You could reduce your grocery bill by 15%!
Harvesting Basics You Need to Know
by Laura Foor
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You've been busy tending to your garden over the last few months, so you can have access to a lot of fresh, healthy food choices. Good for you! Fresh food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, are not only delicious, but they're also so good for you. Since growing your own food can also save you a lot of money, it's definitely a win-win situation.
Given that the quality of store-bought fruits and vegetables, as well as price, can vary considerably, growing your own food means you're getting more nutrition. Also, you can expect to save a minimum of 15% off your grocery bill every month.
Now that cooler weather is approaching, it's time for you to start thinking about harvesting. It doesn't matter whether you have a large or a small gardening space. You simply want to make sure you're doing all you can in order to get the best yield. You've spent a lot of time nurturing your garden, and for that reason alone, you deserve a plentiful harvest.
When to Harvest
When is the best time to harvest? Well, that depends. I'm sorry that there is no easy answer here. It really depends on what you're growing and where you live. Climate conditions can differ drastically from one city to another. This means a food may be harvested in the first week of September in certain climates, while it's necessary in other climates to wait until the second or third week to get a riper product.
Some foods, especially fruits, are easier to harvest. Apples are ready when you give one a gentle pull and it easily releases from the tree. While it's important to not harvest too early, some foods like beans, peas, and greens are more flexible. Once picked, they'll continue to ripen.
Before that first seed is planted, preparation is the key when it comes to getting the highest yield. The soil you choose is essential to producing a high yielding garden. Why? Nutrients. Just like us, when you give your plants the nutrients they need to grow big and strong, they will. Not sure what type of soil you have? Ask your local gardening center to test a sample for you. Not an option? Simply pick up a DIY pH test kit for a few dollars.
Always follow the directions when planting a new fruit or vegetable. They're in place for a reason. Since watering can be quite the balancing act, pay close attention when first watering, so the plants receive the perfect amount. If given too much or too little water, they simply won't thrive the way they should.
The best high yield options include tomatoes, peas, squash, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs.
Harvesting Produce the Right Way
Yes, there's a right way for you to harvest that beautiful bright orange carrot or those bright green lettuce leaves. In fact, harvesting on the earliest date can provide a higher yield, making it a good idea for you to check every day to see what's ripened. For example, it's easy to see when tomatoes are ready to be picked, and once you start picking them, they'll continue to quickly produce. Be sure to have a lot of fresh food recipes ready.
Many of your gardening rewards can be placed in a bowl for immediate consumption after washing them thoroughly. Some like carrots and peppers can be put in the fridge or freezer to keep them fresh for future use. Simply clean using cold water, trim or cut to desired size, and put into a container with as much air removed as possible. You can choose to blanch first, but it's not necessary.
Unfortunately, not all foods bode well when exposed to the cold. This is why onions, garlic, beans, tomatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes do well when stored somewhere that's cool and dry, like a cellar, rather than the fridge.
Good to Know
Make a harvesting diary. It's always a good idea to keep some basic notes (i.e. when, what, watering tips, results). Also, if you end up having too many of a certain item at one time, simply spread out the harvesting over the next few weeks. Since your produce will begin to lose nutritional value once picked, simply stagger the harvests, so you're sure not to get too much of one thing at one time. However, if you're sharing with friends and neighbors, this is a true win-win for all.
Reviewed August 2017
Laura Foor is a freelance writer who specializes in writing quality articles for online publication for 6+ years. Graduating from UCB with a degree in Environmental Sciences in 2009, she also works part time as a Farmers Market manager where she focuses on healthy food education.
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