Part 8: Harvesting and season’s end

On your garden calendar you should have ideal harvesting dates for all of your vegetables. These dates are a guideline. When you are in your garden, you can judge if you want to harvest right away, or if your would like to let your vegetables grow a little longer to get bigger or more ripe. It is best to harvest your vegetables right before you will eat them so they will be as tasty and nutritious as possible. For cut-and-come-again crops like lettuce and other greens, you can take your salad bowl right into the garden and take a few leaves from each plant to make your mixed green salad. Once the plant reaches maturity, however (usually around 8 weeks) it is best to harvest the whole plant and start a new one for the best taste. Old greens tend to get tough and bitter. As soon as you harvest your vegetables, re-plant your seeds or seedlings right away so that your garden is continually productive. You may need to tear out some clover to make space for your next crop. Add some compost every time you re-plant to help maintain soil fertility. To make the most out of your garden you can interplant crops that fit well together in time and space. For example, radishes and spinach are early crops that don’t do well in the full heat of the summer – so in the 4 square feet you have set aside for a June 1st planting of squash, you can plant 2 square feet of radishes and 2 square feet of spinach May 1st. You can then harvest mature radish June 1st, and let the spinach keep growing for a July 1st harvest while the squash is still small. Another example is to alternate plantings of beans and tomato. Not only do the beans fit nicely in the spaces under the tomato plants, but they also fix nitrogen and other elements from the air and add nutrients that the tomato plants need to grow well. We find that our pepper and eggplants do well in the tomato bed as well. End of season: Putting your beds to sleep Once the season is over and even your cool-weather crops are done, remove all of the plant residues from your vegetable crops. Just cut them at the level of the soil as the root systems add structure and nutrients to the soil. Be careful to leave your undercrop of clover to protect your soil from leaching nutrients over the winter. Cut back all of your flowers and herbs to the ground. The perennials will comeback from the root, and the roots of the annuals will add to the soil fertility as well. If you have rosemary, you should bring it inside in a pot for the winter.

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