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How to Know When It's Time to Harvest Your Garden

Nothing is quite as tasty as vegetables grown in your own garden. Follow these guidelines to make the most of your home-grown produce.


  • Step 1: Do some research Research your vegetables. Check a gardening book or web site for the specific harvest times or sizes for your garden's particular vegetables.
  • TIP: Consult your local agricultural extension service to get detailed information on growing seasons in your area.
  • Step 2: Check leafy vegetables Check leafy vegetables for color, size, and tenderness. Chard, spinach, collard greens, kale, and leaf lettuce can all be harvested a few leaves at a time.
  • TIP: Pick leafy vegetables early in the morning to preserve freshness.
  • Step 3: Check cabbage-type vegetables Harvest cabbage and Brussels sprouts when the heads are firm and solid; harvest broccoli while the heads are still tight and green, and cauliflower while tight and white.
  • Step 4: Check legumes Harvest peas and lima beans when the seeds are plump but not hard; green or snap beans should be harvested when the seeds are one-quarter size; and edible pea pods before the seeds reach one-half size.
  • Step 5: Check root vegetables Harvest beets, carrots, and turnips when they grow to a 1-inch diameter; and onions and radishes at a ½-inch diameter. Potatoes and sweet potatoes can be dug up as soon as the plant yellows, but leave parsnips in the ground for several moderate freezes.
  • TIP: Don't wait until you can see the tops of root vegetables growing out of the soil -- they may have passed peak tenderness by the time you can see them.
  • Step 6: Check vine vegetables Harvest summer squash and cucumbers when they are smaller than 6 inches. Harvest winter squashes and pumpkins when their skins darken and they become firm enough to resist your fingernail.
  • Step 7: Check other vegetables for size and appearence Harvest asparagus and celery when they reach 6 to 10 inches in height; harvest tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant when they reach full color. Harvest sweet corn when kernels are soft and produce a milky liquid when they are crushed with a fingernail.
  • Step 8: Clean, prepare, and enjoy Clean, prepare, and enjoy your vegetables. Not only will you get the freshest taste, you'll have the satisfaction of having grown them yourself.
  • FACT: An estimated 43 million American households planned to grow their own food in 2009, up 19 percent from the year before.

You Will Need

  • Gardening book or internet access
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Cabbage-type vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Root vegetables
  • Vine vegetables

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