Now that it’s officially summer, it’s time to prepare for your next big harvest. Surely nothing can go wrong at this stage, right? Unfortunately, a smooth mistake-free harvest isn’t guaranteed, especially for gardeners who are a little green behind the ears, as well as the thumbs. For newbie gardeners, knowing what you should be doing while harvesting can be difficult. And you certainly don’t want to fall at the last hurdle, especially after spending months researching, sowing, and cultivating the perfect fruit and veggies. That’s why in this post, we’ll share common harvesting mistakes and how to avoid them. From bruising your veg when picking to failing to make a proper plan, there’s a lot to cover. So roll up your sleeves, and let’s dig in!
Lacking patience and harvesting too soon
Harvesting your fruit and vegetables too soon is a common vegetable garden mistake made by new gardeners. It’s tempting to pick fruit just as it appears. And while this may be ok for certain veggies that can be eaten early, with most crops, it will lead to disappointing results. So, as exciting as it is to finally see your hard work bear fruit, remain patient. Although each fruit and vegetable is different, you’ll know that they are ready to be picked when the following occurs:
- Change in texture: Gently squeeze your fruit when you think it’s ripe. Most fruit and veggies should feel soft but not squishy. However, this may vary from crop to crop, so do your research.
- Change in colour: A sure way to know when your fruit is ready to harvest (or close to being ready) is when they change colour. Plants like tomatoes will turn from green to red, etc.
- Easy to detach: Some plants (like apples) may fall to the ground when they are ready to be harvested, and others will come off gently from the vine without the need for scissors to cut the fruit off.
- Taste test: If you think your plant may be ready to pick but still aren’t 100% sure, you can always perform a taste test. Check to see if the fruit has the desired taste and texture.
Delaying picking your harvest
The opposite problem to the above, many new gardeners are afraid to pick too early and end up harvesting too late. This has a negative impact on plants, as they’ll miss the peak of their quality and flavour and even miss out on their full nutritional value, as this also declines over time. It could also mean that more of your fruit has spoiled or become overripe. So, how do you avoid making this mistake when growing vegetables?
Aside from following the tips included earlier to help you determine when to pick your fruit, you should also check in with your plants regularly during the growing season. You should know roughly when it will be time to harvest, so in the week/days leading up to your projected harvest date, carefully examine the plants for signs that they are ready to be picked. And if you are still waiting for any signs that your crop is ready to be harvested, do a quick google search or ask an expert gardener at your local garden centre. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Pay attention to the weather
One of the biggest vegetable gardening mistakes when harvesting is picking your fruit during poor weather conditions or at the wrong time of day. The best time to harvest is in the morning on a dry day. The morning is recommended as it is much cooler, preserving the freshness of the fruit or vegetable. Plus, many gardeners believe doing this will result in a better taste. Harvesting during or just after rain can increase the risk of mould, disease and decay. This is due to all the excess moisture. Plus, crops will be much more fragile and easy to damage during poor weather.
Being unorganised and ill-prepared
Making a plan for your harvest and what to do after picking is essential for success. There’s no point in growing delicious eggplants, beets and other veggies to let them go to waste just because you were too ill-prepared to make a proper plan. That’s why one of our top gardening tips is to keep all your plans secure in a gardening journal. Mark your projected harvest dates, signs that the varieties you’ve chosen are ripe and what you’ll need to store leftovers. This will allow you to source the necessary supplies and prepare for the next step. You can even think about what recipes you’ll want to make with your produce in advance. This way, you won’t waste time thinking about what to do.
Failing to handle your produce with care
Realising it’s time to pick your crops is incredibly exciting. YAY, you’ve done it! Well, almost…You’re probably looking forward to tasting an apple, sprinkling some spring onions on your next dish or making raspberry jam. However, you must be careful not to damage your fruit when picking. It can be incredibly easy in the excitement to rush this process. However, you should avoid this at all costs. No one wants to end up with a basket of mushy berries or bruised tomatoes. So, as you set out to harvest your crops, keep these few things in mind:
- Methods may vary: Each fruit and veggie has different harvesting methods, so to ensure you’re picking your crops properly, research before you begin.
- Use a gentle touch: When plucking berries or soft, fleshy veggies, keep your touch gentle and light, exerting enough force only to get it off the vine. Remember not to squeeze or apply too much pressure.
- Use the correct tools: Tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies may need to be cut from the vine using scissors or pruners. Ensure your tools are clean and sharp before starting the harvesting process. You won’t want to spread disease with dirty scissors or damage plants with dull blades.
- Work in small batches: To avoid dropping or squeezing your fruit while in a rush or overworked, pick in small sections and take things slow.
Incorrectly storing your produce
Once your crops have been picked correctly, it’s time to think about how to store them. Whether you have planted too many fruit trees or had an unexpectedly high yield from your vegetable plants, you are likely going to have a lot of produce left over. To ensure that nothing goes to waste, you need to think about how you will store all your cucumbers, squash, and other fruit & veggies.
A common mistake made by vegetable gardeners is failing to properly clean, dry, and store their leftovers in cool, dark conditions. You’ll need to follow certain steps to prevent your crops from spoiling. And while the exact steps for proper storage may vary depending on the particular fruit or vegetable, there are a few general tips that you may find helpful:
Clean with care
Wash all your produce with cool water to remove any lingering insects or dirt. If handling delicate produce, carefully pour water over them as they sit in a colander.
Don’t forget to dry
Once you’ve washed your produce, dry them on paper towels. And before packing them into containers, give them a pat with a towel. You’ll want to ensure they are completely dry before the next step, as any excess moisture can lead to the fruit or veggies spoiling and rotting.
Use the correct containers
Some fruit and veggies work better when stored in breathable mesh containers (like potatoes and onions), while others, like radishes, should be stored in airtight jars or boxes. Research to determine what will work best for your chosen crop.
Store in the right environment
Store your leftover crops away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry, well-ventilated room. Also, remember to store the oldest produce at the front so that it can be used first.
Remember to freeze
If you have more fruit and veggies than you know what to do with, freeze the leftovers to preserve them long-term.
Don’t forget to check
Once you have stored your leftovers, set a reminder in your calendar and regularly check in on them to look out for signs of rot. If you notice any spoiling, remove the affected fruit or veggies immediately.
Now that you know what gardening mistakes to look out for, we’re sure you’re about to have your best harvest yet! To get started, visit our online shop to check out our incredible range of fruit and vegetable plants. If you’re curious to learn more ways to make your garden great, you can also check out our knowledge hub. Don’t hesitate to share your own harvesting tips with us on social media (@gardeningexpress). We would love to hear from you!