How and When to Harvest Your Garden

Knowing how and when to harvest every garden crop helps guarantee the most flavorful and nutritious homegrown veggies and fruits.

| July/August 2014

It’s that glorious time of year when most of our gardens are at their peak, pumping out fresh produce as fast as we can eat it. After all the work you’ve put into planning, planting and growing your garden crops, you don’t want to stymie maximum production by harvesting too soon or too late—veggies taste best and are most nutritious when harvested at the height of their natural wonderfulness. Read on for a crop-by-crop guide to how and when to harvest your produce for the tastiest food and most productive plants ever.

Beans: Check daily—vital, as beans grow quickly; pick snap/green beans when pods are full and firm with pliable tips but seeds are tiny, usually two to four weeks after bloom; pick haricot (French filet) types when tender, young pods are about 1/8 inch.

Beets: Pick standard varieties when roots are 1-1/2 to 3 inches in diameter and about the size of a golf ball; white and golden varieties stay tender until they’re the size of a baseball; storage (winter-keeping) varieties remain tender until softball-size; beets harvested past their prime have a strong taste and tough texture.

Broccoli: Harvest when buds are tight and before florets begin opening flowers; for your first harvest, cut the central stalk at a slant 5 to 6 inches below the base of the head, which prevents rot and encourages production of new side shoots.

Cabbage: Begin harvesting anytime after heads become solid and firm; larger heads are more likely to split—split heads are still tasty but won’t store well.

Cantaloupes: Harvest when the “netting” that overlays skin becomes more pronounced and the melon separates easily from the vine.

7/24/2014 8:51:44 PM

Thanks for the tips! It’s important to know when to harvest…however I have kids so my garden is often picked clean before its bounty reaches maturity. It’s a good problem to have though as I think it’s important to teach kids the basics about where their food comes from. Love the picture with the article too! Nature Hills Nursery has some great products to help with the harvest, including this handy wheelbarrow that won’t strain your back:

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