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  2. Grow Your Own Fruit & Veg
  3. Ready, Set, Harvest: How to Harvest Perfectly Ripe Fruit & Vegetables

Ready, Set, Harvest: How to Harvest Perfectly Ripe Fruit & Vegetables

With harvest season fast approaching, we thought providing a little refresher to help you determine when your crop is ready to harvest would be helpful. Whether you consider yourself a veteran of the harvest or you’re still getting to terms with your garden, it can be difficult to get the timing for picking your crops just right. So, if you find yourself at a loss for knowing when to harvest your crops, we’ve compiled a handy list of fruit and vegetable harvest times below. Just save and refer back to this post to help you determine when your produce is ready for picking.

Learn exactly how to harvest your favourite fruit & veggies with our handy list

Why is it so important to get the timings right?

Harvesting at just the right time is crucial if you want to get the best flavour from your garden vegetables. If picked too soon, they can taste bitter, have an unappealing texture, and you will get a lesser yield. Or, if left in the ground or on the vine for too long, they can rot, and you run the risk of attracting pests or diseases to your crop. That’s why it’s so crucial to get your timings right. Review our list below to ensure your veggies and fruits are tender and taste delicious when picked.

When to harvest your vegetables

Potatoes

Most early potatoes are typically ready to be harvested in the summer months after growing for 12 weeks. However, it depends on the variety you have planted. For instance, new potatoes are usually harvested six to eight weeks after planting. Some sure signs that it’s time to harvest potatoes is when you see the top of the plants begin to flower. If you want to wait for the potatoes to grow larger, wait until the tops of the plants turn brown and dry. 

Either way, to maintain the best eating quality, start digging from the outer perimeter and avoid cutting into any potatoes with your digging fork. We also recommend leaving your freshly dug potatoes out to dry for a few hours before storing them.

Potatoes can be harvested as early as 6 weeks after planting

Carrots

For carrots, it’s best to harvest when the head starts to turn yellow or brown. This typically takes between 50-80 days after sowing from seeds. You can begin to pull your carrots when you are happy with the size they have reached. Most gardeners typically like to harvest once their carrots have reached 1.5 inches in diameter. To check, you can pull one to confirm that the size and taste are as desired. Carrots can be harvested from the late summer into winter. However, don’t worry about them being affected by the first frost, as it’s said that this can actually sweeten and improve their flavour.

Onions

Typically harvested in the late summer or early autumn, you’ll know when these vegetables are ready to harvest because their tops will yellow and fall over. Gently loosen the soil around the bulbs with a garden fork and lift them out, careful not to bruise them. Then leave them to dry out in the sun for a little while before getting them ready to use and store.

Onions must be left to dry after harvesting

Brussel sprouts

The perfect time to harvest sprouts is from late summer all the way through to winter (depending on the variety). Slow growing, they can take up to four months to mature. However, you’ll know when they are ready to pick when they become tough and firm, about 1-2 inches in diameter. Pick the lower sprouts first, working your way up to the top of the stalk. 

Tomatoes

Best eaten soon after harvest, you’ll know when your tomatoes are ready when they have reached the desired size, colour and are firm to the touch. Typically harvested from summer to autumn, cherry tomatoes take around two months to grow. In contrast, regular-sized tomatoes can take up to 100 days to reach maturity. Make sure before picking that there are no green spots on the skin of your fruit, as this is an obvious sign that the tomato is not ready to be harvested. Similarly, you will be able to tell that the right time has come to start picking your tomatoes when they come off the vine easily. Just give a gentle twist, and it should pop straight off.

Wait for all your tomatoes to turn red before harvesting

Lettuce

Start harvesting when the main head has grown full, firm and has a vibrant green hue. With a long harvest window, you can pick your heads or lettuce leaves from spring through till winter. Loose-leaf varieties are fast-growing and may only take 4-6 weeks to reach maturity. In comparison, varieties like romaine can take up to 11 weeks. If you are harvesting leaves rather than full heads, wait until the plant has reached around 4 inches in height before harvesting the outer leaves, keeping the inner leaves untouched and continuing to grow.

Radishes

Quick-growing, these delicious veggies are typically harvested in spring and summer. Taking about 6-8 weeks to reach maturity, when they have grown to about 1-2 inches in diameter, you’ll know it’s time to start plucking them from the garden. Gently loosen the soil, grasp the foliage from the root and pull upwards.

Radishes can be harvested from spring till summer

Peas

You’ll know it’s time to start picking your peas when you notice that the pods are plump, have a glossy sheen and are firm to the touch. This will usually be around summer-autumn. They take roughly around 14 weeks to grow from seed, though this can vary depending on the variety you have chosen. Gently hold the stem and pull off the pod of peas in a smooth, swift motion. Feel free to give them a little taste test to make sure that you’re happy with their flavour before proceeding to harvest the entire crop.

French beans

Usually harvested about ten weeks after planting, french beans can be picked when they are about 4 to 5 inches long. They should be easy to snap off the plant when ready and can be picked frequently for a continuous harvest during summer to autumn.

French beans should be about 4-5 inches long

Squash

Some tell-tale signs that your squash is ready for harvest is when the skin of your veggies has turned firm and glossy. The size and colour must also meet your expectations before you begin picking. Gently twist or cut the fruit from the vine, using a knife to harvest. Summer squash, like courgettes, can be picked from mid to late summer, while winter squash requires a little more growing time and can take up to 100 days to mature from seed to full, ripe vegetable.

When to harvest your fruit

Apples

Ready to pick between late summer to autumn, apples will be ready to be plucked from your tree when you notice that they have reached their expected colour. Gently press the fruit between your fingers. It should feel firm but have a slight give without feeling mushy. If you pick apples that feel completely hard, you have harvested too early, and they will not be fully mature. 

You can also check if an apple is ready for harvest by plucking one to test. It should have a balanced flavour and taste sweet and a little tart. Once you have established that your fruit is ready to pluck, all you have to do is give each apple a gentle twist to get it off the tree.

Get ready to harvest your apples from late summer till autumn

Pears

Similarly to apples, pears are also typically harvested from late summer to autumn. When testing pears, you should press down close to the stem. If it is ready for picking, it should give slightly without feeling too mushy. The skin of each pear should also have reached the desired hue and should even have a slight sheen. Pears are actually best picked when slightly underripe and can be left to ripen off the tree. When harvesting, gently cup the pear in your hand and cut the fruit from the branch of your pear tree.

Plums

It’s best to harvest when the skin of your plums is a rich, vibrant shade of deep purple all around. Ripe plums should give a little when pressed, but the best way to test them is to pick one to taste. They should taste sweet, juicy and flavourful. If it is underripe, it will lack sweetness. Expect to harvest them from summer until early autumn, and when plucking from your tree, do so with care to avoid bruising the fruit.

Plums should be picked carefully to avoid bruising

Peaches

Ready for harvest from summer until early autumn, you should start to think about harvesting your peaches when they develop from a green to a lovely warm yellow-orange hue. They should also feel firm with a bit of give. However, the best indicator to check if they are ready to be picked is a taste test. They should taste sweet with a delicious tangy flavour. If you accidentally pick them when they are underripe, don’t worry. You can keep them in paper bags and allow them to finish ripening indoors.

Blackberries

Great for a summer to early autumn harvest, blackberries are the perfect fruit for a quick, delicious snack. You’ll know they’re ready to pluck when they turn a deep, glossy black colour. If they are still red or purple, they haven’t fully ripened yet. Place the fruit in the palm of your hand and if it has a plump, slightly tender feel, it’s time to start picking. The berries should separate easily from the branch with only a gentle tug.

Avoid picking blackberries when they are still red or purple

Strawberries

Ready to eat as soon as you pluck them from your plant, strawberries are the ultimate summer fruit. Expect them to take roughly three months to grow from planting a bare root or longer if growing from seeds. Each variety will have its own specific timeframe. A great way of knowing if your fruit is ripe and ready is when the skin turns from green to a luscious red shade all over. We recommend trying to pick your strawberries during the warmest part of the day to get the best flavour. 

Raspberries

There are several different varieties of raspberries, from early summer fruiting to autumn fruiting. Therefore, harvesting times will differ depending on your needs and the variety you have chosen. However, you can pick them when you notice they are soft yet plump and have a deep, consistent red hue. Feel free to pluck a berry and give it a little taste test before committing to a full harvest. It should have a rich taste, with a good balance of being sweet and tart. If you find it overly bitter, odds are it still needs more time to fully ripen. However, once again, the taste may vary slightly according to the variety you have chosen, so feel free to do your own research to be sure.

Check which variety of raspberries you have planted before harvesting

Blackcurrants

Blackcurrants that have a slightly waxy, almost black skin are usually ready for a first harvest during the summer months. They should also be firm to the touch, with a tart taste. To avoid having birds nibble on your fruit before you get a chance to, we recommend protecting your berry bush with a mesh cover. Regularly check in on your fruit in the lead-up to your harvest. When it’s finally time to pick, put on your gardening gloves and remove the entire cluster from the bush with secateurs to avoid damaging the individual fruits.

Cherries

Expect cherry trees to start producing fruit after two years and reach full cropping around 4-5 years after planting. Fruit is normally harvested during summer and should be picked carefully. Cherries bruise easily, so it’s important to always cut them from their stalks. You’ll know when your cherries are fully grown when they feel firm to the touch with a distinctive, vibrant red hue. If you are looking for a slightly more tangy taste, we recommend harvesting early in the season.

Grapes

Available to harvest from summer till autumn, you can get ready to pluck your grapes once they turn the desired colour. Check they are ready by rolling them between your fingers to see if they feel plump but yield slightly under gentle pressure. When harvesting off the tree, use a knife or secateurs to take the clusters down safely without causing any damage to the fruit.

Use a garden knife or scissors to remove grape clusters

Tips for harvesting fruit & vegetables

  • Remember to be gentle. Take your time when harvesting, and pick delicate berries and veggies one at a time. Hold with a firm but gentle hand to avoid bruising, and use both hands to pick your produce safely.
  • For best results, we recommend you begin harvesting in the morning. This is especially important during the warm summer months, as the produce will stay crisp and fresh. If you were to leave picking your fruit & veggies until midday, the heat may have made your produce limp. Plus, many gardeners believe this trick also helps to enhance the flavour of your crops!
  • No two fruit and veggies are alike. Do your research to learn how to harvest each variety to avoid making mistakes and damaging your crops. For instance, tomatoes can be gently twisted off the vine, even if not fully ripe, whilst you should wait for garlic tops to fall over and turn brown before digging them up.
  • Clean your tools before harvesting. Dirty scissors, garden knives and spades can harbour diseases that can spoil your crop. So, it’s important to give them a thorough cleaning with a scrubbing brush before harvest season begins.

What next?

Now that you know what signs to look out for to tell when your fruit and vegetables are ready, we’re sure you’ll have no issues during harvest season. Though, if you’re worried about how to store all your delicious produce, you might want to read our post covering how to store and preserve your extra veggies.

Inspired to plant even more? Check out our online shop to discover our incredible range of plants and accessories. If you’re curious to learn more ways to make your garden great, why not pop over to our knowledge hub? Plus, don’t hesitate to share your own tips with us on social media (@gardeningexpress). We would love to hear from you!

Updated on September 27, 2023

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