Harvesting from the Garden

I have been busy with the harvesting and preserving of my many fruits and vegetables from my garden.

Many are unsure when to harvest their fruits and vegetables. Below is a chart with the most commonly planted items in home gardens.

Use these guidelines to tell when to harvest your garden vegetables.  Common garden vegetables (and a couple of fruits) are listed alphabetically.

Asparagus  Begin harvesting the third year after planting. Harvest when the spears are 6 to 10 inches above the ground but before the heads open. Cut or snap spears off at the soil line. Stop harvesting if spears show a marked decrease in size. Maximum harvest period is 6 to 8 weeks
Bean, Snap Bean Harvest before pods are full sized and when seeds are tender and about one-fourth developed. Harvesting usually begins 2 to 3 weeks after first bloom. Don’t allow beans to mature on plants or bean production will decrease.
Bean, lima, broad Harvest when pods are fully developed and seeds are green and tender.
Beet Harvest when roots are 1 1/4 to 2 inches in diameter. Some cultivars may maintain quality in larger sizes.
Broccoli Harvest when flower head is fully developed, but before the flowers begin to open. Cut 6 to 7 inches below the flower head. Side heads will develop after the main head is cut.
Brussels sprouts  Harvest the lower sprouts (small heads) when they are about 1 to 1-½ inches in diameter by twisting them off. Lower leaves along the stem may be removed to hasten maturity.
Cabbage Harvest when heads are solid, but before they split. On early cabbage, cut just beneath the solid head. Small lateral heads will develop from buds in the axils of the older leaves.
Carrot Harvest when ¾ to 1 inch in diameter or smaller when thinning. For storage, leave carrots in soil until a light frost occurs. Use care when harvesting, since bruising favors the development of soft rot during storage.
Cauliflower Cover curds when they are 2 to 3 inches in diameter by tying the outer leaves loosely about the head, or using leaves from other plants in the garden. Check for developing curds every 2 to 3 days, and retie if further development is necessary. Harvest when the heads are full sized but still white and smooth.
Celery Harvest when plants are 10 to 12 inches tall.
Cucumber Proper harvesting size is determined by product use. Pickles: Sweets are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long; dills are 3 to 4 inches long. Fresh slicing are 7 to 9 inches long and a bright dark green. Leave a short piece of stem on each fruit. Harvest daily and don’t allow fruit to mature.
Eggplant Harvest when fruit is firm and bright purple to black in color.
Jerusalem Artichoke Harvest tubers after a hard frost. Tubers can be stored in the ground over winter and harvested early in spring or, with mulch protection, during most of the winter.
Kohlrabi Harvest when the thickened stem is 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
Lettuce Harvest the older, outer leaves from leaf lettuce when they are 4 to 6 inches long. Harvest heading types when the heads are moderately firm and before seed stalks form.
Muskmelon Harvest when a crack appears completely around the base of the fruit stem. The fruit will readily separate from the stem.
Okra Harvest when 3 to 5 inches long and tender.

Correct harvesting stage is determined by the type and product use. Harvest onions grown from sets when they are 6 to 9 inches tall for immediate table use. Onions grown from seed for fresh use should be harvested when the bulbs are 1/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Harvest seed grown onions for boiling when the bulbs are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Harvest for storage (seed or set grown) when the tops have weakened and fallen over and the bulbs are 2 or more inches in diameter. Harvest before hard frost.
Parsnip Harvest after a hard frost or in early spring before new growth starts. To harvest in spring, place a 3- to 5-inch soil mulch over the parsnips. Parsnips are not poisonous if harvested in early spring.
Pea Harvest when the pods are fully developed and still tender, and before seeds develop fully.
Edible Pod Pea Harvest when the pods are fully developed, but before seeds are more than one-half full size.
Peanut Harvest when plants turn yellow at season’s end or before the first early frost.
Pepper, green Harvest when fruits are full sized and firm.
Pepper, red Allow peppers to remain on the plant until they become completely red. This usually requires an additional 2 to 3 weeks.
Potato For storage, harvest when full sized with firm skins. Tubers continue to grow until the vine dies. For new potatoes, harvest at any early stage of development. This is usually when tubers are 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
Pumpkin Harvest pumpkins when they are fully colored and the skins have hardened enough to resist the fingernail test. Harvest before a killing frost.
Radishes Harvest when the roots are ½ to 1 ½ inches in diameter (Chinese radishes grow much larger). The shoulders of radish roots often appear through the soil surface when they are mature. If left in the ground too long, they will become tough and woody.
Rhubarb Do not harvest the first year after planting; harvest only a few stalks the second year. Established plantings can be harvested for approximately 8 weeks. The quality of the stalks decreases toward the end of the harvest period. Harvest only the largest and best stalks by grasping each stalk near the base and pulling slightly to one direction. Note: there is no evidence to show that stalks harvested from frost damaged plants are poisonous, so they should be considered safe to eat.
Rutabaga Harvest when the roots are full sized but before a heavy frost.
Soybean for fresh use, shell out just before pods begin to dry. For dried use, harvest when pods turn brown but before shattering occurs
Spinach Harvest by cutting all the leaves off at the base of the plant when they are 4 to 6 inches long. New leaves will grow, providing additional harvests.
Squash, summer type Harvest when fruit is young and tender. Your fingernail should easily penetrate the rind. Long-fruited cultivars, such as zucchini, are harvested when 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 4 to 8 inches long; scallops are taken when 3 to 4 inches long.
Squash, winter type Harvest when mature. The rind should be firm and glossy and not easily punctured by your thumbnail. The portion that contacts the soil is cream to orange when mature. Leave a portion of the vine (2 to 3 inches) attached to the fruit to help prevent storage rot. Harvest squash before a heavy frost.
Sweet corn
Harvest when kernels are completely filled and in the milk stage. Use your thumbnail to determine this. The silks are dry and brown at this stage.
Sweet potato Harvest in late fall before the first early frost.
For peak quality, harvest 5 to 8 days after fruits are fully colored. Tomatoes lose their firmness quickly if they are overripe.
Turnip Harvest when roots are 1 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter.
Watermelon Harvest when full sized. The portion in contact with the soil is cream to yellow when mature.



It’s Seed Starting time again in Michigan!

It is finally here! IT IS time to get everything ready to start your #GardenSeeds indoors. Here are a few things you can do now in January.
1. Make sure you have a sturdy seed rack
2. Make sure your #lights are on a pully system that is easy to raise and lower.
3. Start assembling your seedling containers.
4. Get your catalogs out and order your #Organic #NonGMO #seeds.
5. Get or make a  good “soil-less” growing medium. EX: Jiffy Organic seed starting mix
As the season gets closer there will be more #OrganicGardeningPosts
This year, I am moving the seed-starting table to a larger area. I admit that my set-up has grown to be pretty large. I raised TONS of plants with my system, but if you are new at this, you probably only need to find space for one or two lights.
I use standard cheap light fixtures with regular 40-watt fluorescent light bulbs and have found that there are three keys to making regular bulbs work as well as the expensive ones.
1. You need to use new bulbs every season
2. You need to keep the lights very close to the plants.
3.You need to leave them on for a long time each day but not continuously. 16 to 18 hours of light per day is not too much but remember they do need some amount of “dark”. I turn mine on when I wake up each morning and off when I go to bed.

I like to hang my lights from a pully system. I move the light fixtures up a little at a time as the plants grow. If you don’t want to put hooks in the ceiling, you could build a wood frame (pictured here) to hang the light from our buy a light stand.

grow rack
Think about Warmth & Watering for seed germination

Most seeds need warmth, approximately 60 F, to germinate. If you are only going to raise a flat or two of #seedlings at a time, a great option is to use #SeedlingHeatMats. . Heat mats work really well because they provide constant and automatic heat to the flats of newly planted seeds.

I am able to keep the seeds warm by using the greenhouse trays with the clear plastic lids that form a mini-greenhouse. I would put those in the laundry room or furnace area, even on top of the hot water heater until they germinate.

Your young seedlings need plenty of water. To minimize over or under watering, I use trays that hold water under my containers of soil and seed. All of my containers have holes in the bottoms to allow water in and out. Peat pots work great for this, or you can make pots with recycled newspapers. I also like to use the plastic cell packs that have holes in the bottoms.

Last but not Least…Make sure to Harden Plants Off before putting them in the garden!
A few weeks before planting day, start setting #seedlings out on warmer days. Continue to give them more and more outside exposure unless the temperatures are supposed to drop to near or below freezing. Hopefully, a week or so before planting, they can be outside 24 hours a day for a week.

Garden on my friends! See you again when the season gets a bit closer.

Blog Post, Gardening

No Sun so I can’t Grow a Garden…Or Can I?

You’ve always wanted to grow an organic vegetable garden, but your yard is too shady… or is it?
Despite what you have heard, you can grow a thriving vegetable garden even in partial shade to full shade!  Believe it or not, all you have to do is choose the right heritage plants.

Vegetables that do well in less sunlight (2 to 4 hours) are often called “light shade” or “shade” plants. Some “partial shade” plants are also light shade, such as cauliflower and many spices. See a list of personal favorites below.

So turn a spot into a natural wellness garden, an urban garden or go for edible landscaping. You could even become a mini prepper. Take your harvest from urban farm to fork or try your hand at canning. Your options are limitless.

Being leafy, arugula would be expected to a sun-lover, but sunlight often droops and shrivels the leaves, so this is a good “under” plant to put underneath other, larger ones.
Brussels sprouts
This is also a cold-tolerant plant and like most cold-happy plants, Brussels sprouts do well with limited sunlight.
Endive is likely the most shade-loving of all the leafy lettuce-type plants.
Like its cousins in cabbages, kale loves cold weather and less light.
Leaf lettuce
Most lettuce plants prefer less sun.
Mustard greens
A popular plant in the U.S., this one is often grown in flower gardens and near porches where sunlight is limited.
Like lettuce, spinach needs cooler temperatures and less sun.
Swiss chard
Another delicate leafy plant, swiss chard doesn’t enjoy a lot of sunlight.
Even the most open of garden areas provide shade. Be creative with plant placement and you’ll find that you can create your own shaded areas to
maximize conditions for each plant’s preference. Tall stalks of corn, for example, can provide partial shade for smaller radishes and peas,
while heavy-leafed squash plants might provide almost complete shade for carrots and turnips.


What can you still plant now in Michigan?

What can you still plant in your garden in July in Michigan? Or other areas with the same climate?
This is what I would feel safe with but play with it. It is Michigan after all. We have the craziest seasons of all. You can extend growing seasons for your produce with clear covers and venting. If it isn’t quite right wait a week. I will say it again, it is Michigan. We have a love hate relationship with our growing seasons, but we are blessed with four beautiful, ever-changing, seasons of the year.

Northern Half of Lower Peninsula
Chinese Cabbage
Head Lettuce
Snap Beans

Southern Half of Lower Peninsula
Brussel Sprouts
Sweet Corn

Upper Peninsula
Brussels Sprouts
Head & Leaf Lettuce
Snap Beans

I do all of my gardening in raised bed gardens and pots. I use many different techniques to make the best use of my space.  I choose to be 100% organic in all I do and use only natural means to control any garden pests I have. If you look at a previous post you will see what my favorite garden spray is.

In todays world I would be called a hippie bordering on a survivalist or a prepper. To me I am just a woman who is living the good life. I enjoy knowing what I put in and on my body. I like knowing that I have the most nutritious food available to me and my family. I like preserving that which I have grown myself and saving money while doing so. It is  a family passion, you might say. All the grands get in on the harvesting and canning but most of all the eating. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your family sitting outside and just plucking a few berries as they go by to munch on or grabbing beans, peas pods or tomatoes and eating them right off the vine. Knowing they are pesticide and carcinogen free.

With this method of planting you do not need much space. You can grow enough to feed the average family in todays world with a 4x8x12 space. I have chosen to rebuild ours this year to make them more of a visual focal point as well as to give us better access to them as we age.

Stay tuned for more of our Fewless follies and fine fettle blurbs as we make the change to completely edible landscaping.

Enjoy the rest of your July!

The Fewless Family Gardener


Gardening in July

A few things you can do in your gardens this month.
Feed crops with a all purpose organic fertilizer. If you don’t make your own there are many good ones you can purchase. Dr. Earth makes one.
Train climbing plants like cucumber stems upwards instead of trailing over the ground, to make the most of the space available. Simply tie in their long stems to a tee pee of poles or vertical wires hanging from a sturdy overhead system. You can use pieces of burlap attached to your structure to support heavier vegetables as they will take up less space going up.
Pick, dry and freeze herbs for using later in the year.
Clear away any diseased & or dead foliage on and around your vegetable plants to keep them healthy.
•Clear weeds regularly, as they compete with your crops for nutrients and water.
Mulch to maintain moisture as we enter the hottest days of summer.
Look for aphids on the underside of leaves – rub them off by hand
Begin planning your fall perineal orders.
Get ready to re-seed beans and lettuce.
Watch your garlic.

Check berries regularly and harvest them before the birds get them.
Clean up fallen fruits from under trees.
Check fruit trees for branches growing straight up from limbs and remove them.

Blog Post, Gardening

A few pics from around the gardens

Just some pictures from around the gardens! I would show you ripe blueberries but I ate them on the salad we had with our grilled chicken breasts. I love our chemical/ toxin free lifestyle. Our edible landscape goals are a work in progress. I can’t wait to sit down with Pat and decide what is next in our lives. The path we are on is so exciting. We make a new changes every season. I can’t imagine being on this journey with anyone else.

I want to tell you what is left of the strawberries wont make it through the day. They are so sweet and juicy. Those were picked fresh this morning and washed with my Thieves fruit and vegetable wash. Every time one of us goes by the pile gets just a bit smaller.


Sherri’s Favorite Garden Spray Recipe

Garden Spray Recipe :

Hot pepper flakes ground and ready to use!
Hot peppers ground and ready to use!

1 gallon of water, 3 Tablespoons of hot pepper flakes, 3 drops Thieves dish soap.

Grind your hot peppers (or dried flakes if that is what you have) add the ingredients into a pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Heating the liquid helps to infuse the oils from the hot peppers into the water– making for a stronger spray.  Let the mixture sit for about 24 hours to absorb the juices from the hot pepper flakes – then strain and add a few drops of Thieves dish soap to the gallon of mix.  (This is a must if you want it to stick to the plants).

Spray at night after everything is nice and dry from the sun. Most of the problems have settled in as well by now. Remember though this will kill the good as well as the bad. With that being said,  don’t reach for the spray until you have to. In most cases nature will do its job if you give it time.


Garden Resources For All

Well as you all know I am in Michigan. My posts will all be about my gardens here. Some of that will be useful to you wherever you are but I have many friends and family that live all across the USA. I want everyone of you to have great information that applies to where your local area. So I am providing you with a link to what I consider an excellent resource no matter what region of the USA you live in.

Being March and having spring fever I thought I would start there.

Enjoy The Good Life,