Garden Harvest Tips – General Vegetable Harvesting Guidelines

Garden Harvest Tips – General Vegetable Harvesting Guidelines

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Whether you are new to vegetable gardening or an old hand, sometimes it’s difficult to know how and when to harvest vegetables. Vegetable harvesting at the correct time can make the difference between flavorful produce and practically unpalatable. A few handy garden harvest tips will have you picking those vegetables at their peak.

When to Harvest Vegetables

Timing for harvesting vegetables is primarily dictated by the length of time they have been growing. This information is found on seed packets, but there are other indications of when to harvest vegetables as well.

Veggies continue to improve or degrade after they are picked. When they are mature at harvest, their life process needs to be slowed by chilling, while immature produce like green tomatoes need to have that process sped up by storing at room temperature.

Seed variety is one indicator of when to harvest vegetables, as is soil type, temperature, season, irrigation, sun, and where the vegetable has been grown – in the garden, indoors, or in a greenhouse.

All that said, the best time to harvest vegetables is when commercial farmers do so, in the early morning. Produce harvested in the morning tends to stay crisp and fresh longer while veggies harvested during the heat of the day tend to wilt.

If you can’t rouse yourself in the early morning, the next best time to pick is in the evening when the heat of the day has passed. Some veggies like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and various root veggies (like carrots) can be picked at any time of the day, but should then go right into the refrigerator.

How to Harvest Vegetables

When harvesting vegetables, you are looking for ripeness. Ripeness involves all of your senses, from smelling and tapping on melons to eyeballing your peas for that just-so-plumpness, puncturing a corn kernel, and popping a couple of cherry tomatoes in your mouth.

The when and how to harvest vegetables is unique to each crop. Beans and peas, for instance, should be harvested when the pods are full but not burgeoning, and while dark green and not fading in color.

Corn is very particular. Once it is ready to harvest it begins to degrade after only 72 hours. Pick corn when the kernels are plump and juicy, and the silk is brown and dry.

Onions should be harvested when their tops fall over and begin to yellow. Dig up the onions and allow drying or curing for several days then cut off the tops and store in a cool, dry area.

Additional Garden Harvest Tips

Other veggies should be harvested when they reach their mature size. These include root crops, winter squash, and eggplant.

Summer squash is best picked when a bit on the small size. When you allow zucchini to get huge, for instance, it becomes tough and filled with large seeds.

Tomatoes should be fully colored but will ripen inside if picked immature. Heirloom varieties with a tendency to crack should be picked before the cracking extends into the interior of the tomato, which can then introduce bacteria.

Over time, you will learn to recognize when and how to harvest your crops. Once you have picked your veggies, be sure to store them at the correct temperature, at the right moisture level for the particular crop, and with sufficient air circulation to minimize wilt and tissue breakdown.

Harvesting your vegetables at the right time is an important part of gardening success. It can be tricky to determine when vegetables are ready to be picked. Harvesting too late or too early is a common problem for vegetable growers, which results in poor quality produce.

Research your vegetables to find out how many days it takes that type to mature. The Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide lists the "days to harvest" for each vegetable listed. Keep track of what date you planted your garden and then count forward based on whether you planted seeds or transplants.В Store-purchased seedlings are usually sold when they are about 4 weeks old. The days to harvest range for each plant is usually accurate. However, each garden has its own microclimate and you'll want to test a few vegetables from your garden for readiness before you complete a full harvest. Freshness, flavor, and quality of your vegetables depend on the maturity stage of then they are picked.

Harvest vegetables in the cool part of the morning if possible and then store them as soon as possible to preserve freshness. Each vegetable has certain qualities when it is eady to be harvested. Okaloosa County Extension provides a great vegetable readiness checklist.В For example, winter squash should be harvested when rinds cannot easily be dented by a fingernail and tomatoes should be harvested when in full color and still firm.


When harvesting potatoes, Cunningham says it's generally best to wait until the top part of the plant begins to wither and die back. "Avoid watering during that time to allow for an easier, quality harvest," he says. "The only caveat that would warrant an earlier harvest is if a hard frost is expected." When it comes time to pick the potatoes, he says it's a good idea to test one plant, using a shovel or spade fork to carefully expose, lift, and sort through the root system. "If the skins of the potatoes are thin, you might choose to wait a few more days to harvest the others."

Harvesting Vegetables: When And How To Harvest Vegetables - garden

We’ve made it through spring, and we’re into summer. Whether you started your first garden this year or you’re a veteran gardener, we’re coming up on the heart of harvest season. One of the (many) advantages of growing your own vegetables is that you can harvest your produce at its peak quality. Knowing when exactly you should harvest something can be difficult to determine, especially if it’s your first time growing the crop.

Most vegetables are at their best when they are allowed to ripen on the plant. However, we often harvest vegetables before they are fully mature, so bigger is not always better. Plants like zucchini should be harvested before the fruit is mature. If allowed to mature (get big), the quality is significantly reduced.

When it comes time to harvest your vegetables, make sure your plants are dry. If you harvest while plants are wet, you run the risk of spreading any diseases that may be present in your plants. It’s also important to handle your plants with care. Try to damage your plants as little as possible. Damaged areas can provide openings for diseases to enter. If the vegetables you are trying to harvest don’t easily come off, cut them off with a knife or pruners to avoid damaging the plant.

Also, make sure you frequently check your plants once they begin to produce. If you wait too long, not only can your vegetable quality be reduced, your plants may slow or stop production.

Most plants and seeds that we purchase will include information on days to maturity. This information can give you a general idea of how long it will take for your vegetables to be ready to harvest. Unfortunately, it won’t tell you when your vegetables will be ready to pick. Instead, you’ll have to take a look at your plants for different signs to see when they are ready.

Snap beans (commonly called green beans) should be picked when the pods are fully grown, but before the seeds have started to get large (you shouldn’t be able to see any bulges on the pods). The beans should be crisp and snap easily. When picking, break off the stem above the cap and harvest frequently.

Beets can be harvested when they are 1 ½ to 3 inches in diameter. For many varieties, once the roots get larger than three inches, they begin to get tough and fibrous (woody). The leaves of beets can also be eaten they should be picked when they are 4 to 6 inches long.

Broccoli heads are actually clusters of flowers. They should be harvested when the head has fully developed, but before the buds begin to yellow and loosen up. When harvesting, cut the stem 5 to 6 inches below the head. Some varieties may produce secondary side shoots that can be harvested later.

Carrots can be harvested once they reach your desired size, typically ½ to 1-inch diameter (usually 60-70 days). Carrot tops may break when pulled, so digging or loosening soil may be helpful. Carrots planted in late summer and fall can be and harvested until the ground freezes.

Sweet Corn should be harvested early in the morning while in the milk stage (the juice of the kernel will be milky when punctured). At this stage, the kernels are fully formed, but not mature. As harvest time approaches, the silks will begin to dry and brown, the tip kernels will start to fill, and the ears will become firm. Ears should be eaten or processed as soon as possible after picking for the best quality.

Cucumbers should be harvested before their skin begins to turn yellow, and seeds become hard. The size of the cucumber will vary depending on the type pickling are usually picked between 2 and 6 inches long, slicing 6-8 inches long, and burpless 1-1½ inches in diameter and up to 10 inches long. Cucumbers develop quickly, so plants may need to be checked every other day.

Garlic should be harvested when half of the leaves have turned yellow (usually around late June/early July). Bulbs should be cured in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area for several weeks. Once the garlic is cured, the stems and roots can be cut off and bulbs cleaned by removing the outermost skin.

Leaf lettuce can be picked whenever it is large enough to use. The entire plant or individual outer leaves can be picked. Harvest before hot weather causes lettuce to turn bitter and bolt

Onions can be harvested as green onions when they are 6 to 8 inches tall. Begin harvesting dry onions (bulbs) when the tops begin to fall over and die (usually late July or early August). Once the bulbs are dug, air-dry for several days in a dry, sheltered area with good air circulation to thoroughly dry and cure.

Pea harvest depends on the type. Garden (English) peas are picked when pods are firm and feel full, but before pods begin to yellow and peas become hard and starchy. Snap peas should be harvested when the pods begin to fatten, but before the seeds get large. Snow peas should be harvested when the pods have reached their full length, around 3 inches, and the peas are the size of BBs.

Peppers can be harvested at any size. Green bell peppers are typically picked when they are mature (3-4 inches long, firm, and green). If you are growing colored types of bell peppers, wait until the fruits change color (red, yellow, orange, etc.). One way to tell if the fruit is mature is that they will easily break off of plants when picked. Hot peppers can also be picked at any stage but are typically picked when fully ripe (they are also at their hottest). The mature color of the fruit will vary on the variety (red, orange, yellow, etc.).

Potatoes should be harvested after most of the vines have died. Potatoes develop 4-6 inches below ground, so a shovel or spading form may be useful. Take care not to damage potatoes while harvesting.

Sweet Potatoes are often harvested around, but before, the first frost of the fall. Dig/lift sweet potatoes with a shovel or spading fork, taking care not to cut, bruise, or damage the roots. Cure in the warmest room of the house (above 70°F) for two weeks.

Radishes should be harvested when they are about 1 inch in diameter (about 3-4 weeks after planting). Radishes become hot and tough when left in the ground too long.

Spinach leaves can be harvested when they reach 3 to 6 inches long. The entire plant or individual outer leaves can be picked.

Summer Squash, such as straightneck, crookneck, and zucchini, should be harvested when small and tender (rind can be punctured with your thumbnail). Pick when fruit are 2 inches or less in diameter and 6-8 inches long. When growing conditions are favorable, you may need to harvest every other day or daily.

Winter Squash, such as acorn, butternut, hubbard, and pumpkins, can be harvested when the fruits have turned a deep, solid color, no longer have a glossy appearance, and the rind is hard (cannot be punctured with your thumbnail). When harvesting try to leave at least 2 inches of stem attached. Complete harvest before heavy frosts arrive.

Tomatoes are at their highest quality when allowed to ripen on the vine. Tomatoes should be firm and fully colored (red for most, but will vary depending on variety). During hot conditions (90°F), tomatoes will quickly soften, and color development is reduced. During these conditions, pick tomatoes when they begin to develop color and ripen indoors. Before the first frost of the fall, you can harvest mature green fruit and ripen indoors.

Good Growing Tip of the Week: Almost all vegetables are best when harvested early in the morning. If you can’t harvest in the morning, keep produce out of direct sunlight and cool as soon as possible. Vegetable quality is typically the highest at the moment of harvest and begins to decrease afterward.

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Harvesting Tips for Common Vegetables

Asparagus: Wait to harvest until the third year after planting. Spears that are 6 to 8 inches tall are best and should be cut or snapped off just below the soil surface before the tips begin to separate. Cutting too deeply can injure the crown buds that produce the next spears. If the asparagus is allowed to get much taller than 6 to 8 inches, the base of the spear may be tough and will have to be cut. Asparagus can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Bean, Lima or Butter: Harvest when pods begin to bulge and are filled (seeds just touching each other). Open a few pods to check. Yellowing pods are over mature. For tender limas, harvest when slightly immature. Shelled beans can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

Bean, Snap: Harvest beans while the pods are still tender, before the enlarging seed can be seen through the pod. Pods are ready when they break easily with a “snap”. To harvest beans, break off the stem above the cap. Beans are best when used as soon as possible after harvest, but they can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days if cooled immediately.

Beet: Harvest beet roots when they are 1½ to 2 inches in diameter. Beets allowed to get larger than 2 inches in diameter may be woody. Tender greens (6 to 8 inches long) may also be harvested and eaten. Fall-planted beets should be harvested before the first moderate freeze. Harvest the spring-planted beets before hot weather (June). Beets can be stored in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Broccoli: Harvest when the main head is 3 to 6 inches in diameter, and the flower buds are still tightly closed. Cut the main stem about 6 inches below the top of the head. Some varieties may produce secondary florets in the stem axils after the main head has been harvested. Broccoli can be stored in perforated plastic bags for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Brussels Sprouts: Harvest sprouts when they are firm and 1 to 1 ½ inches in diameter. Start from the bottom of the plant and move up. Twist or cut sprouts from the stem. Harvest all sprouts before the first severe freeze. Sprouts can be stored in perforated plastic bags for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

Cabbage: Harvest when the head is solid, firm, and has reached adequate size depending on the variety and growing conditions. Once cut, move it out of the sun as soon as possible. Cabbage will “sunblister” and lose weight in direct sun. Cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator for a month or more.

Carrot: Harvest roots when they reach the desired size (typically ¾ to 1-inch diameter). Fall carrots, if mulched, may be left in the ground and dug as needed over winter. Otherwise, carrots with tops removed can be stored for 4 to 6 months at 33 °F and high humidity to prevent wilting. Carrots with tops left on will not store as long.

Cantaloupe (Muskmelons): If, when gently pulled, the fruit separates easily from the stem, it is fully ripe and at its best-eating quality. Also, surface netting turns beige, and the blossom end becomes soft and smells sweet. If not consumed or cooled soon thereafter, its quality will deteriorate. Some honeydew varieties will not slip (separate easily from the stem) but will become paler in color. Cantaloupe can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Cauliflower: For the cultivars that do not self-blanch (become white), tie up the larger leaves when the head first begins to appear to exclude sunlight from the head. Harvest when the head is firm, 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and before curds begin to separate, typically 10 to 15 days after tying leaves. Leave a ruffle of leaves surrounding the head when harvesting to prolong the quality. Cauliflower can be stored in perforated plastic bags for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Chard, Swiss: Remove mature, outer (oldest) leaves by cutting or breaking stems 1 inch above the soil line, or harvest “baby” leaves for salads. Chard may be harvested continuously until flowering. Swiss Chard can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Collards and Kale: Flavor is improved after frost. Entire plants can be cut when very young, half-grown or full-grown. To extend the harvest, break off individual leaves starting from the bottom of the plant and move up over time. Pick only a few leaves from each plant before giving them time to recover. Collards can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Corn, Sweet: Harvest when the husk is still green, and the silks are dry and brown. Kernels should be plump and tender. Sweet corn loses sugar from the kernel rapidly at high temperatures. Pick in the cool temperatures of early morning and cool the ears immediately after harvest. Eat fresh as soon as possible after harvest. Otherwise, store as close to 32 °F as possible in a moist environment. Sweet corn can be stored under optimal conditions for about five days but will lose sweetness with each day of storage.

Cucumber: Begin harvesting when cucumbers are about 2 inches long up to any size, but before their flesh becomes bitter, seeds harden or skins begin to yellow. Pickling types should be harvested between 2 and 6 inches in length, while slicing and burpless types are typically picked between 6 and 10 inches long. Pick as frequently as necessary to avoid oversized fruit and to encourage continued production. Harvest the fruits by cutting stems with a sharp knife or pruners. Cucumbers can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

Eggplant: The fruits of eggplant may be harvested at any time after they have reached sufficient size, but should be removed from the plants before the flesh becomes tough and seeds begin to harden. Fruit should be large, shiny, and uniform in color. The fruit is ripe when the side of the fruit is pressed slightly with the thumbnail, and an indentation remains. Harvest the fruits by cutting stems with a sharp knife or pruners. Eggplant will store in the refrigerator for a week.

Garlic: Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves begin to yellow in early summer. Lift up the entire plant by hand or with a spading fork, being careful not to bruise the bulbs. Brush off the soil, but do not wash the bulbs. Cure in a warm, shady place with good air movement. Hang in bundles or spread as a single layer on screens or drying racks. Allow bulbs to dry until the neck is dry, and the outer skin is papery, approximately 2 to 3 weeks. Remove tops when dry. Store the garlic by braiding or tying several heads together and hanging up or by cutting tops off and placing bulbs in a mesh bag. Most varieties will keep for 6 to 8 months in a well-ventilated, cool, dry area.

Greens (Mustard, Turnip): Harvest before a hard freeze, as cold temperatures (the mid-20s) can severely damage mustard and turnip leaves. Harvest entire plants (or outer leaves for continuous harvest) when leaves reach a suitable size (6 to 10 inches long) and before they start to yellow. Wash, dry, and chill immediately. Greens can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Kohlrabi: Harvest when swollen stems are 2 to 3 inches in diameter, larger stems may become tough and woody. Cut off just above the soil line and trim tops. Kohlrabi can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 weeks.

Lettuce, Head: Head lettuce is mature when leaves overlap to form a head similar to those available in stores. Harvest an entire head by cutting the stem near the soil line before hot weather causes lettuce to turn bitter and bolt. Store in the coolest area of the refrigerator. Head lettuce can be stored for two weeks under optimal conditions.

Lettuce, Leaf: Harvest entire head or individual outer leaves before hot weather causes lettuce to turn bitter and bolt. It can be used as soon as plants are 4 to 6 inches tall. Bibb lettuce is mature when leaves begin to cup inward to form a loose head. Cos or Romaine is ready to use when the leaves have elongated and overlap to form a fairly tight head about 6 to 8 inches tall. Store in the coolest area of the refrigerator. Leaf, Bibb, and Romaine will store as long as 4 weeks if the leaves are dry when bagged.

Okra pods are best when picked at 2 to 3 inches long.
Cory Tanner, ©2010 Clemson Extension

Okra: Harvest when pods are 2 to 3 inches long. At this stage, the pods are still tender. Larger okra pods tend to be tough and fibrous. Round-podded okra varieties remain tender at larger pod sizes and are good to use for slicing and freezing. Okra grows very fast therefore, it must be harvested every 2 days. Do not allow pods to mature on the plant because this will inhibit flower production and thus reduce the total productivity of the plant. Handle okra carefully because pods bruise easily. Okra can be stored in the refrigerator for about 7 days.

Onion, Dry Bulb: Harvest the bulb onions when about three-fourths of the tops have fallen over. Remove tops by cutting 1 to 1½ inches above the top of the bulb, thoroughly air-dry bulbs in a shaded area before storage. Store the dry bulbs in shallow boxes or mesh bags in a cool, well-ventilated place. Ideal conditions are between 45 °F and 55 °F and 50 to 60 percent humidity.

Onion, Green: Harvest green onions when tops are 6 to 8 inches tall and before flower stalks form. Green onions can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Pea, Garden: For shelling, pick when pods are firm and feel full, but before pods begin to yellow. Taste test for sweetness. Peas should be shelled and eaten soon after harvest because quality declines rapidly. For edible-podded types, harvest early and often when pods are fully elongated (about 3 inches), but before seeds are more than 50% of their full-size (about a week after flowering). Wash and cool immediately. Store unshelled peas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for about a week.

Pea, Southern (Crowder, Black-eye, Purple Hull): Harvest the Southern peas when the individual seeds begin to swell in the pod, but before the pods begin to lighten in color and dry out, as this is the best age for shelling and eating. Southern peas vary in maturity dates from around 65 to 125 days. Experience is a good teacher for determining the proper picking time. Immature pods may be picked and broken into the pot as “snaps.” Only the youngest and most tender pods should be used in this fashion. Fresh pea pods are very perishable and should be quickly moved to a shady area and spread out to avoid spoilage by heat. The harvested product should be shelled and processed rapidly. Shelled or unshelled peas can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Pepper, Hot: Hot peppers may be picked green or allowed to ripen and change colors on the plant. Entire plants may be pulled and hung just before fall frosts. Jalapeno peppers should be harvested when the fruit turns black-green. Peppers can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.

Using pruners, scissors, or a knife to harvest may be better for some plants than breaking stems by hand.
Cory Tanner, ©2010 Clemson Extension

Pepper, Sweet: Harvest sweet peppers when they reach full size, the fruit walls are firm, and the peppers are still in the green or yellow state or allow them to ripen further for red or orange peppers. The stems of pepper plants are brittle. When harvesting the fruit, cut the stems instead of pulling to avoid breaking branches. Varieties turn from green to red, yellow, or chocolate when allowed to mature on the plant. Bell peppers can be left on the plant to turn color however, they should be picked as soon as they change to the desired color. Fully colored peppers are sweeter than green peppers. Store peppers in plastic bags in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.

Potato, Irish: Harvest potatoes after most of the vines have died a spade fork is useful for digging. Handle as gently as possible during harvest. Avoid damaging tubers when digging and avoid long exposure to light. Leave the tubers exposed to the sun just long enough for the soil to dry and fall off (usually about 1 to 2 hours). Potatoes for use in early summer (“new potatoes”) may be dug from 2 weeks after flowering until the vines die. Dig early potatoes when tubers are large enough to eat. Irish potatoes can be stored in a dark, humid, well-ventilated location at 45 to 60 °F for 2 to 4 months.

Freshly dug sweet potatoes need to be cured before eating or storing.
Cory Tanner, ©2010 Clemson Extension

Potato, Sweet: Harvest sweet potatoes when 30 percent are larger than 3½ inches in diameter. Harvest before frost because cool soil temperatures can reduce the quality and storage capacity of the sweet potatoes. When harvesting, it is best to cut and remove the vines before digging. Be careful while digging the sweet potatoes, as they are easily damaged. Also, avoid rough handling as they are easily bruised. Sweet potatoes should be cured to heal wounds and to convert some of the starch in the roots to sugar. The optimal conditions for curing are to expose the roots to 85 °F and 90 percent humidity for one week. Few home gardeners can supply these conditions, so they should place the sweet potatoes in the warmest room in the house (usually the kitchen) for 14 days. No curing will occur at temperatures below 70 °F. After curing, store the sweet potatoes in a cool location. Never expose them to temperatures below 50 °F and never refrigerate them. Temperatures below 50 °F will result in off-flavors and possibly rot the sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes can be stored under good conditions for over 6 months.

Pumpkins: See Squash, Winter.

Radish: Plants develop very rapidly, and roots will be ready to harvest in about 3 to 4 weeks after planting from seed. Check the plantings frequently to prevent over maturity. Round red radishes should be harvested before they are an inch in diameter. Larger radishes will usually be pithy and have a strong flavor. White radishes should be harvested before they are about ¾ inch in diameter. Radishes can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.

Rutabaga: Rutabagas will get larger if they are planted early enough. They can be eaten at smaller sizes, but start harvesting them when they reach the size of a softball (3 to 4 inches in diameter). Pithiness and or a very strong flavor can develop if these crops are left in the ground during hot weather. Also, do not leave them in the ground during hard-freezing weather. Roots store well in plastic bags in the refrigerator or in a cold root cellar for several months.

Soybean, Edible (Edamame): Harvest the soybeans when pods are plump and fully filled but are still bright green. The harvest window is only a few days. Pick individual pods or whole plants early in the morning and chill immediately after harvest. Edamame can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Spinach: Harvest the dark green, tender spinach leaves that are 3 to 6 inches long by picking or cutting individual leaves. Start by picking the outer leaves and harvest the newer leaves as they reach the desired size. Whole plants may be harvested by cutting just above the crown (growing point). Remove the petioles (leaf stems) if they are too large and fibrous. Rinse then dry the spinach using paper towels or a salad spinner. Store the spinach in plastic bags for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Squash, Summer: For optimum quality, harvest while fruits are tender and still have a shiny or glossy appearance. When growing conditions are favorable, harvest the crop daily or every other day. Harvest crookneck and straightneck varieties when the fruit is 1½ to 2 inches in diameter. Harvest zucchini when the fruit is 7 to 8 inches long and scallop types when they are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. All of these squash can be harvested at smaller sizes for extra tenderness. Do not leave large fruit of summer squash on the plant because this will inhibit the development of additional fruit. Summer squash should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Squash, Winter: Harvest mature winter squash when they have very hard skins that cannot be punctured with your thumbnail. In addition, the fresh, bright, juvenile surface sheen changes to a dull, dry-appearing surface. Harvest only solid, mature pumpkins with deep orange color. Harvest acorn squash when the spot contacting the soil has turned from pale yellow to orange. Cut the fruits from the vine (do not tear them), leaving a generous stem. Be careful not to injure the rind or break off the stem as decay fungi can attack through wounds. Do not harvest or handle wet fruit or allow harvested fruit to get wet. After harvest, wash with soapy water to remove surface dirt. Then dip fruit in a dilute chlorine solution of 4 teaspoons bleach per gallon of water or wipe with a clean cloth dipped in a chlorine solution. Allow fruit to dry, but do not rinse until use. Cure by maintaining storage temperatures between 80 to 85 °F with 75 to 80 percent relative humidity for approximately 10 days. Store the fruit at 50 to 55 °F and 50 to 75 percent relative humidity with good ventilation. Under these conditions, squash and pumpkins can last 8 weeks or more.

Although they still have a little green, these tomatoes are ready to be harvested. Finish ripening them at room temperature.
Cory Tanner, ©2010 Clemson Extension

Tomato: Pick fruit when it is fully vine-ripened but still firm most varieties are dark red, but many other colors are possible depending on the variety. Harvested tomatoes should be placed in the shade. If immature (green) fruit is harvested, do not refrigerate, as this inhibits ripening. Instead, ripen them at 70 °F. Light isn’t necessary for ripening green tomatoes. Green tomatoes can be stored at 50 to 70 °F for one to three weeks. Ripe tomatoes can be stored at room temperature (70 °F) or in the refrigerator for 4 to 7 days. However, refrigeration can reduce flavor and cause the tomatoes to develop a mealy texture.

Turnip: Harvest turnip roots when they reach the size of a tennis ball or larger (2½ to 2¾ inches in diameter). Pithiness and or a very strong flavor can develop if these crops are left in the ground during hot weather. Also, do not leave them in the ground during hard-freezing weather. Roots store well in plastic bags in the refrigerator or in a cold root cellar for several months.

Watermelon: There are several indicators for the ripeness of watermelon. The vine tendril closest to the fruit dies and turns brown when ready to harvest. Also, the underside of the fruit will turn from white to a creamy yellow. Finally, the skin loses its gloss and becomes dull. Watermelon can be stored at room temperature for about a week or for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at [email protected] or 1-888-656-9988.

Original Author(s)

Cory Tanner, Horticulture Extension Agent, Greenville County, Clemson University

Revisions by:

Justin Ballew, Horticulture & Agronomy Agent, Lexington County, Clemson Extension, Clemson University

This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.



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