Chapter 8 : Harvesting Your Organic Vegetables

Harvesting your organic vegetables is usually the best part of having an organic garden.  The whole family will usually volunteer to help even if only one or two has actually helped during the growing season.  The harvest time for your organic vegetables varies depending upon the plant with many vegetables ripening all season long. 

It is important that you harvest your vegetables as soon as they are ready instead of letting them stay out in the sun.  Many vegetables will rapidly deteriorate if left out after ripening losing flavor.  They will also become too mushy and tender losing their appeal entirely. 

There are some plants that can be left out after they have ripened or even harvested before they are fully ripe.  The following are a list of typical harvest times for vegetables that are commonly grown in organic gardens.  Make sure you check your gardens constantly around harvest time since some vegetables will ripen virtually overnight.   Even after you have brought in a large crop keep checking your garden because some vegetables simply produce more vegetables after the first crop is removed.


Harvest beets when they are between 1 ¼ and 2 inches in diameter and leaves are 4 to 6 inches long.  Remember the beet tops can be eaten too!

Snap Beans

Harvest snap beans when the pods are firm and snap easily and the seeds are still undeveloped.


Harvest carrots when they are crisp and between ½ to 1 inch in diameter.  Younger carrots are tenderer but older carrots are often sweeter so you can leave them until the first frost.  If you like younger carrots pick them as soon as they are big enough and plant more for a fresh crop.


Harvest corn when the silk begins to turn dark and shrivels.  This is usually about 20 days after the first silk strands appear but sometimes sooner so keep your eyes peeled.


Harvest cucumbers when they are between 2 and 8 inches long depending on your personal preferences.  They are best for eating when they are dark green, firm, and crisp.  Once the cucumbers are removed more will develop in their place so keep an eye on them.


Harvest eggplant when they are between 6 to 8 inches long and glossy with a deep color.  Use either pruning shears or a knife to cut the fruit from the plant.


Harvest garlic when the tops of the bulbs begin turn yellow and dry out.  The bulbs must be put on screens to dry and once they have dried trim the roots close to the bulbs and remove the loose outer sheaths before storing.

Spring Onions

Harvest spring onions and leeks in the fall by loosening the soil, pulling up the roots, and cutting off the roots.


Harvest lettuce 50 to 60 days after planting. They can often be harvested before when they are small but they will reach their maximum size in 60 days.


Harvest okra pods when they are immature and tender.  Do not let the pods become more than 3 inches long.  After you pick the pods more will grow and must be harvested every day.


Harvest onions after the tops have fallen down.  After digging them up let the onions air dry for two days before storing. 


Harvest peas when the pod is green and full but still tender.  Pods are usually ready to be harvested a week after the plant flowers.


Harvest peppers when they are mature they can be picked at any size or allowed to ripen more to produce a stronger taste. 


Harvest large potatoes once the vine has died using a spading fork.  The potatoes are usually four to six inches below the soil and must be handled gently to avoid bruising and spoiling.


Harvest pumpkins only after they have fully ripened on vines and pick them before the first heavy freeze.  The rind should be hard and have a solid color.


Harvest radishes from the time that they are the size of large marbles and do not let them get larger than 1 inch in diameter.


Harvest squash when the plant is between 6 and 8 inches in diameter.  They are usually ready to pick 4 to 8 weeks after the plant flowers.


Harvest turnips when the roots are between 2 and 3 inches in diameter and the tops are between 4 to 6 inches long.  The tops can be eaten too.

Instructions on harvesting vegetables might seem silly but if you do not harvest your vegetables during the correct time frame you will be unable to use them later.   Do not let all of your hard work go to waste.  Pay careful attention to when you plant your vegetables and check them often close to harvest time. 

Vegetables that require thinning or constant harvesting make sure you or a family member harvest the vegetables once a day or once every other day.  If you do not harvest the vegetables often the plants will soon become inactive.  To avoid getting over worked try to only plant vegetables like peas and squash that will continue to ripen after the first crop is picked if you will be constantly using and eating these vegetables.

If you are unable to harvest large quantities of vegetables or do not think you will be able to keep track of the appropriate harvest seasons grow only vegetables like peppers that are lenient when it comes to harvesting them on time.  For those who are in cold areas were frosts happen unrepentantly consider growing vegetables like turnips that can remain in the grown safely even after a hard frost and dug up well into winter.

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