Notes by Phil Dudman
Your food garden should be flourishing by now, so it’s time to talk about harvesting. You may have already started, but in this weeks notes, we’ll be giving you a few tips on how and when to harvest particular crops. We’ll also be looking at ways to deal with your excess and how to plan your planting so that you always have something coming on.
The general rule for getting the best flavour and texture from your produce is to pick young. Older produce can become bitter and stringy in many cases. It’s also best to avoid harvesting in the middle of the day when the sun can cause some vegetables to temporarily wilt, particularly leafy greens – always plan your harvest for early morning or late afternoon. With these things in mind, there are still some particular harvesting rules that apply for different vegetables. Click Here for the key harvesting criteria you need to know for the most popular veg.
Feast or Famine
There will be times when you have so much of a particular vegetable, you simply won’t know what to do with it, and other times when you wish you had more. The feast or famine cycle is common when you grow your own, even for experienced gardeners. The tricks to dealing with this is to practise preserving, sharing and swaping your excess and plan your planting so that you always have something to harvest.
Gardeners have been preserving their excess produce for centuries, and many things you will grow can be preserved in some way. Pickling is perfect for things like cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower and beetroot, tomatoes can be turned into sauces or frozen whole for later use and other produce like peas and beans can be lightly blanched, baged and frozen. If you have some great recipes or ideas for preserving why not share them by contacting us.
Sharing is another way to offload your excess. Pass on a few packages of fresh produce to friends and neighbours. It was only a generation or two ago that lots of people in the street would grow a bit of something to swap and share, so much so that people rarely had to go to the shops for fresh produce.
The ‘Urban Orchard’ is a modern take on this concept. It’s a place where people in a chosen community can meet on a regular basis to share their excess. These events usually take place in a local hall and provide a great way for growers to share their produce, as well as their knowledge and skills. There are established Urban Orchards in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Planting for perpetual harvest
With a little planning over time, you can stagger your planting of certain crops so that you never run out. For fruiting crops like tomatoes, beans and cucumbers, planting a few seed every 6 weeks or so will mean you will always have new plants coming into fruit. With leafy plants like lettuce and bok choy, planting three or four seedlings a fortnight can guarantee you always have plenty of leaves for salads and stir fries (quantities will depend on the number of people in your household and the amount you generally consume). In other cases, you will need to be planning ahead for crops that are restricted to the following season. This is covered in next week’s notes.
Phil’s Top Tips
1. Harvest young – for the best flavour and texture. Early morning and late afternoons are the best times. Avoid midday when plants can be soft and limp.
2. Share and preserve – learn ways to preserve your excess produce, and find people in your local community with whom you can share or swap.
3. Plan your planting for a perpetual harvest – with a little planning, you can restrict and stagger the planting of certain crops so that you never run out.