…that would increase the amount of food you could harvest from your garden, would you do it? Especially if it required very little extra effort on your part?
Well, I have a little bit of common sense to share with you, which you’re probably already doing, but if not, will help you harvest more food from many of the plants you already have in your garden.
I remember one spring years ago when I just got preoccupied with—I don’t remember what—and didn’t harvest my sugar snap peas for a while. I kept thinking, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” But tomorrow came too late.
By the time I finally got to them, they had matured and were hard in the pods. Bummer!
The result was that the vines quit producing as many new peas because they had achieved their purpose to reproduce themselves once the seeds had matured.
The next year, when I harvested more often, the vines produced much longer in the season.
So here are my immense words of wisdom, AKA common sense:
OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tip #10: Harvest regularly
It’s that simple.
This seems so totally obvious that sometimes we overlook its practicality and don’t remember to do it.
You sort of have to get inside a plant’s psychology to understand why this works. Okay, okay, I don’t know if plants really have a psychology or not, but you have to understand how a plant works.
A plant’s main purpose is to reproduce itself. Perennials do this year after year. Biennials accomplish the goal in two years. And of course annuals do it all in one season.
Since most of the vegetables you grow in the garden are annuals, you have to remember that their only purpose, from their perspective, is to produce seed.
If you harvest regularly and these annuals never actually complete their mission of seed production, they will keep producing flowers and setting fruit to accomplish this purpose.
There are several reasons to harvest regularly:
- You don’t want to eat tough veggies. Pick things like peas and beans when they are tender and not fully mature.
- It causes the plant to produce more blossoms, hence a greater yield. This is especially true for peas, beans, the summer squash family, and cucumbers.
- If you don’t harvest regularly, the plant focuses its energy on maturing the fruit (or vegetable if you prefer) in order to produce seeds and will not produce many if any more blossoms.
- You prevent the fruit from over-maturing. If your veggies are over-ripe or spoiled on the vine, you have LESS food to eat for all your efforts. Sure, you can throw it on the compost pile, but you are gardening to feed your family, not the compost pile.
- If you let fruit rot on the vine, it will breed disease and may affect the rest of your garden.
Peas and Beans
Personally, I don’t care for peas and beans that are too mature. If I don’t harvest regularly, they get too tough to enjoy.
Have you ever tried to eat beans that have been on the vine too long? It feels like you’re just chewing a mouthful of cardboard or something worse. Yuck!
Please don’t do this to yourself.
Another example is zucchini
It will grow very large if you let it. But if you harvest when it is young and tender (6-8 inches long) it will be more enjoyable.
Once your summer squash start setting fruit, you have to watch them like a hawk. Those babies grow so fast, sometimes you have to harvest every day—depending on how many plants you have growing.
Now obviously, you’re going to let some things like strawberries, tree fruits, melons, and tomatoes—to name a few—ripen fully for the best flavor. But you still have to pick them before they over-ripen. And that means harvest regularly.
Or maybe what I really mean is check regularly to see if they need to be harvested.
Same for cucumbers
When you plant your garden, you may think the purpose of your cucumbers is to provide you with crisp, cool, summer freshness.
But, honey, it just ain’t so.
As I mentioned above, from the cucumber’s perspective, all it wants to do is produce seeds so its vast legacy of “cucumberdom” will be passed down to live another day in the seeds it tries to produce.
If you leave those babies on the vine, they will get big and tough and the seeds will be inedible.
Now if you’re letting one cucumber go to seed to plant next year, that’s fine.
But if you let all the cukes ripen to that stage, your vines will switch to seed-production mode and you will get few if any cucumbers to eat because the plants are fulfilling their purpose to reproduce.
As you check your garden every day, keep a mental note of where the unripe fruit is. Watch it every day as it matures. You’ll be less likely to miss something when it’s ripe if you know what’s coming along.
And if you notice the unripe fruit goes AWOL before it’s ripe, you know you have some sort of critter problem to take care of.
So check your garden every day or so to make sure you harvest the things that are ready. It will keep your plants producing more food for you and your family.
I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful. Please share your thoughts or any questions you might have, in the comment section below.
Here’s to the tender peas on the vine,James Early Organic Gardening 365 Dedicated to helping you get the most out of your organic garden all year long P. S. For the complete series of OG 365 Timeless Gardening Tips, click here.
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