We’re just about in the middle of summer and that means that some of your vegetables are ready to harvest while others still have a while to go. But how do you know exactly when harvest time is?
First: the time of day. Early in the morning is the best time to harvest vegetables. Vegetables harvested in the morning tend to be sweeter and crispier, with more taste than vegetables harvested in the evening; this is because the moisture that has been lost during the day is replenished overnight.
Next: the time of the season. For many vegetables, you should harvest throughout the season to ensure the plant’s productivity. Plants like zucchini and cucumbers should be harvested throughout the summer months when the vegetables feel full. Summer squash like zucchini should be 6–12 inches long whereas cucumbers should be 7–9 inches long to ensure that they don’t turn bitter. The vegetables are done when they feel full and firm.
Winter squash should be harvested when the color of the fruit is deep and solid (except for speckled varieties) and the rind of the fruit is hard. It should thump when knocked on. Once harvested, store them in a cool, dry area and you’ll be able to keep them for months.
Brussels sprouts are ready to harvest when the little sprouts are round and firm and at least an inch in diameter. Twist off the individual sprouts from the bottom up. You may also remove yellowing leaves at that time; the plant will continue to grow upward, growing more leaves and sprouts.
Leaf lettuce is harvested by snipping off the outer leaves and leaving the inner leaves intact. While head lettuce is harvested when the lettuce head reaches full size and is cut off at the base, leaf lettuce can keep producing as long as there isn’t too much hot weather, and the main body is left in the ground.
Green beans, snap beans, and bush beans will be ready for harvest from 50–90 days after planting. Beans will reach full size at about 3 inches long. Pick just before the seeds begin to grow plump and bulge.
Finally: flower seeds. When flower buds turn brown and dry out you should be able to harvest the seeds easily. This should be done on a dry, sunny day. Then, when the seed pods turn brown, you can easily harvest the seeds.