Gainan's Flowers & Garden Center

Gainan's Flowers & Garden Center

Posted by gainans on July 8, 2016 | Last Updated: June 12, 2019 Gardening

Harvesting Vegetables

Vegetable gardening is a lot like parenting. We wait with eager anticipation for mid-May so we can safely plant our little transplants that are so delicate. We keep an eye on temperature and moisture levels and glare at any black clouds that threaten our babies with damaging rain, wind and (heaven forbid) hail.
We become the defender against critters that dare decide to attack our little ones. We check progress daily: “Aren’t the radishes getting big? Look at that zucchini go!” We check our results with others to make sure we are doing everything right: “How are your cucumbers doing? How do you feed them? What fertilizer do you use?”
And of course, we do a little bragging: “My corn is almost three feet high already! My tomato plant has a dozen perfect little tomatoes on it!”
Then before we know it, our little babies grew up before our eyes and we missed it! They just grow so darn fast, you wait too long and it’s too late. Overgrown vegetables! Dry pithy beans. Overripe tomatoes. So, the big question becomes, when is the best time to harvest vegetables?
Here is a chart of when to harvest and how to store some of the most popular garden vegetables.

Vegetable Harvest Storage
Beans Harvest before beans become tough and stringy.  If you can see the bulge of a bean through the pod, the bean is over mature and the pod is too tough to eat.  Pick beans after the morning dew has dried. Store unwashed in plastic bags in the vegetable crisper for up to three days.
Broccoli Cut the central head with 5-6 inches of stem after the head is fully developed, but before it begins to loosen and the individual florets start to open.  Removing the central head allows the side shoots to grow for later harvesting. Store unwashed in loose or perforated plastic bags in vegetable crisper for 3-5 days.  If left unrefrigerated, it will become woody.
Carrots Harvest when carrots are at least 1/2-3/4″ in diameter.  Harvest before they are overgrown 1-1 ½” in diameter.  They will lose flavor and may become woody.  Carrots may be left in the ground until a killing frost.  Immature carrots, including tops, can be added to salads. Trim carrot tops to one inch and store in loose or perforated plastic bags in vegetable crisper.  They will keep for several weeks.
Corn, Sweet Sweet corn should be picked when a pierced kernel produces a milky juice.  If it is not ripe, the juice will be clear.  Other signs to watch for are the silks browning and drying and firmness of unhusked ears. Fresh corn needs to be used quickly as it starts to lose its flavor and sweetness.  Store in loose or perforated plastic bags and use within 1-2 days.
Cucumber More than other vegetables, this depends on the variety planted and their designated use – fresh eating or canning.  Harvest as the desired size.  If they go too long, they will be bitter.  Leave a one inch section of stem on the cucumber. Store unwashed in loose plastic bag for up to one week.
Lettuce Harvest whenever it is large enough to use.  Harvesting every other plant leaves more room for remaining plants to grow. Store unwashed in plastic in refrigerator for as few days as possible.



Muskmelon Harvest when the stem separates easily from the vine.  You may actually see it starting to split from the vine. Once picked, they will soften, but not sweeten further.  Store at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Onion Harvest after tops of onions wilt naturally.  Pull mature onions and allow to cure and dry in well-ventilated are for 2-3 weeks. After bulbs dry, cut the tops 1-2 inches long and store in cool, dry, well-ventilated area.
Peas, Garden Harvest when pods are swollen.  Peas on the lower part of the plant mature first. Garden peas keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.  Store unwashed in perforated or loose plastic bags.
Peas, Sugar Snap Harvest every 2-3 days as pods start to fatten, but before peas grow too large. Store unwashed in perforated or loose plastic bags in refrigerator for up to three days.
Peppers, Bell Peppers may be harvested at any size desired.  Green bells are mature at 3-4 inches long, firm and green. Store unwashed bell peppers in a plastic bag in a refrigerator for up to a week.  Green bells last a little longer than yellow and red bells.
Potatoes Early potatoes can be harvested when you see the plants begin to flower.  For late potatoes, wait 2 weeks after the foliage begins to die back. Store in a cool, dark area with good ventilation.  Do not refrigerate potatoes.  Potatoes can be stored at room temperature for a week or two.
Pumpkins Press your fingernail into the rind.  If moisture appears, fruit should remain on the vine, but pick before a hard freeze.  Leave 2-3 inches of stem to prevent rot. Leave in warm, dry well-ventilated area for 10 days before placing in storage.  Whole unblemished pumpkins can be stored up to six months in cool (45F-50F), dry area.  Do not refrigerate.
Radishes Harvest when young and tender for optimal flavor.  Oversize radishes can be tough and woody.  All radish greens are edible. Remove the tops before storing.  Leaves drain moisture and nutrients from the radish during storage.  Greens can be stored separately for 2-3 days.  Store wrapped radishes in plastic bags for 5-7 days.
Spinach Harvest when leaves are about an inch wide.  Don’t wait too long or bitterness will set in.  Leaves can be picked off or the entire plant may be harvested. Unwashed leaves will store for 3-4 days loosely packed in a plastic bag in vegetable crisper.  Use prewashed leaves within 1-2 days.
Squash, Summer

(including Patty Pan, Zucchini and Yellow Crookneck)

Pick on a regular basis when mature, young and tender. Store unwashed in refrigerator for use within 3-4 days.
Tomatoes The longer you leave it on the plant, the more flavorful they will be. Tomatoes ripen from the inside, so when the outside looks ready, and feels soft, pick it. Do not refrigerate.  Cold temperatures ruin their flavor.  Store stem up, not in direct sunlight, between 55F-75F.  Use within 1-3 days of harvest.
Zucchini Harvest regular zucchini when they’re about 6-7″ long.  Harvest round zucchini when they’re about the size of a cue ball. Store unwashed in refrigerator for use within 3-4 days.