When To Harvest Summer Vegetables From The Garden
If you planted a vegetable garden back in the spring, chances are good that you’re knee deep in harvesting all that goodness now. And if you’re new to veggie gardening or are growing some new-to-you veggies, it can be difficult to know when to harvest them. We’re here to take that confusion away! Because who wants to go to the effort of growing vegetables only to harvest them at the wrong time? Not you!
General Harvesting Tips
- Harvest regularly. Veggies can go from perfectly ripe to no-good in the blink of an eye, so make it your practice to get out to that veggie garden daily and pick what’s ripe.
- Harvest in the morning. In the morning after the dew dries is when most vegetables are at their sweetest and best. Don’t harvest in the heat of the day or during wet weather.
- Handle with care. Avoid tugging or harsh pulling on delicate vines and stems. Support vining veggies properly so the weight of the ripening fruit doesn’t break the stem.
- Use the right tools. Some veggies can be easily pinched or snapped off with your fingers, like cherry tomatoes, while others have tougher stems and need to be cut (eggplant and cucumber, for example).
When to Harvest—By Vegetable
While this is not an exhaustive list of every vegetable you can grow, this list includes warm-season veggies that are the most popular. If you don’t see your vegetable on this list, simply do a quick internet search (“when to harvest Chinese cabbage”).
Tomatoes: Harvest when fully ripened but still firm. You can also harvest them before they’re fully ripe, then let them ripen on a sunny windowsill indoors. This is an old trick gardeners use when there’s a killing frost expected later in the season.
Squash (Summer): Don’t wait until the skin toughens or the squash will be seedy. Harvest when it’s a little smaller and more tender for best flavor and texture. Bigger is not always better!
Eggplant: Check the skin for firmness and glossiness—when you observe both, it’s time to harvest. Both underripe and overripe eggplant is bitter tasting, so you’ll probably need to experiment a bit to grab them at just the right time.
Peppers: Hot peppers can be harvested at any stage, but they’re at their hottest when picked in their green stage. Always wear gloves to harvest, as the capsaicin oil can cause a burning sensation on your finger if it comes into contact.
Cucumbers: Most cucumbers are ready when they’re at least 6–8” in length, have dark green skin and are firm to the touch. Don’t wait until they show some signs of yellowing or you’ll be disappointed with bitter-tasting cukes.
Cantaloupe Melon: Check the stem close to the melon; if it easily separates, it’s ready to harvest. Don’t force it to separate—that’s an indicator that it’s not yet ripe. Look for color and subtle scent as well (green = not ripe, buff/yellow = ripe).
Beans: We’re talking bush and pole beans here, and they’re best harvested when they’re young and tender. Look for full (but not bulging) pods, firm skin, and pods with uniform thickness.
Corn: Pay attention to when the silk first appears, because about 20 days later your corn will be ripe for the picking. The silk will turn brown but the husk will still be green.
Okra: Check for ripeness about 4–6 days after the flower wilts when the okra is 2–3” long. Pick them every 1–2 days to keep the plant producing.
Tomatillos: Keep an eye on the exterior husk—as soon as the papery shell starts to split, it’s time to harvest those tomatillos and start making some salsa!
- Jenny Peterson