Written by Lily Patriarca
When to Harvest
Knowing when to pick the produce from your garden not only ensures that what you picked will be delicious, but it can also help ensure that the plant continues to reproduce.
Here are some tips on when to harvest:
It’s important to inspect your garden daily. This will ensure that any ripened produce can be picked before it rots and causes problems (such as diseases) in your garden (Reference 1)
When most produce is picked in the early stages of ripening, it actually helps stimulate the plant to produce more (Reference 1)
When it comes to vegetables, bigger is not always better. It’s better to pick vegetables when they’re on the smaller side, as this is when they are the most tender and flavourful (Reference 1)
Leaves can be another way to tell if your fruits or vegetables are ready to be picked. For example, when dealing with a potato plant, once the stem and leaves have died, it is ready to pick (Reference 2)
For the most part, when vegetables are firm and at a good size, they are ready to be picked. When it comes to fruits though, they are ready to be harvested when they begin to become softer (Reference 2)
Here is some harvesting information for different produce (References 1 and 3)
When to Harvest
You can cut herbs as frequently as possible and they will continue to grow. Just make sure the herbs are a decent size before cutting them.
In general, tomatoes are ready when they are firm but slightly soft when gently squeezed.
Can be harvested when they reach 4 inches in length.
Green beans are best picked when they are on the slightly smaller side to ensure tenderness.
Depending on what size cucumber you planted, you can pick them once they’ve reached their expected size or are slightly smaller.
How to Harvest
Using proper methods to harvest your produce, helps to maintain your garden while minimizing damage to the plants.
Basil is best picked by pinching the leaves off of a stem above more leaves. This will allow for more branches to sprout. (Reference 4)
Parsley and other long-stemmed herbs are best harvested by cutting the stems near the base of the plant. (Reference 4)
Rosemary can be harvested by cutting the stem above a pair of leaves as this will encourage more growth. (Reference 4)
Tomatoes can be harvested by gently twisting the tomato off the vine. If the tomatoes are actually ready to be harvested, this should require minimal force. (Reference 5)
Lettuce can be cut or picked off of the main steam and will continue to regrow as long as the main stem and roots are not damaged and there are 1-2 inches of leaves left at the base of the stem. (Reference 6)
Green Beans are best picked slightly young. A general rule is the size of a pencil. Green beans can be cut or picked off the plant’s stems. Picking green beans as often as possible helps generate regrowth. (Reference 7)
Cucumber plants do not regrow cucumbers once they have been picked but it is still important to know how to properly harvest them so that the cucumbers that are still growing can continue to do so. Cucumbers can be harvested by cutting them off the stem. (Reference 8)
Aside from the above-mentioned tips for specific produce, pruning is a great general gardening practice that will help stimulate and encourage regrowth in your garden. For starters, pruning is the act of removing branches or stems from a plant to improve the overall health of the plant. Pruning is often used to remove dead branches or stems to help keep the plant healthy and to reduce any rot caused by dead or dying branches or stems. It can also be useful to help with air circulation. If a plant is too dense with branches or leaves, most of the stems will become covered and experience less sunlight and air circulation, which can lead to diseased crops that spread to the rest of your garden. (References 9 and 10)
Here are some tips on how to prune properly:
Clean cutting tools to avoid any disease transfer
Only prune 1/3 of your plant otherwise it may discourage growth
Remove dying leaves regularly to prevent any disease (Reference 10)
Poindexter, J. 10 tips to harvest your garden vegetables perfectly and on time. Morning Chores. https://morningchores.com/harvesting-your-garden/
Chapter 2. Basic harvest and post-harvest handling considerations for fresh fruits and vegetables. FAO. https://www.fao.org/3/y4358e/y4358e05.htm
Growing lush, green, crisp lettuce. Gilmour. https://gilmour.com/growing-lettuce
How to harvest and dry herbs for storage. Grow a Good Life. https://growagoodlife.com/harvest-dry-herbs/
Iannotti, M. When and how to harvest garden vegetables. The Spruce. 2020. https://www.thespruce.com/when-to-harvest-vegetables-1403402
Will lettuce regrow once cut? 3 ways to harvest lettuce. Tiny Garden Habit. https://www.tinygardenhabit.com/will-lettuce-regrow-once-cut-3-ways-to-harvest-lettuce/
Planting, growing and harvesting green beans. Georgina. https://www.georgina.ca/sites/default/files/page_assets/planting_growing_harvesting_green_beans.pdf
Tilley, N. When to pick a cucumber and how to prevent yellow cucumbers. Gardening Know How. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/cucumber/when-to-pick-a-cucumber-how-to-prevent-yellow-cucumbers.htm
What is pruning? The importance, benefits, and methods of pruning. Davey. 2018. https://blog.davey.com/2018/09/what-is-pruning-the-importance-benefits-and-methods-of-pruning/
Nickelson, L. Prune your plants for bigger yields. Tower Garden. 2015. https://www.towergarden.ca/blog.read.html/en/2015/5/prune_your_plantsfo.html