The record-breaking days of hot summer this year have kept gardens going strong and even put harvesting of some plants ahead of schedule.
If you aren't quite sure of which veggies can be harvested now, here is information to help you evaluate ripeness and whether the veggie is ready to pick:
• Melons - Can be picked when the fruit separates easily from the vine and the skin is hard. The tendril closest to the fruit will be withered.
• Asparagus - Cut the stalks at the ground when they reach 6 to 9 inches tall.
• Beans - When the inner seeds start to bulge slightly through the pod, beans are ready to pick.
• Carrots - When you pull away the soil at the top of the root, the root should be about 1 inch in diameter.
• Potatoes - Can be harvested when most of the vines are dead.
• Onions - Are ready to harvest when about half of the leaves have dried out and fall over. Dig onions up slightly, but leave them in the soil for about one more week.
• Summer squash - Will be most flavorful if picked when the squash measure about 6 to 8 inches long. Monitor squash each day as they grow quickly.
• Tomatillos - Have been ripe and pick-able already. But if you're new to this Southwestern plant, notice how a tiny fruit matures inside the thin, lantern-like husk. When the fruit is as large as the husk, it's ready to pick.
For the best flavor, harvest veggies in the cooler hours of the morning or evening.
Harvesting pumpkins and winter squash
Due to high temps this summer, many gardeners have seen pumpkins and winter squash ripening ahead of schedule. If this is the case in your garden, you might consider harvesting these veggies soon.
Mildew on the pumpkin and squash leaves is common now. It doesn't necessarily hurt the fruit, but it does diminish the quality of plant life and its ability to get more nutrients to the fruit and keep it growing. In almost every case, the mildew will kill the vines prior to frost. As the leaves die back, there will be less camouflage to keep pumpkins and squash out of the eye of hungry squirrels and other wildlife.
Picking pumpkins and squash:
• Cut the stems at least 2 inches long (even longer is good) and avoid carrying the fruit by the stem, as a broken stem can cause the fruit to deteriorate.
• If the stem does break, cover the stem scar on the fruit with melted paraffin to seal the wound and keep bacteria out.
• Keep pumpkins and squash indoors to harden. Pumpkins should be fine through Halloween. Winter squash can last well into the winter months if kept cool and dry.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.