When To Harvest Vegetables
When should I dig up my garlic? This is the question that made me start thinking about this website in the first place. So
often there is information about putting things in the ground then nothing. No information about what will happen next or what to watch out for. What to do if your garlic gets flowers, when to pick a pumpkin and the list goes on. These are the questions I want to be able to help you with. When growing vegetables it is a great bonus to be able to pick your crop at varying sizes and ripeness. This allows you to pick things over a longer period of time and avoids the problem of having tons of the one thing at once. There are some vegetables that are really well suited to this line of thought.
Peppers or Capsicums
Leave them until they are full sized but they can be picked green but if you leave them they will turn yellowish and then orange and then red. They get sweeter and have more flavor the closer to being red. It depends on when you like to eat them. Always make sure you cut them off rather than pull them as they don’t come off easily and you could break a branch.
It takes about three months for beetroot to reach full size. You can start picking them when they are about golfball size which will be at about six weeks after planting. Picking every second one lets you thin down the rows and means you can plant a lot more closely them if you let them all get to full size. You will get more out of your patch this way. You can also eat the leaves in salads but don’t take too many leaves they need them to grow. They almost jump out of the ground by themselves when they are fully ripe.
Asian Vegetables- like pak choy, choy sum
Pick the whole plant when it is about 18 inches tall. Just cut it off at ground level with a sharp knife.
These take about four to six months to grow to their full size. Personally I can’t wait that long. You can start digging up baby carrots after about eight weeks. Like beetroot doing this allows you to plant more in your patch and spreads the crop over a longer period of time. I have never had much luck with carrots I always get a mangled mass that is not very appealing. How anyone grows a straight carrot is beyond me. When I can buy a bag of carrots for about $1.00 they are just not worth the effort for me. If anyone knows the secret please share it below I’d love to hear how you do it.
Pick corn as close to using as possible. If you leave them on the plant too long after ripening they will lose their sweetness. You can tell that they are ripe when the silks turn dry and brown. You can also expose a few kernels and stick your fingernail into one or two if a milky fluid come out they are ready to go. If the liquid is clear rather than milky leave them another day or two and check again.
Cucumber, Squash and Zucchini
These seem to keep growing as long as you leave them on the vine. Don’t let them grow too big they won’t be nice to eat. They can easily go from too small to too big in 24 hours. Zucchini and Lebanese cucumbers are best at about 10 cm (4 inches) long. Watch out for rain these little babies seem to be able to suck up a bucket of water when it rains and they will get enormous overnight -it’s amazing! I have done a post about growing cucumbers which you can see here if you are interested.
Wrap them totally in cling film and store them in the crisper to keep them fresh longer or they will dry out and go wrinkly.
This is a long term commitment. it takes about six months for garlic to be fully ripe. When the leaves fall over they are ready to go. You should hold back the water for a couple of days so they dry out a bit then dig them up and hang them to dry so you can store them. You can use some of the green tops in cooking and salads while you are waiting but not too much. I have left mine in the ground for a while after the falling over stage and they have been fine. I’m still not sure what to do if they flower – I figure a flower will take the energy from the bulb so I cut them off but I haven’t ever found a definitive answer to this question. If you know for sure please let me know.
These can be picked at almost any stage. You can eat them as baby squash or you can let them grow to full size. The pumpkin size depends on how many pumpkins are on each vine so if you want a giant you need to remove all the flowers except one so they plant can put all it’s energy into that one fruit. They are fully ripe when they have the ripe colour. The stem that connect it to the vine will become wrinkly and woody. If you want to store the fully ripe ones make sure that you leave a bit of vine attached and let it dry out before stacking away. If the vine comes away from the pumpkin it won’t store well yu need to use it quite quickly as it won’t store well.
If you want beans for a long time you need to plant a staggered crop so they don’t all ripen at once. Beans can be picked at any stage. Unless it is a variety that grows really long like a snake bean I wouldn’t let them get much bigger than about 6 inches. They will get tough and stringy. I haven’t been happy with freezing them I’d rather give them away.
Lemongrass is a perennial herb. You can cut the stems from around the outside of the plant as you need it. To ensure that the you continue to get juicy lemon flavoured stems you need to cut the plant off down to the ground each year. They don’t like cold winters.
Nothing taste better than a tomato that has been ripened on the vine and is often said to be the reason people start growing vegetables in the first place. Many people start with tomatoes and branch out into other plants. They are ripe when fully red (or other colour if it’s a weird variety) They will come away easily from the plant when you gently pull it. If you need to really pull it’s not ripe yet. If you are having problems with grubs fruit fly or rotting try picking them just as they start to go pink (before the problems develop) and ripen them elsewhere they will still be far better than a shop bought tomato.
Onions are usually ready to pick when the tops die off. This usually happens about 4 months after the first shoots appear. You can pick small onions as you need them after about two months – these are usually called spring onions.
Potatoes get green top growth then white flowers appear. You will know that your potatoes
are ready to dig up when the green growth above the ground starts to go yellow and die off. You can harvest some “new” potatoes by digging up one plant at a time. Watch out for the the 27 (or something like that) spot lady beetle. I had read that lady beetles were good bugs and so didn’t chase them away until I realized that they were actually eating the green growth on my potatoes and breeding all over the place. She’s bigger than the others and a more orange mustard color take my advice squash her at first site she is trouble.
Citrus fruit can be a bit tricky to get right. Leave orange, lemons, grapefruit, limes and mandarins on the vine to ripen. They can hang on the vine for ages after ripening and picked as needed. Some varieties of mandin will go dry and puffy of you leave them too long so keep an eye on them. Oranges and mandarins can sometimes look ripe but will still be sour if this happens try reducing the amount of water you give them and leave them on the tree for a couple more weeks. Don’t let them wilt but a little less water will make the sugars concentrate in the fruit. Depending on the overnight temperatures your citrus could still be green when it is actually ripe so watch out for that also.
These are ripe when full sized. Tap on the fruit to hear a hollow sound and check that the spot where the melon has been sitting on the ground has turned for green to light yellow.
These should be ripe three to six months after flowering depending on which ones you grow. They are ripe when full sized and coloured – they should come away form the plant easily if you need to tug it it’s not ready yet. The size of your apples may be reduced if you have heaps of fruit on the tree so don’t wait for them to get bigger. Pick one and try it if you think they look ripe. It’s better to have fruit that has room to grow than to have clusters of fruit so you may want to remove a few flowers in each cluster.
Avocados won’t ripen on the tree you need to pick them when it is the ripe colour and the size you expect and allow them to ripen elsewhere. It can take a week or more to ripen once picked.
It may be better to buy an established plant as you should let the plant grow for two years before picking your first crop. Pick it when the stems are fully formed. In mild areas you can sometimes pick rhubarb all year but if the winters are cold the plant will die off and come back when it’s warmer. Only pick two or three stems from each plant at a time and them you need to let it regrow again.
Raspberries will come away from the bush easily if they are ripe. If you give little tug and they resist leave them for another day or so. Best eaten soon after picking. I have read that if you snip off part of the branch (rather than each individual fruit) and leave the fruit on when you pick them they will last longer.
Pick your apricots when they are ripe. Keep a close eye on them as they will become ripe quickly once they start to ripen. You don’t want over-ripe apricots. They will have the best flavor the closer you eat them to picking. You go from none ripe to nearly all ripe quite quickly and a storm or strong wind can make them drop usually bruising the fruit as it hits the ground. You can make all sorts of lovely pies and preserves if you get too many at once.
Please Share your knowledge
If you have a harvesting tip please leave a comments then we can all learn something new.