Right time to Harvest
Harvesting at the right time can be just as important as planting
There is a point of maturity in a vegetable where taste is at it prime, either in sweetness or texture and also for its defense mechanism against diseases and insects. This is the right time to harvest.
Sometimes the vegetable looks so beautiful that you don’t even want to harvest it, or maybe you planted so much that you want to wait a week or two, or you have been harvesting all along until they eventually bolt. Depending on these circumstantial aspects and on what plant it is, it may work to wait. But, for many vegetables, once it’s time for harvesting, it’s best to do so right away.
A few examples to help clarify my point.
Let’s take lettuce or mesclun mix, which contains various types of lettuce (oakleaf, red lettuce, black seeded Simpson, Lollo Rossa, arugula, radicchio and some other greens like kale, Chinese greens, beet greens, etc., depending on the producer).
- Lettuce will grow very nicely when the temperatures are cool, and you can harvest for about two to three months until it gets really hot.
- If you planted it a bit late, it will come to full size relatively fast.
Once it reaches maturity, is the right time to harvest – especially the lettuce, as it will start to grow upward. This is called bolting. Once it bolts, the leaves become bitter in taste and not really edible. By waiting, you may lose your crop.
The same will happen with mustard greens. They can tolerate a bit more heat but the taste will be stronger. Real mustard taste is hot. Eventually, it will flower. https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/vegetables/growing-lettuce-greens-organically/
Radishes will stay in the ground a bit more but, at some point, if they are not harvested, they will split or get woody so they can’t be eaten, and they will also go to flower. Once they flower, the root will have become woody.
To learn a greater understanding about these topics purchase my book ‘Garden the Organic Way’ https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com
Another way to lose a crop is when you wait too long.
- Despite having a row cover, I still found some caterpillars in my garden.
- I harvested a large amount of kale and decided to wait another week or two before harvesting the rest. I did notice that I had found some imported cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and a few cross-striped cabbage worms in the patch. I went through the whole patch and looked for them, killing everything I found.
- A word of warning, you never get them all. Sure enough, I came back to leaves that were totally
eaten and lots and lots of caterpillars that were quite big and well fed. I lost around half my crop. I should have known better and harvested the kale to freeze it.
- Once you see an infestation, it is best to pull everything, unless you are willing to spray and be on top of the situation every day. I knew I was going to be away, so it was a bad call on my part. https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/maintenance/insects-and-diseases/controlling-pest-in-garden/
Thankfully, I did find some carrot fly maggots on my carrots, and quickly harvested the whole crop before it spread anymore, which would mean I’d just be feeding the maggots!