s in there. If necessary, shovel the snow off the soil. Pick up some soil. If you can’t (ie. frozen) then it is too early and you can go defrost your hands. If you can, then stick your seeds in the ground now! You will forget this by next April, I promise.
2) The Foolproof Way: When that little stresed arugula/spinach/dill/cilantro plant sends up a flower this season, flashing it’s pretty yellow petals, wooing you to let it stay in the garden…let it stay. Then watch the magic unfold as the flowers turn to seeds. Then when you pass by the plant, grazing it with your pant leg, or maybe giving it a little tussle – the seeds scatter, dropping to the soil. You then stick a big, UV resistant, label in the ground that says “Arugula, Coming Spring 2016”. Or just a big stick. Whatever will keep you from either planting in that spot later in the season, or from layering on a thick layer of manure/compost at the end of the season (the little seeds probably won’t make it through in the spring). Next spring you will have perfectly timed arugula/spinach/dill/cilantro and you can invite your friends over to witness the miracle of being a Master Gardener.