In the Garden: Ready to harvest

It's the middle of September and that means it's time to think about picking all of those delicious veggies, such as potatoes and squash

Gardening expert Jocelyne Sewell offers some tips for harvesting the fruits and vegetables

Gardening expert Jocelyne Sewell offers some tips for harvesting the fruits and vegetables

One of the questions I often get is about when to harvest the vegetables from the garden.

There are many sites with many hints about the best time your vegetables are ready for the table.

We all know that zucchini are the best when small but you just have to close your eyes for a short while and you end up with monsters that nobody wants.

When the recipe calls for one zucchini, most of the time, the size is not included so how do I know what I should use? This year, my harvest has been very successful and I had enough to grill, make lacto-fermented zucchini, dill pickles, yum yum, share some with the Upper Room Mission and of course the famous Chocolate Zucchini Cake from Cathi Litzenberger in this newspaper (Aug. 15, 2007) — I love it with a raspberry sauce.

The following tips are taken from: www.harvesttotable.com/2010/06/vegetable_harvest_times/ by Steve Albert

Squash: Winter squash will be ready for harvest when the skin is extremely hard, about 80 to 115 days after planting, depending on variety. Delay the harvest of winter squash until just before the first hard frost. A light frost or two will change starch to sugar and enhance flavour. Cut winter squash from the vine, leaving a two-inch (five-cm) stem on the squash. Allow it to cure in the sun for a week or more, then store in a cool, dry place over the winter.

Potato: Early varieties are best for new potatoes. Late varieties — often used for storage — should be lifted about the time of the first autumn frost. Continue the harvest for two to three weeks after the tops have died back. Remove large tubers first, allowing smaller ones time to grow. Lift potatoes in dry weather, being careful not to bruise the skin.

Pumpkin: Harvest pumpkins when the leaves die and the fruit becomes a rich orange, about four months after sowing; the sheen of the skin will have faded. For storing, cut pumpkins from the vine at full maturity just before the first fall frosts. Cut pumpkins from the vine with pruning shears, leaving about 3 inches of stem on the fruit; pumpkins decay quickly if the stems are broken rather than cut. After harvesting, set pumpkins in the sun for one to two weeks to harden the outer skin, then store them in a cool dry place.

Onion: When leaves start to turn yellow, bend the stems to a nearly horizontal position to stop the growth of the bulb and allow it to ripen. Remove soil from around the top half of the bulb. When the leaves turn brown, lift the bulbs.

Carrots: They can be left in the ground once mature. A light frost is said to improve and sweeten the carrot’s flavour.

Parsnip: The flavour is enhanced by a few hard frosts. Parsnips will be very flavourful if left in the ground all winter. Harvest parsnips left in the ground over the winter before new growth begins in spring.

Melon: Cantaloupe is ready for harvest at the “slip” stage — when slight pressure at the point where the stem joins the melon causes the melon to slip off the vine.

Watermelon: The watermelon is ready when the stem curls and turns brown and the place where the melon touches the ground turns yellow. Tap it with your knuckles and listen for a dull, hollow sound.

For more information: 250-558-4556 or plantlady1@shaw.ca

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.