The Harvester's Dilemma: When to Pick
Getting plants in the ground is easy. Watering, weeding, feeding -- well, these activities take a little time, but they're easy, too. Knowing when to harvest your bounty is tricky, because it's not always obvious. After all, how can you check on your potatoes without digging them up? Here are some quick tips to keep in mind for picking some of the more popular garden vegetables.
People enjoy picking tomatoes off the vine when they're completely red and practically begging to be put on a plate. That's great for the middle of the growing season. As the season winds down, you can pick them when the skin gives a little to finger pressure. The ripening process will continue. You can err a little on the green side if you don't mind being patient. At the end of the season, gather up all of your still-green tomatoes. Then grab a book and find out how to pickle them.
From the moment they're the size of your pinky finger till they become small logs, you can harvest carrots. The babies taste better, but the big ones store better and have more nutritional value. Pull them out as needed throughout the growing season.
Keep checking the plants every day and snip off the ones that look ripe. If they get too big, they won't be as tasty. Think small to medium.
These easy-to-grow plants easily turn into maggot nests if you leave them in the ground too long. Harvest them when they're about the size of a marble. They'll taste better than big ones, and store well in your refrigerator.
Harvesting Bell Peppers
Do you like them green or red? The choice is yours. Pick them green and the plant keeps on producing more. If you want them red (or orange or yellow), leave them on the vine until they mature.
Harvesting Squash, Zucchini and Cucumbers
Keep on pickin'. The bigger these vegetables get, the more the plant acts as if its job is done. Pick young or medium-sized vegetables as they grow throughout the summer. You'll end up with more than you need, but they'll taste good. Just share your bounty with neighbors or your local food bank.