How do we know when it's time to harvest?
It's easy to tell when some vegetables, such as zucchini, are ready for harvest, but others are more complicated. We have created a document that helps us determine the time frame during which the crops will be mature. We keep careful garden records of when seeds are planted, dates of germination, arrival of pest species, and dates of first harvest. This information is helpful when planning the garden in future years. We organized all of this information along with the expected dates of germination and maturity based upon what is printed on the seed packets and in the High Mowing seed catalog. Based on this chart, we can see when certain varieties should be ready, and compare our actual dates with those from High Mowing.
This week we were unsure if our PMR Delicious cantaloupe was rotting from sitting on the ground or if it was actually ripe. We checked the chart and saw that it is expected to be ready to harvest on August 15 (Wednesday). We tasted one at lunch and found that they really were ripe and ready for the farmstand! We are expecting a continued harvest of these delicious melons and another variety, Caribbean Gold in the coming weeks.
Other times, the dates are not as accurate. The date of maturity can vary drastically with different growing conditions. For example, our carrots should have been ready around the end of July, but they are still quite small, even now in mid-August. Their tops were eaten off by rabbits a couple of times, and their growth became quite stunted. We can't rely on the dates in the chart completely, but it gives us a good estimate of when we should start looking for mature crops.