Harvesting Summer Vegetables

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Early morning is the best time of the day to harvest most summer vegetables. I was asked why I pick my vegetables so early, much earlier in the day than last year and the answer is the intense heat, but let me expand on that. During the heat of the day the plant is using the sun’s energy to make sugar through the process of photosynthesis. In the evening and throughout the night the plant moves those sugars from the leaves where they are made to storage organs where they will be stored. Storage organs include fruits like tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and squash, which means the fruit will be the sweetest first thing in the morning.

Watering is best done first thing in the morning as well. If you have a drip irrigation system, it can be turned on and left to run while you are harvesting. If you water by hand with a garden hose like I do, harvest first and then water. This way you get the harvest done with clean hands before grabbing the hose and dragging it through the garden.

One reason I like using the garden hose to irrigate my vegetables is that there are some insects like aphids and spider mites that can build up on the leaves of the plants, but are easily knocked off with the spray from the garden hose.

That is another reason to water early in the morning. If you are watering the leaves of the plants, then you want them to dry off quickly. Most mornings there is already a little bit of dew on the leaves of the plants, so adding more water doesn’t do any additional damage.

The one exception to that is if the plant already has a leaf spot disease that is easily spread by splashing water. In that case, I try to water the soil at the base of the plant without getting water on the leaves.

August is also the best time to plant most of the fall garden crops. Plant them now so they will be ready to harvest in October and November.