Early Harvest Tips
Don’t Let Thinned Seedlings Go to Waste
Many directly sown veggies, such as radishes, beets or leafy greens (arugula, kale and Swiss chard) and herbs such as dill, parsley, chervil and basil, need to be thinned shortly after they emerge from the soil as seedlings. Pull every other (or so) plant to allow space for those you want to let grow to maturity. The thinned seedlings make delicious additions to salads and stir-fries, and are great as garnishes on spring meals.
Be a Pod Picker
As your peas and beans start to form pods, it’s important to pick them. Otherwise, the plant will slow production. Be sure to cut the stem of the pod, not the pod itself, to ensure continued flower (and pod) production. For cruciferous veggies such as broccolini, regular picking of the tiny florets keeps the plant producing for a longer season.
Give Your Herbs a Haircut
Most herbs benefit from a regular trim to keep the leaves thick and bushy and to prevent them from going to flower. Pinch back the growing tip of your basil plant to promote the growth of side stems. Shear mint, thyme and balm a few times to keep a bushy, full growth. The offcuts can be dried or used fresh, or left to decompose in the garden.
When harvesting, always take some of the stem. Doing so will help your produce last longer. If you are harvesting thin-stemmed plants, you can usually do so using your fingernails. For thicker-stemmed plants such as tomatoes, eggplant and beans, slice the stems cleanly using a pair of shears or a sharp knife.
When the hot weather arrives, cooler season crops such as radishes, lettuces and spinach may bolt (start seed production) no matter how frequently you harvest. Regular deep watering can help slow the process.
If bolting occurs, pull the entire plant before it becomes bitter-tasting (about a week or so). Sow a second crop or mulch the area with compost until it’s time to plant again.
Did you sow more than two zucchini plants this year? If so, chances are you’ll soon be looking for unsuspecting non-gardeners to take your excess produce. Pick these fruits when they are small to mid-sized. There are so many great recipes for zucchini, also known as summer squash.
Berries Can Vary
The early fruits of a saskatoon and gooseberry bush can be tart. Use these for cooking. Later berries will have increased sugar content and can be eaten fresh.
Don’t Let Vines Overtake the Garden
Squash vines, including pumpkins and butternut and acorn squash, can overtake a garden. If that’s the case, the plants can end up being all vine with few fruits.
As the vine reaches the borders of its allotted space (assuming there are a few flowers along the stem ready to turn to fruit), cut the stem with a sharp blade. This will force the plant’s energy into developing the fruit, rather than growing more vines.
Don’t forget that these squash flowers are edible. They’re great lightly coated in butter and flour and then fried.
Text by Peggy Brule, Lee Valley staff
Early Harvest Tools
Small Gardener's Wash Basket
Stainless-Steel Paring Knife
Pasta & Herb Drying Racks
Opinel Mushroom Knife
Elho Windowsill Herb Pot
Kangaroo Pocket Apron