In the Garden:
New England
July, 2001
Regional Report

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Keep the summer squash harvest coming by picking these fruits when small.

Vegetable Harvest Time

The harvest season is upon us. It's vegetable time at the Nardozzi house. This is when all the vegetables that I tenderly cared for through cool spring nights, thunderstorms, insect infestations, and weeds, finally start producing in abundance. Here come the summer squash, beans, onions, beets, cucumbers, and broccoli, not to mention the continued harvest of greens such as Swiss chard and the soon to harvest peppers and tomatoes. To keep this harvest coming, I have to stay on my toes and keep picking.

Continual Vegetables

There's a simple saying when harvesting vegetables: the more you pick, the more you get. This is especially true for cucumbers, squashes, and peppers. The whole goal to these fruiting crops is to make mature seeds. This happens when you let the fruits fully ripen. As long as the plant hasn't produced mature seeds to reproduce, it keeps trying by flowering and fruiting more and more. So I just keep picking these fruits on the small side, so I'm assured a continual harvest. I pick summer squash and zucchini with the flowers still attached, cucumbers when they're less than 8 inches long, and peppers when they are the mature size for that variety, but still green.

Plants to Start Again

I find certain vegetables are best started all over again. Arugula and leaf lettuce are best harvested by pulling the whole plant out of the ground. I immediately replant another crop where the other was after amending the soil with compost. Bush beans will produce in abundance for a few weeks then stop. I have sometimes cut back the plants by 50% and let them regrow and flower again in fall. However, a more productive solution is to pull them up and replant. As long as I have 60 days between seeding and before the first frost date, I can usually get a harvest.

Harvesting Melons and Corn

Melons and sweet corn are a little more problematic to harvest. Cantaloupes are easy. Just pick up the fruit and it will slip off the vine when ripe. Watermelons are ripe when the last tendril (curly vine) before the fruit starts to die. Also check the ground side of the fruit. When it turns yellow, it's probably ripe. Sweet corn is ripe when the silks turn brown and the ear feels full when squeezed.

Harvesting is great work, a way to enjoy the fruits of your labor, but like anything in the garden, you need to keep at it to get the best results.


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