I love this time of year – there’s loads to harvest! But with so much to pick, pluck and pull, it can be hard work as well.
Read on our watch our video to discover 12 terrific tips to make gathering your crops both quicker and easier...
1. Encourage Repeat Cropping
Many vegetables can be persuaded to give a second, smaller crop once the main harvest is taken if you don’t pull up the whole plant. Carefully slice through the base of leafy vegetables like chard to leave the stem and roots intact. Continue watering if needed, and more leaves should sprout within a few weeks.
Or cut heads of broccoli or cabbage then sit tight for plants to grow a secondary cut of stalks.
2. Harvest Root Crops the Easy Way
It can be backbreaking to pull a lot of root crops directly from the ground. Instead, loosen the soil around root crops before lifting them so that they come out of the ground with less of a struggle. Use a fork so as not to damage the roots or slice through worms.
Or try lifting carrots without using any tools. Twist the root as you gently pull, while rocking it back and forth to loosen. (Don’t try this if you have clay soil – the roots will almost certainly break!)
3. Clean Vegetables Fast
Cleaning vegetables can take as much time as harvesting them, but not if you pop a mesh container such as an old laundry basket inside a large bucket filled with water. Pop your muddy produce into the basket, thrash it back and forth in the water, then drain. Slosh the dirty water out onto growing crops to water them so nothing’s wasted.
4. Let Potatoes Dry Before Brushing Off Dirt
Potatoes shouldn’t be washed but you still need to remove the dirt, so dig them up for storing on a dry, sunny day. Leave the potatoes on the soil surface for a few hours to help them dry out. Then when the potatoes are gathered for boxing or bagging up, any encrusted soil should easily come away.
5. Pick Early and Often
It can be hard to cope when all your crops mature at once, so instead pick prolific crops like beans, summer squash and zucchini early and often. This keeps plants cropping for longer and avoids unmanageable gluts, while giving a bigger overall yield from each plant.
6. Choose Colorful Crops
It can be tricky to find crops if they’re hidden beneath the foliage. Grow beans with purple, red or yellow pods. The pods will stand out against the green foliage, making them easier to spot and pick. The same tip can be applied to yellow zucchini, for example.
7. Outsmart Birds
Do birds peck at your tomatoes? Hang red Christmas baubles among your ripening tomatoes. Birds will try pecking at them and, thwarted, will be less likely to try again, leaving you with undamaged tomatoes that will remain in good condition for longer.
8. Help Fruits Ripen
Green, yet-to-ripen tomatoes are common towards the end of summer. If cold nights or tomato blight threaten, bring fruits indoors to continue ripening. Place them in a fruit bowl or bag with a ripe banana to speed this up. Or use up green tomatoes in chutney or as totally delicious fried green tomatoes – find a link to recipes for these in the video description below.
9. Grow a Variety of Crops
To avoid all of your soft fruits maturing at once grow one or two plants of several types of soft fruits instead of lots plants of just one type. For example, you could plant a few blueberries, one gooseberry, five raspberry canes and two blackcurrants. Doing this spreads harvests out so you can enjoy more fresh fruit and spend less time processing and preserving.
The same principle applies to other crops too. Plant a range of varieties that mature at different times to extend the harvest window and minimize gluts.
10. Harvest Correctly
Avoid damaging plants when you’re harvesting. Pick tree fruits with a twist and pull motion to cleanly detach the fruit without tearing. Rhubarb stalks on the other hand should be harvested with a swift, strong pull to avoid damaging the crown. Using the right techniques reduces the risk of disease, ensuring plants remain in better health for next season.
11. Extend Your Reach
Can’t reach high-up tree fruits? Make a simple bottle harvester from an old plastic bottle. Cut out a gouge near the bottom of the bottle then thoroughly secure the bottle to a bamboo cane or pole. You’ve now significantly extended your reach and can pick more of your fruit without resorting to ladders.
12. Thin Fruits
Thin gooseberries before they’ve reached full size in early summer. This will give a smaller harvest of firm berries that are ideal for cooking. The remaining berries can then continue to swell, giving a second crop of larger, ripe berries, rather than lots of small berries. This makes for less time spent topping and tailing the main crop.
What’s your favourite harvesting hack? Let me know below!