by Jordan Laio, Networx
I recently asked my father, an avid home gardener, for some advice for the fall harvest season. He responded, “Just harvest your crops.” It’s nice that he can distill over a quarter-century of experience into a simple truism. However, some of us need a little more advice than that. Here are ten useful tips for a successful fall harvest season:
1. Treat your tomatoes right. Remember that tomatoes like long, hot summers in order to ripen fully. If some of yours are not fully ripe by the colder days, one option is to place cloches over the plants until the fruits ripen. You can also harvest green tomatoes and store them with a banana peel until ripe, or use them in a recipe that calls for green tomatoes (chowchow anyone?).
2. Let your crops offer you seconds. Unlike some veggies, crops like chard and kale are happy to give you take-a-little-now-and-then produce more as cold-weather crops. This is also true of broccoli and cabbage—harvest the main florets of broccoli and the plant will grow additional, smaller florets on the sides. This is the cut-and-come-again method.
3. Make sure onions are ready to store. If the onions are close to maturity but you want to speed up the process, bend onion tops so the bulbs are exposed to as much sun as possible. When the tops become straw in color, loosen the soil under the bulbs and harvest about two weeks later. Generally, onions should be cured for a couple weeks before storing.
4. Share with friends. This means the labor and the bounty. Coming together to pick berries or harvest Brussels sprouts is fun and makes the work go faster. Also, your friends and neighbors will appreciate the fresh produce, and will most likely be inspired to start gardening themselves, if they’re not already.
5. But don’t share too much. There’s a joke that the only reason to lock your car doors in low-crime small towns in the late summer is to keep people from furtively filling your car with excess zucchini while you’re away. Few people appreciate a monster zucchini, not to mention a basket of them. But do be sure to harvest mature zucchini before the first frost.