Tips for Harvesting for Summer Veggies

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Now that your garden is planted, whether in containers or raised beds, you’re just waiting for the fruits of your labor. But how can you tell when it’s time to start harvesting summer veggies?

heirloom tomatoes in Tennessee

Tomatoes: Ripe tomatoes should be firm and uniform in color. During hot weather, tomatoes soften quickly, so pick them often even if they are slightly immature. If a killing frost is predicted, go ahead and bring in the green tomatoes. Those that have started to lose their chlorophyll (light green or yellow in color) will ripen off the vine. Immature green tomatoes can be used for relish or chow-chow. (Related: How to Make the Perfect Tomato Sandwich)


Peppers: Hot peppers can be picked at any time. Sweet or bell varieties need to mature on the plant. These are ready to harvest when they reach 3 to 4 inches in length, are firm to the touch and have even color depending on the variety – whether green, red, purple, orange or yellow. (Related: Plant Chili Peppers to Spice Up Your Garden)

harvesting summer squash

Summer Squash: Gather summer squash when they are young and tender, about 4 to 5 inches in length. Old, large fruits with tough skins should be removed from the vine and thrown away. This will encourage more flowers and fruit. Patty pan squash is ready at 3 to 4 inches in diameter with skin still soft enough to puncture. With the exception of Hubbard, squash should be cut with about 1 inch of the stem. (Related: Ingredients That Taste Like Summer)

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