Harvesting your Container Garden Vegetables


Harvesting your Container Garden Vegetables
  • Posted June 30, 2016

containersYour edible container garden is well on its way and you are quite certain that your efforts thus far will produce a bounty of healthy veggies. “Just pick the crops when they're ripe!" It sounds simple enough. However, knowing when and how to harvest is as important as knowing how to grow them. There are varying methods of determining when your vegetables are ready for harvest. Some vegetables are quite forgiving and offer a longer harvest window, while others can mature from tender and yummy to tough and bitter practically overnight. Most vegetables are at their peak when they are young and tender, but there are a few tips that will help you to determine when you can start enjoying the fruits of your labor.

peas and beans

PEAS & BEANS • In order to pick Peas and Beans at their peak, the pods should plump and tender at the time of harvest. It may take time to train your eye on which pods are ready for picking. Be gentle when removing the ripened pods, as pulling too hard can loosen blossoms that will eventually form more, tasty pods. It takes more time, but using two hands, one to hold the vine where the pod attaches and one to pull the pod off the vine will ensure less damage to the plant. Once the plants begin to set mature pods with ripened seeds, your harvest will be over, so get out there and pick often to keep the harvest coming!

summer squash

SUMMER SQUASH • Summer Squash are notoriously prolific producers and have been known to get out of hand if not picked regularly. Unless you want Squash the size of baseball bats, this is one crop to stay diligent with your harvesting practices. Picking Squash when the fruit are young and tender and your thumbnail can easily nick the skin will ensure a tasty crop that is easy to manage when it comes to preparing a meal. Zucchini and yellow squash have the best flavor at approximately 6-10 inches long, while scalloped squash are in their prime when they reach 3-6 inches in diameter. When freshly picked squash is sliced open, the seeds should be tender and small.

peppers

PEPPERS • Peppers are one vegetable that allows for a bit of flexibility when it comes to harvesting. You may start enjoying green Peppers when you think they have reached full size and the flesh is crisp and firm. If you choose to leave your Peppers on the plant longer, they will “ripen" to deep red, orange, purple or yellow, depending on the variety. The flesh will be somewhat less crisp but the flavor will continue to deepen. When it comes to hot Peppers, leaving them on the plant to change color will make them even hotter. Therefore, what it boils down to is personal preference when it comes to harvesting these tasty gems.

greens

LEAFY SALAD GREENS • Specialty greens such as Arugula, Cress, Spinach, various Asian greens, as well as leaf lettuce are becoming very popular in container gardens. You can start picking single leaves as soon as they reach a usable size. The young, tender leaves picked early in the plants life cycle, commonly referred to as “baby" lettuce or greens, are usually very mild in flavor. Cradle a leaf in your fingers and pinch it from the plant with your thumbnail. Another method used in the harvest of greens is called Cut-and-come-again, and can easily be done by simply holding a cluster of leaves with one hand and cutting them about ½ inch above the soil level with scissors.

tomatoes

TOMATOES • Is it ripe yet? Fresh sun-ripened Tomatoes are what summer is all about for home gardeners. Leaving Tomatoes on the vine as long as possible will enable the fruit to reach its full nutritional value and peak flavor. The precise signs of ripeness will vary depending on the variety that you choose to grow, but perfectly ripe Tomatoes will feel slightly firm when you lightly squeeze them and show deep color. A hard Tomato needs additional time to ripen. Harvest green tomatoes before a killing frost and allow ripening indoors.

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Kay Bishop
About the Author

Kay Bishop is a greenhouse grower/owner, artist, and horticulturist at MasterTag – a horticultural printing company.


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Harvesting your Container Garden Vegetables

Keys to the biggest harvest

  • Full Sun
  • Consistent watering
  • Regular fertilization
  • Frequent harvest of repeat producers