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Harvesting Fall Vegetables

Find out how and when to harvest popular fall crops from your vegetable garden.

Harvesting Fall Vegetables
The satisfaction and enjoyment of growing, harvesting and eating fresh vegetables you grow from seed or plants is hard to beat. Begin by preparing a garden bed with soil amendments from brands such as Scotts, Miracle-Gro or Vigoro. Once your garden is growing and producing, it's time to think about the harvest. Factors that affect how your vegetables grow and the amount of vegetable harvest you can get from your garden include the air and soil temperature, the amount of rain or moisture plants receive and the number of sunny days (usually the more sun the better). Certain plants will stop producing during extremely hot weather and other crops will keep growing even with a frost.
Here are tips for when and how to harvest some popular crops from your fall vegetable garden:
Broccoli from the garden


Once the heads begin to form, check them every day. The ideal time to harvest broccoli is before the flower buds open. Use a sharp knife and cut the central head at a 45-degree angle. Leave about 6 inches of stem attached. Side shoots from the axils of the leaves should develop and form more heads. If you notice the flower buds have begun to open, cut the head immediately since they will have poor taste and texture. Harvest in the fall until the ground freezes.
Carrots from the garden


To ensure optimum flavour and texture, harvest carrots when their colour is bright. They should be at least 1/2-inch in diameter when picked. Fall crops may be left in the ground until a killing frost. If you mulch and keep the ground from freezing, they can survive even longer.
Lettuce from the garden


Cut or pick the outer leaves of lettuce as soon as they are big enough to eat. As plants mature, harvest every other leaf. This will help extend the season and prevent lettuce leaves from tasting bitter. Rinse the leaves under warm tap water to reduce bitterness. Although lettuce will tolerate a light frost, you will need to keep the ground from freezing.
Red onions from the garden


Harvest onions during dry weather. Pull green onions as soon as the stems are pencil thick. They should be used fresh after harvest, since they don't store well. Rake the tops of dry onions to the side after they begin to turn yellow and fall over. The best time to harvest is on a dry morning. Pull them up once the tops have died down and let them dry in the garden for the day. Then collect them and let them cure for 2-3 weeks, remove the dirt and cut off the tops, leaving 1-1/2 inches of stem.
Spinach from the garden


You can harvest individual spinach leaves when they are 3-4 inches or wait and harvest the whole plant. For a continuous supply, sow seeds every 7-10 days. You can use cold frames or cover plants with hay to produce an early spring harvest.
Turnips from the garden


For fall crops, sow seed in the garden in August and September. Harvest turnip greens, the top part of the plant, about 5 weeks after sowing the seeds. Harvest root turnips (a different variety than those grown for greens) when roots are about 2-3 inches in diameter. They are hardy enough to stand a freeze but not a hard freeze.

Tips for Storing Fresh Vegetables

  • Turnips, lettuce, and spinach will stay fresh for a longer period of time with refrigeration.
  • Store carrots harvested late in the season in boxes of sand. Keep them in a cool place such as a garage with temperatures just above freezing.
  • Store onions in mesh bags (nylon stockings work well) in a cool dry place so they last all winter.

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