10 Tips for Harvesting Your Kitchen Garden

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.

6. Preserve the harvest. Harvest time is also preservation time. My favorite method of preservation is lacto-fermentation. It’s simple, inexpensive, doesn’t use any heat or electricity, and enhances the flavors and nutrition of your harvest. However, some crops do better with freezing, canning, or dehydrating.

7. Don’t waste. After a small farm harvest, I once saw a pile of cut beet leaves withering in the early fall sun, discarded from their beetroot bases. What a waste! Beet leaves can be prepared or preserved exactly the same as chard and taste similar. The same goes for kohlrabi leaves which are similar to kale.

8. Eat your weeds. Many of the “weeds” that afflict gardeners are actually tasty, nutritious greens. Here in California, wild mustard and wild radish, both robust growers and members of the brassica family, love to move in on disturbed soil—call them volunteer crops. In the Northeast, lambsquarter is a particularly tasty “unwelcome” guest. If you want to increase your fall harvest, see if you can eat your weeds.

9. Remember to rotate your crops. Make a note of which crops were in which rows, and rotate crops at the next planting season to boost the quality of your soil and the resistance of your garden to pests. For instance, beans are nitrogen fixers so it’s a good idea to follow them with a non-nitrogen fixing crop.

10. After the harvest, apply a green mulch. Harvest time is the time to think about soil improvement for the next growing season. Sow cover crops like vetch, clover, or rye (or others). This will preserve your topsoil from wind and rain while fixing nitrogen and adding organic matter at the same time, preserving and enriching your soil for the next round of crops.

In the Fall Garden: 5 Plants to Plant & 5 Projects to Make
7 Reasons Why You Should Grow Your Own Food
Vegetable Garden Basics

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Dave C.
Dave C.4 years ago


Dyan Bruneau
Dyan Bruneau4 years ago

Here's my latest, I just planted my potatoes. I dragged out one of the 55 gallon plastic garbage cans. Then, I got my left over soli from the baskets and odd an end containers I used before and put about 8 inches of soil in the can. Then, those small potatoes I had been saving that were about to start budding went on top of the soil. One more container of soil on top of the potatoes. As the potatoes start to root, they also start to make their bush. As the bush getts taller, you add more soil. You keep this up until your bush is saticking out of the can and starts to die back. You should be able to empty the can and harvest your potatoes. When you empty the can, just DUMP IT on your drive way or someplace you can chovel up the sild and save it in the can for other use. Just a little Tatter Trick I learned. This works great for peanuts as well. I LOVE fresh grown peanuts but thats another story. They go in perserve jars great after boiling by the way

Zarka Mansuri
Zarka Mansuri4 years ago

Thanks for the tips!!

Charuwan Kangkagate

I live in tropical zone and have no idea about harvesting in different season. Most of the crop could be grown in all seasons. Anyway, the article is so lovely, thank you.

Aruna Swain
Aruna Swain4 years ago


Robert Shaffer
Robert Shaffer4 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Dyan Bruneau
Dyan Bruneau5 years ago

My Porch garden is so cute and looks so yummy, I can hardly wait to eat them. I found a bowl at the Goodwill a few days ago that looked like a Mexican hat but it had a small bowl where the top of the hat was and a recessed area around in the brim. It is Perfect for my Jalapena plants, so cute. I have found when my body needs something, it starts craving it. For the last 4 months I have been craving Jalopenas. My arthritis has been giving me fits. Finally realized I NEEDED the peppers for the pain. I can up with a great recipe. 2 blocks of cream cheese, 1/2 cup finely chopped peppers, cup of bacon bits, 1/2 C. dehydrated onions. Mix well. Beat two eggs and in another bowl add 1 1/2 C flour ( self rising) to 1 1/2 Bread crumbs. Use 2 teaspoons to make small balls, dip in egg, then roll in bread/flour mixture. Freeze for a few hours. Heat oil( very hot) in deep pot, drop in bacon/pepper balls. They will brown quickly. Use slotted spoon to take out and place on paper towels. This is a Serious Yum Yum and helps you stop hurting. Dyan

Jharna Vikas
Jharna Vikas5 years ago

Thanks for the tips!

Amber B.
Amber Blythe5 years ago

Great info and ideas for next year's garden and the future. Watching things grow makes me excited!

Stephanie Rojas
Stephanie R.5 years ago

i'll keep this in mind...