Even though this growing season got off to bumpy start with drenching rains and hail, the harvest is beginning. There are some harvesting tips below – but before you go there, take a minute to think about the ROI out in your garden.
What’s the dollars and cents payback? Have you ever thought about weighing your produce, keeping a log and comparing it to the current cost of equivalent produce at the grocery store? It’s a great math exercise to help kids learn the value of what’s grown in the back yard – and how gardening stretches the dollar. O
ne ROI analysis of the Kitchen Garden at 9News, Denver, showed the retail value of the total harvest at standard retail prices for organic veggies was about $740. The seed/plant cost to install the garden was about $78.
This organic, Colorado-grown garden brought a return of a little more than 9 times the cost of the initial investment, aside from the cost of water or fertilizer. This might be good food for thought as you’re picking and perhaps canning or freezing this year’s crop of herbs, tomatoes, corn and broccoli.
More about the harvest Here are a few tips to help you know when veggies are ripe and ready to pick. In general, a clean cut with hand pruners, scissors or a knife is best when removing veggies from vines or bushes. Also, bear in mind that size and color aren’t the only indicators of ripeness. Each veggie has its own character that tells us when it’s best for picking.
Beans (snap): Pick before the seeds bulge thru the pod. They should snap easily into two pieces. Check them daily as beans can quickly go from tender to tough.
Broccoli: Flavor is best when picked before the flower heads bloom, so check unopened flower buds frequently.
Carrots: Because carrots are underground, it’s harder to tell when to harvest. The tops may show at soil level depending on the variety and that will give a hint of the size. If tops don’t show, dig up a carrot with a lot of foliage to check crop development. Mature carrots can be harvested right away or they can be left in the ground to harvest later.
Corn: About 3 weeks after silks form, they will turn dry and brown. Pull back husk a bit to see if kernels are filled all the way to the tip. If they are tender when you take a thumbnail to them, they should squirt milk – a sign the corn is ready to pick.
Cucumber: Because they can grow quickly in the August heat, cukes need to be checked daily and harvested young. Timing and length of the fruit will vary with the variety. Fruits should be firm. If picked over-ripe, flavor can be bitter and texture pithy.
Squash: Pick all varieties when young and check often. Skins should be tender enough to poke a fingernail through. Cut vine to remove squash.
Tomatoes: Harvest them when fully colored all the way to the top of the fruit and slightly soft to the touch. Gently twist and pull tomatoes from the vine.
Herbs: Cut herbs to use fresh and let the rest dry for use later. Cutting the plant back will allow it to bush up again.
Dried Beans: Leave beans on the plant until the pods turn brown. Harvest when beans rattle in the pod. After removing beans from the pod, put them in the freezer 3 to 4 hours to kill any insects or larvae that might be on them. Store beans in a dry, cool container.
Maintain the mulch. August brings hot, dry weather, so keep mulching the garden with straw, wood mulch or grass clippings to retain soil moisture. Pull mulch away from seedlings and bases of plants.
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